The Bouncing Ball Ch 13
Sunday, December 5, 2010

Jane and I are having a blast. Frey and Cat... not so much... Cat gets caged.


Chapter 13

Since Batha couldn't give any more information beyond a general direction, Mal was forced to split his crew up, sending Zoe, River, Hank, Declan and Jayne to different corners of the bar district, while Kaylee and Simon were detailed to keep watch around the Firefly, just in case Cat and Freya turned up. 'Want to come.' "Nope." He checked a comm link then looked at the panther. "We had this conversation, remember?" 'Still want to.' "No. You stay here. Look after the cubs." It wasn't until he heard Batha laughing in his head that he realised what he'd said. He felt a blush burn up his chest, and hurried outside before it reached his cheeks, seeing the others disappearing into the rain. He'd headed himself for the upper market end of Amsterdam Street, knowing it was close to a store where Frey liked to get some of the kids clothes. The first two bars were quiet, then as he headed east he could hear what sounded unmistakeably like a fight. He began to jog towards it, then put on speed as he saw law officers heading the same way from the opposite direction. "Gorramit," he breathed. Okay, if Frey was inside, best thing to do was grab her and get out, hoping the fracas would keep the lawmen's attention off them. And Cat too, he supposed. Still, as he opened the double doors, having to step back briefly as a chair whipped by his head, all his good intentions went to hell. There, in an area of calm within the heat of the fight, Cat and Freya stood facing each other, barely breathing hard. The redhead was speaking, and somehow he was able to make out the words, despite the noise. "I was protecting you. You know smoke isn't good for a woman in your condition."

"I'm pregnant, Cat. Not broken." He felt his jaw drop to his knees. "You're pregnant?" "Oh, shit." Cat and Freya had spoken together. At that moment the lawmen arrived and thrust him to one side. He had to hold onto the doors to prevent himself from falling, hearing an amplified voice shout, "Everyone stand down! You're all bound!" The action in the centre of the bar stilled, fists and chairs held high, feet paused in the act of kicking, which would have been comical if Mal wasn't seriously contemplating heading for Southdown Abbey and taking the collar. The man with the throat mike spoke again. "Line up against the wall!" There were mutterings that flowed from one side of the room to the other, but people let go of whatever anatomical portion they had hold of, and backed towards the far wall, Freya and Cat amongst them. The bar owner, a short man with Oriental features, was almost vibrating with rage. "Did you see what they did? Thousands of credits of damage ... I want them all locked up!" The lawman looked at him, then shook his head, even as his men were patting everyone down. The pile of weaponry was growing in the middle of the bar, a testament to the fact that honestly, nobody had intended killing anyone else, that it was just a friendly brawl, and why did they want to break it up anyway? Mal took stock of the new arrivals in their purple chest armour, but little else in the way of Alliance hardware beyond the rifles. Then he noticed the badge on their sleeves, and relaxed just a hair. A private company. He approached the apparent leader, the man who'd spoken. "Sir." Mal knew when to be respectful, despite the fact that what he really wanted to do was hit someone. "Yes?" The word boomed and everyone turned to look. The man sighed heavily then switched off his throat mike. "Yes?" "What's going to happen?" "Why do you want to know?" The lawman looked him up and down. "You weren't involved in the fight - I remember you arriving about the time we did." Mal withheld his own sigh. "That's true, but ... that's my wife." He pointed. The lawman raised an eyebrow. "Which one?" "The brunette." "And the redhead?" The man glanced at Cat, his gaze travelling up and down her perfect form. "My ... my sister." Yes, Preacher, I know. I'm bound for the special hell, he thought. Just not right yet, okay? "Catherine Reynolds." "She doesn't look like you." "Half sister." Mal shrugged. "S'why my Pa left home." He mentally apologised to both his parents as well. The lawman thawed a little. "Well, they've been bound. Nothing I can do about that. And they've both got blood on them that isn't theirs, so they were definitely a part of the fight." He pursed his lips. "Come down to the station in the morning. You might be able to get them out on bail." "In the morning?" "No matter what, they're spending the night locked up." Mal made himself smile. "At least I'll know where she is." "Do you want to have a word with her before she gets taken away?" "That ... thanks." The lawman nodded to his colleagues, and they parted enough to let Mal walk to Freya. He stood in front of her, his arms crossed. "Mal ..." she began, but his expression silenced her. "You okay?" he asked, despite himself. "Fine. Mal, look, I -" "They're locking you up. Don't do anything foolish." "Mal, I need to talk to you, tell you -" "Kind've moot now, though, don't you think?" He looked into her soft hazel eyes and hardened his heart. "Just wait it out." He turned on his heel and strode out. Cat glared after him, never closer to wanting to rip his guts from his body. ==== "Where are they?" Kaylee asked, standing at the open ramp, her hands rubbing round and round each other. "Locked up," Mal said shortly, passing her and stomping across the bay floor. She turned to where Zoe, River, Hank, Jayne and Declan were walking a little slower. "Uh ... what happened?" "Not sure," Zoe allowed. "But Frey and Cat are in jail." "Jail?" Kaylee's hand flew to her mouth. 'Jail can't hold.' Zoe looked into the bay, seeing Batha sitting unconcernedly on the second mule. "You don't think they're going to do something stupid, do you?" 'Cat crazy, not stupid.' "That wasn't what I asked." Batha jumped down from the mule, twitching her tail. Wait and see. She strolled off, back towards the children's rooms. Zoe's eyes narrowed. "Breathe, honey," Hank advised quietly. "I don't get it. How could he just leave them there?" Declan wanted to know. Zoe, despite having similar reservations herself, said, "He didn't have a choice." "Of course he did! Gorramit, Jayne's got enough weaponry on him alone to take out the whole station!" "Then what?" Declan paused. "What?" "Then what do we do?" Zoe went on. "We're lucky they were local and not Alliance Feds, but that wouldn't make much difference if we killed them all. We'd have to leave, go on the run. And that would so not be a good idea." "Yeah, but -" "But nothing." Zoe glanced at River, who nodded and ran silently for the bridge. "The best we can do right now is damage limitation." "I don't understand." "Mal ... told them Cat was his sister. They're going to check, so River'll make sure the info's in their database. And maybe hide anything else incriminating." "She can do that?" Hank slung an arm around Declan's shoulders. "Kid, so far I've not come across anything River can't do." "Then why can't she just ... I don't know, order all the doors to open?" "That wouldn't help either," Zoe added. "If it comes to that, I'll help," Kaylee said stoutly. "Well, for now, make sure our mule's good to go." She turned to her husband. "You and Jayne see about getting us refueled and rewatered." "On it," Hank confirmed. "What about me?" Declan wanted to know. "What do I do?" She took the measure of him, his youth, his intensity, and how he'd continued to stand up for a woman he hardly knew. She reached into her pocket and withdrew a wad of cash. "Find us some food. Nothing fancy, but stuff that'll last." He took the notes, and smiled. "You trust me?" "You're not exactly going to get very far with that amount." She smiled a little. "Just so long as you realise, whatever stories you've heard about us, you have to forget them. We don't always go in, guns blazing." "It's an option," Jayne growled, fingering Betsey at his waist. "Yes, Jayne," Zoe sighed. "But no grenades." He managed to look scandalised, quite a feat, but his face dissolved back into its glower as she hurried up the metal staircase. ==== "Sir?" He was standing behind the pilot's chair, watching River's fingers fly across the board. "Go away, Zoe." "I've given the crew jobs to do." "Shiny." "They're wondering why you're acting this way." He glanced at her, and for a moment she was taken aback by the combination of hardness and betrayal that she saw in his blue eyes. Then he looked away again. "Ain't acting any way much. Just making plans." "Plans. Right." She waited the space of a dozen heartbeats. "So Frey and Cat getting bound doesn't bother you at all." "Leave it, Zo." "It's not as bad as it could be," River said, not taking her eyes off her screens. The first mate looked at her. "It isn't?" "They're locals," the young psychic said, almost conversationally. "Most of them are ex-Alliance, but they work for a private company. One of Mayor Badger's reforms." "You mean he owns 'em," Mal said darkly "Probably. But it means their security isn't as tight as it should be." She watched as a string of numbers scrolled swiftly across the monitor, then stopped it, inserting three symbols before releasing it again. "What was that?" Zoe asked, curious. "Wiping my presence," River admitted, finally sitting back. "But as of now you have a sister." Mal closed his eyes and blew air from between pursed lips. "Great. Just what I always wanted. A psychotic, murderous, shape changing sister." "Except for the shape changing, you have me as a daughter," River said, turning her seat to face him, smiling widely. "And you knew," he accused. "Sir?" Zoe put in. River sighed and shook her head. "If I did, it wasn't my place to say." "Gorramit, albatross -" "Not my place." "'Cept that Cat knew!" He started to pace, his arms waving. "Afore me!" "Knew what, sir?" Zoe asked, but was ignored again. "Mu qin only told in an attempt to stop Cat taking you from her," River went on. He turned on her. "You think I'd want Cat over Frey?" "Freya was." "This damn jealousy of hers ..." "Sir." Zoe took him by the arm, turning him to face her. "What is it?" "Frey's ... pregnant." "And that's a bad thing?" He sighed even more heavily. "She didn't tell me, Zo. Her husband. The father." His eyes widened until River hit him. "Of course you are," she said scornfully. "I knew that," Mal muttered, rubbing his arm. "She must have had a good reason, sir," Zoe said, keeping her voice light. She knew how much her captain and his wife had wanted more children, but it was six years since Jesse, and everyone was aware Freya had more or less given up hope. Mal starting his pacing again. "Did she think I wouldn't be pleased or something?" River sighed heavily. "You seem delighted." "Albatross? Don't you have something to do elsewhere?" "No." "Find it." "I'm flying the ship." "We're sitting on the ground." "Picky, picky, picky." She stood up, her soft dress arranging itself around her bare legs. "I shall go and see my husband and my son." "Good. And don't you go mentioning any of this, dong mah?" She stuck her tongue out at him, then flounced off the bridge. A moment later she put her head back through the hatch. "You know I'm going to be listening in anyway, don't you?" Mal didn't respond, just glared at her until she disappeared. Zoe kept her smile to a very quick lip lift. "She's right, sir." "What about?" Mal leaned on the back of the pilot's chair, his fingers digging into the padding. "You do seem delighted on the prospect of being a father again." His glare should have turned her to ash on the spot. "I am." "Right." "Damn it, Zoe." He closed his eyes. "I couldn't want for much more. But doing it like this ..." "Having Cat on board has disrupted everything." "And that was Frey's fault too." "Did you tell her you were happy?" She heard him mumble something, but couldn't make out the words. "Sir?" "Not ... exactly," he admitted, then stood upright. "Truth to tell, I didn't say hardly anything." So what else is new? Zoe thought but didn't say. Instead she nodded. "There's time, sir." "Right. My pregnant wife is locked up with my homicidal sister ... life's just peachy." "Then we'll just have to wait and see." She turned to leave. "Where're you going?" "To start supper. Unless you're planning on keeping us all hungry." She strode off the bridge. "You're really pushing me to replace you!" She grinned. ==== No-one slept well on board Serenity. Mal in particular was like a bear with a sore head from having the bed empty next to him, and everyone was keeping clear of their captain. Things weren't that much better down at the local law station. In the holding area beneath the main building, Freya and Cat had been given a space to themselves, seeing as they were the only women involved in the fight, while the rest of the men were squeezed into the adjoining cell. There'd been a number of attempts by the men to start a conversation, mostly along the lines of 'wanna get over here and see what I've got for yah', but for some reason they'd stopped once Cat had had a quiet word with them, and despite the lack of room they were all now keeping their distance. Nobody on that side of the bars slept a wink. Daylight had broken, at least from the lightening of the grimy window high up in the wall, and Freya had her eyes closed, attempting to meditate, but her companion wasn't anywhere near as relaxed. Cat paced back and forth watching each movement of the two guards lounging by the main entrance. Darkness flowed across her eyes as the other half within began to calculate her escape, seeing weaknesses as if they were white blotches on black paint. Her hand was held out at her side, claws extended just enough to click on the metal bars as she passed. It was almost as bad as having a tin cup. Finally Freya spoke from her position on the small cot. "Stop that." She was worried about Mal, the look on his face one she had seen many times before when they fought. That didn't worry her, but the hurt behind the annoyance did, and no matter what she did she couldn't reach him. Partly that was the pregnancy, she knew, but she was pretty sure he'd made his mental walls as high and tight as he could.

"Don't like cages." Cat growled, a low harsh sound, like a big feline cornered. Her green eyes glowed with a hue that was far from human and she took staggered breaths to control the other half of her predatory brain. It knew exactly how to deal with their predicament. Of course, it involved lots of blood, guts, and a fast ticket out of here.

"I don't either, but Mal will come for us." Freya looked at Cat before continuing. "Both of us."

Hard laughter flowed too easily off the red haired woman's lips, and Freya had to take another glance to see if Cat was actually the one she was addressing. "Your husband wants me gone," Cat said, pointing with a sharp claw, "but his conscience can't dump Declan so easily. And with the cubs completely smitten with Batha ... well, therein lies the problem. So don't flatter me with a lie, Frey. Thought we were better friends than that."

"You protected me. He understands that."

"I got you into that mess and your husband knows that. Other 'verses and other times ... but I know Mal's looks. If they could kill and all that ..." Her hand ran down the bars again as one of the deputies tossed them both a glare. Cat returned it with a very audible and rather scary hiss.

"He just needs to learn to trust you."

"And keeping the whole 'wife with cub' thing is really gonna speed that along." Cat could do sarcasm really well. "You think I don't know that?" Freya said, exasperation clear in her voice. "And sit down." "Don't want to." She ran her claws across the bars again. "And please stop doing that. Or I'll be forced into doing something drastic." "Like what?" "Cat, please ..." Giving in more or less disgracefully, Cat crossed to the second cot. Sitting down, she bounced on it a few seconds before commenting, "Well, they've at least made these things a bit more comfortable in this 'verse."

Freya, trying to ignore her rolling belly in turmoil from worry and possible morning sickness, welcomed the distraction. "How would you know?"

"Been in this jail more times than I can count. Broke out of here about that many as well." Her eyes dimmed as memories filled her mind. "Though as I recall, they were Feds that brought us in, not locals."

Freya looked over at the guards and spoke quietly. "From what I can gather, it changed only recently. The Alliance are pulling back, and certain locals are taking advantage."

Leaning forward, Cat couldn't help but suppress a slight grin. "You're reading them, aren't you?"


"Never wanted that gift. Men's minds contain thoughts best left to their own selves. Want to take a shower in industrial strength cleanser just from the idea."

Freya laughed gently. "You get used to it, but there have been occasions ..." Her mind let go of the men and she focused on Cat. "So what did Mal and you do those other times to get bound?" It hadn't gotten easier for Freya to use them both in a sentence, but she figured it would be better to concentrate on that rather than the other conversation she would have soon enough with her own Mal.

Cat looked at her almost shocked. "No way. We tried to keep out of jail as much as possible, especially after Kitty was on board." "Kitty. Right. We spoke about her before. But you didn't tell me much."

"The closest thing I ever had to my own child." Sorrow filled her eyes.

Freya felt her stomach lurch. "Did she look on Mal as her father?"

"No. If anyone filled that role, it was Jayne." She laughed. "Kitty had a mind of her own, more so than even Bethie, I think, though, together they would be a force."

"Sounds like a good family." It was spoken almost as if Freya had wanted something to be wrong.

"Have you always been this jealous?" Cat smiled gently. "Your Mal is here and he's with you."

"But, he's not 'with me', is he?" Freya added, but the other woman just ignored her.

"I don't think it's going to change. Man loves you ... not me."

"I can't help it."

"And hormones add to it? I can smell them seeping from your pores."

"I don't think that's possible." Freya sniffed the air. "All I can smell is last night's food." She grimaced.

"Humans have weak noses, even ones carrying cubs."

"Well, this one has a weak stomach."

"Not much I can do." She stood for a second before sitting back down.

"Go back to Kitty. She sounds... nice." Frey tried to get her mind off her stomach at the same time as smooth things over.

"She was a kid, all questions and curiosities. Thankfully, Batha and Jayne kept her from too much trouble."

"She's the reason you knew Batha wouldn't hurt the children... and she was part of the Academy as well."

"Frey... stop reading me." Cat groaned.

"I wasn't, but certain feelings still resonate off people. Especially something that I have experience with myself."

"Yes, she was Academy ... a battery pack for their creations. She boosted my healing ability as well as everything else that makes me ... me." Cat shook her head. "As far as they were concerned, Kitty was their property, didn't even have a name. Batha started calling her Kitty on account she loved to curl up with us in bed, like a cat." She paused before continuing. "We rescued her and brought her on board Serenity." "Did she have a family? I mean ... before?" "She was created. Just like me." "So no-one to miss her." "We are different from you. Kitty grew up without a care in the world. Jayne made sure of that." "And did she remember? What they did?" "Every day ... just like me." "Oh, God ..." "She was the strongest little girl I ever met. And yes, Frey, someone does miss her. Me." Freya smiled. "Then I'm glad she had you." "Oh, I wasn't anything compared to Jayne and Batha." "Somehow, that mental picture ..." Freya couldn't help laughing. "I miss them, sometimes more than I ever thought possible." "And now? If we do whatever it is you think we have to ... will you go back to them?" Cat bounced on the bed again. "You know, I think they added more padding." Freya held up a hand. "Fine. I get it. You don't have to hit me over the head. You don't want to talk about it." "Lose them all first and then we'll talk." Glancing to the men in the other cell, Freya nodded. "Okay." "Anyway, because of Kitty ... no-one wanted to draw attention to themselves for fear they'd take her back. Mal made sure we behaved ... or at least were smart enough to escape before the authorities showed up."

"So not my Mal, huh?" Freya looked at her a moment as if not willing to believe her. "Then it either was your husband that was with you ... or you're holding out on me?"

"Not holding out. 'Ski and I knew the ins and outs of every jail in the Outer Rim. Some more than others ... knew most of the bars too." She relaxed a bit more and stretched her long legs before laying back on to the mattress. "Feds never could keep us in, though. Although Badger did post bail once of twice."

"Badger?" Freya was sure she hadn't heard properly.

"Was my husband's best friend. Guess they go back pretty far." She sighed. "'Ski was as resourceful as he was crazy. We made a good team."

Feeling just a trifle impish, Freya said, as if apropos of nothing, "His son's not a bad looker."

Cat lifted her head and fixed the other woman with her green eyes. "You're in trouble with your husband, in a jail cell with a creature that could potentially rip out every throat in the building without breaking a sweat, and most importantly, the last time I ate their dinners I found the taste of puke more appetizing."

"Your point?" Freya looked confused.

"Trying to play matchmaker seems rather foolish."

"Well, I was trying to get my mind off that first one, the last definitely accomplished the first, and the middle one ... really?"

Cat shrugged. "Yeah, it's the whole blood lust thing. You get used to it after awhile."

"And Mal did?"

"It took a long while ... three or four decades ..." She smiled then as Frey laughed. "You're his wife. He'll storm around, yell, and then turn around and forgive you, all the while wondering why in the hell you didn't listen to me in the first place." A pause before she continued. "Okay, maybe not the last part, but ... he will forgive you. It's what people do when they love one another."

"I know. I just didn't want him finding out like that."

"Look at it this way" She nodded towards Freya's belly. "When they're older and ask how you told their father the good news ... boy, will you have a story ..."

"When ..." Freya mused.


"You said when and not if."

"I did. Fancy that." Cat closed her eyes and for a moment, the women sat in silence. Then a smell caught her nose and she rolled over, just the door opened. "Get ready for the fireworks."

Mal entered, the lawman from the previous night just a step behind.


Sunday, December 5, 2010 1:32 PM


Oh dear, in trouble again! While I was sorry to see Frey and Cat get locked up I was mighty relieved they weren't Alliance. What I can't figure is why Frey never told Mal she was pregnant. Hope that all gets smoothed over mighty quick, I don't like Mal and Frey being at odds with each other. Great to see a new chapter! Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Tuesday, December 7, 2010 2:09 PM


Lucy... Ethel... you've got some 'splaining to do.

Good stuff.

- 'Ski


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