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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Jane and I are just doing what we like so enjoy the ride... big THANKS to Ali and 'Ski who have read and commented every time. You all rock! Anyway... Cat meets Badger...
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 866 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
Mal was not having a good day. It was still raining, his headache didn't seem to want to go, no matter what little pills or potions Simon saw fit to give him or inject him with, and now here he was, standing in a jail, facing his wife through the bars. The fact that it was normally the other way around, with him in the cell, didn't make him feel any better.
She got up slowly from the cot, still as trim as ever, no sign of any pregnancy ... except perhaps for a slight green tinge to her skin. He wasn't surprised - the air in the basement wasn't the freshest, and the men all packed into the other cell had made it a lot worse. Besides, Frey always had been prone to morning sickness.
She took hold of the bars. "Mal, I -"
"You wanna tell me what that was all about?"
"It was just a fight," Cat said, standing up.
"I wasn't talking to you."
"Tough. I was talking to you. It was a fight. That's it."
"You let my pregnant wife walk into a place like that -"
"I'm not sick, Mal," Freya interrupted.
This time he turned on her. "Don't you want this kid?"
"Of course I do!"
"Then how come half the gorram ship knows before I did?"
"That's an exaggeration -"
"Is it? You told Cat, River knows ... who the hell else did you go flapping your mouth at?"
"No, Frey. Not this time. I know there's stuff you haven't told me, and I understand that, but ... you're pregnant. Don't you think I deserved to know?"
Her grip on the bars whitened her knuckles. "Damn it, will you let me finish!"
His eyebrows raised. "Fine. Go ahead."
"I was going to tell you. Then ... things happened."
Mal glanced at Cat. "I conjure I know what they were. But that doesn't give you a reason to keep something like this from me."
Cat leaned on the bars and sighed. "You're a prick."
"You're defending her?"
"She's your wife."
"And I shouldn't have had to hear about being a father again 'cause you were both in a fight!"
Cat swore at Mal, vividly and at great length.
He was somewhat taken aback by her sheer inventiveness, particularly as she didn't seem to repeat herself. The men next door cheered.
"You done, or are you just taking a breath?" he asked when she paused.
"Not sure if I'm familiar with all those myself," the lawman put in. "And my dad used to work at the space dock."
"Oh, my ... sister always did have a way with words."
Cat's eyebrows raised, but she very sensibly forbore to comment, literally biting her tongue hard enough to taste tin to do so.
"Yeah, well, she's lucky too," the officer went on. "The both of them are. Chai's decided to be a gentleman and drop the charges against them."
"Us too?" one of the caged men asked hopefully.
"Nope. You're probably gonna end up paying a hefty fine."
"That ain't fair!"
Cat turned her green eyes on him, and he scuttled back into the crowd.
"Fair or not, that's how it goes." The lawman signalled one of his men, and with a slight hiss the door on the cell slid open. "Ladies."
Freya stepped out and looked at her husband. "Mal, why are you being like this?" she asked, searching his face.
"You were going on about us not being told everything, then you go and ..." He shook his head. "Beginning to think you don't want any more kids with me."
She couldn't keep it in. After the worry, the long night, and now seeing the pain and disappointment on Mal's face, she snapped. Her hand blurred as it made contact with his cheek.
"Technically, that's assault," the lawman said idly. "If you want I can -"
"No." Mal took a deep breath, feeling the heat in his skin but not touching it. "You say they're free to go?"
"Just need to sign 'em out." He led the way into the corridor, Freya behind him, Cat and Mal a few paces further back.
As they walked, Cat grabbed Mal's arm. "Damn it ... even the man I know wouldn't treat the woman he loves like this."
"Like I said, you don't know me."
Her claws extended, breaking the leather of his coat, the fabric of his shirt, stopping as they pricked his skin. "She loves you." She held him back, hissing the words at him. "And she'll do anything to protect your kids. Born or yet to be."
"So getting in a fight was protecting 'em?"
"That was me! You know that." Her middle claw drew blood, but he didn't even wince. "Don't be a sha gua chunzi."
"We've got Badger to see. And you stay out of my family's business."
The hard sapphire of his eyes made her let go, and he walked on.
'Captain Man stubborn'.
'Got that right.' Cat sighed as she followed.
'Can still bite off leg.'
'As appealing as that is, somehow, Bat, I'm not sure it would help.'
Zoe, Jayne and Declan were waiting outside the jail, the big man having given in and pulled his orange and white knitted hat as low over his ears as it would go. He hated the rain. Unless there was money in it.
"We done?" he grunted.
"Done," Mal said shortly.
"You okay?" Jayne asked Freya.
"I'm fine, thanks." She smiled at him, but there was a sadness in her eyes.
"You want, you can have my jacket, keep you dry."
This time the smile was real, because she knew exactly how much Jayne abhorred getting wet. "Actually, no. I don't mind it - might wash off last night."
"Ain't never found that to be the case, but I guess there's always a possibility."
Mal glared at the pair of them, for a second jealous of the closeness they somehow seemed to share, and strode off, heading for the Cooper Building in East India Street.
"Cat?" Declan murmured as they followed. "What's going on?"
"Mal's being stupid."
"So what else is new?"
"If I didn't have to keep him alive ..." She shook her head, refusing to answer any more questions.
The same man, apparently in an identical suit, stood in the centre of the black and white marble floor. "How nice to see you again."
"Badger at home?"
The fake smile faltered a little. "Mr Badger is expecting you." He glanced down at their weapons. "Of course, he does prefer if his guests are not armed."
Mal sighed, just a little. "You know, it's barely ten, and from the day I've had already, you really don't wanna be considering asking us to leave 'em behind."
"But Mr Badger -"
"Knows us. We're old friends."
The man looked at the company, at the three men standing with their hands conspicuously close to their sidearms, at the three women who looked far more dangerous, and decided to err on the side of it being somebody else's problem. "Mr Badger is in his office. Ninth floor." He stepped quickly to one side. "Elevators are just over there."
"Thanks." Mal turned to Declan. "Stay here."
"Because I need someone to keep an eye out. Just in case."
"And if I see something?"
"You decide." He strode forwards, ignoring the rain water that splattered across the tiling.
The concierge pattered after him. "But .. but sir ... you don't need to ... we're perfectly safe here ... you don't have to -"
"We'll be fine." Cat smiled at the little man, just a flash of fang making him run for cover.
"That wasn't nice," Freya said softly.
"Better than eating him."
"He might not have thought so."
Mal glared at them, then pressed the button for the elevator with far too hard a finger.
The ninth floor had an excellent view of Eavesdown, and they could even see Serenity vaguely through the ever falling rain. It also had a secretary, sitting behind a desk, smiling like one of those lifesize dolls Mr Universe used to favour.
"Yes?" she asked brightly. "Can I help you?"
"Badger's expecting us."
She looked down at her calendar, a real, honest book with paper pages. "Captain Reynolds and party?" she asked, lifting her head again.
"That's us," Jayne grunted.
"Would you like to go in?" She indicated a set of double doors made from heavy wood.
"Thanks," Mal said.
"Can I get you any refreshment? Perhaps some coffee?"
"No. We're good." He wondered whether she was capable of not making any sentence a question, and led the way into the inner sanctum.
The doors closed noiselessly behind them, and it was like they were on a different planet. Here the very air seemed to glow gold, while the plush carpet and heavy furniture would have looked more at home in a lawyer's office than anywhere remotely connected to Badger.
Jayne had wandered to the windows, picking at the corners with his knife, and now said, "Custom glass filters." He shrugged. "Makes it harder for snipers."
Mal couldn't help his lips twitch. "Maybe Badger hasn't come that high up in the world after all, if people are still trying to kill him."
"I have," Cat put in. "More than once."
He ignored her. "I'd say he's doing okay for himself, though."
Freya smiled. "He still remembers his old life." She walked to a carved wooden sideboard where a variety of bottles, glasses and other knick-knacks rested. She touched the old apple peeler. "Maybe he's not as different as he likes to think."
"Does it work?" Mal asked, despite his anger still burning low at her.
She tried it, but it squealed. "Still solid."
"It reminds me 'ow far I've come." They turned at the voice, and Badger emerged from a hidden door in the shadows. "Mal, what a pleasant surprise."
"Not that much. You were expecting us."
"I was being polite."
"You been practising?"
"Man in my position has to be able to deal with all the knobs around town." He smiled a little. "No matter who they are."
Cat stayed perfectly still, knowing he hadn't seen her yet. She hadn't missed him, not even a little. Even though this wasn't the one she knew, Cat could tell he was just as slimy, despite the fancy striped suit. Oh, and whatever it was he had on his hair, slicking what little he had even closer to his scalp. It made her want to scratch her nose out.
"Then I'm surprised you let us in," Mal said slowly, his thumbs perched on his gunbelt.
"I like to slum it. Once in a while." Badger turned to his desk, and a scar on his cheek caught the light.
"Fey-fey duh pee-yen," Cat muttered, unable to stop herself.
Badger span on his heel and stared. "What the ..." All the colour drained from his face as if someone had turned on a tap. "How the 'ell ..."
"Well, well, well. As I live and breathe." A smile on her face told all.
"Cat?" Mal asked, looking from one to the other. "Do I take it ..."
"Oh, you do."
"Only I thought you said ..."
"I did." She sighed as the doors opened. "Oh, Badge."
Badger had run around to the business side of his desk, and pressed a hidden button, and now two men thundered into the office, weapons in their hands.
"Mal ..." Jayne murmured, ready to make the bronze carpet run red.
"We're not here to make trouble," Mal said calmly.
"I'm not here to shoot you," Cat assured him.
Badger glared at her. "You said that last time."
"Well, you made me angry. But I promise. Not today." Her eyes glittered, and there was definitely an unspoken threat of maybe tomorrow in her words.
"Oh, for goodness sake." Freya stepped forwards. "Enough. All of you." She turned to Badger. "And you ... you know full well Mal wouldn't kill you in your own place."
"I wouldn't let him. Trust me."
He looked into her eyes, and seemed to be satisfied. Barely glancing at the guards, he said, "Kroll, you go back to your station. Make sure we ain't disturbed. Jaris'll stay here. Protect me."
"You think that'll work?" Cat asked, running a claw down the window pane and making it squeak. "Against me."
"Cat," Freya ordered. "Stop it."
Kroll looked at his boss, who waved a hand irritatedly at him. He left quickly, but his colleague took up position just inside the doors.
Badger leaned on his desk, gazing her up and down. "You know, I 'ad reports of a certain Freya Reynolds and Catherine Reynolds being bound. I began to wonder if maybe you wasn't starting to bat for the other side." He leered at her, which seemed more than odd coming from a man in a fancy, hand-made suit. "Woulda been a shame."
"Never in your wildest dreams."
The leer got worse. "My dreams are pretty wild, you know."
"That's my wife you're talking about," Mal put in, surprisingly mildly, but then again, this was their usual banter - even if this wasn't their Badger, it looked as if the love-hate relationship they enjoyed (if that was the right word) was still in full force (the hate being all on Freya's side, of course).
"And you let 'er get bound." Badger shook his head. "Good job it was my crew."
Badger looked Jaris standing at the door. "Show 'im."
The man half turned, letting them see the badge sewn to his shoulder.
"Shit," Jayne breathed.
"For once, I agree." Mal stared at the circle of fabric, the image of a certain furry creature with a white stripe down its head and back. "What's it doing?"
"It's rampant," Badger said proudly of his namesake. "Good, ain't it?"
"Not the words that come to mind."
"Hey, don't you go impugning my good taste. I'm the reason Chai decided to let 'em both out."
"You spoke to him?" Freya asked before she could stop herself.
"Yeah. Just before I went to bed."
Cat's eyes narrowed. "They were yours and you let me rot in a jail cell overnight?"
Badger shrugged. "Love, didn't know it was you. Catherine Reynolds, see?"
Freya took a step forward. "And you think it was all right to leave me there?"
"Might've made you more ... amenable."
She held out her hand. "Jayne, give me Vera."
"You got a gun," the big man pointed out.
"I want to make a bigger hole."
Cat sighed. "Don't. Not worth the bullet in my 'verse. Sure as hell ain't in this one." She let her claws grow an inch. "Besides, we've got business."
"Long as you don't let that crazy woman kill me." Badger nodded towards Freya.
"Frey ain't gonna kill you. Wound you, maybe, but not kill you."
"Wound?" Badger's voice went hypersonic.
"Just the one," Freya promised. "Somewhere unimportant ..." She lowered her eyes to his crotch.
"Frey ..." Mal said, more resigned than anything. "Don't threaten Badger before we get our business out of the way."
"Yes," Cat agreed. "Leave it until later."
"You and that bloody panther ..." Badger grumbled. "More trouble than you're worth, the pair of you."
"She says hi, by the way," Cat went on, cleaning her fang with one claw.
Everyone got the mental impression of a huge black cat sitting under an awning, staring disgruntled out at the rain.
"Didn't you tell her not to come?" Cat asked out of the corner of her mouth.
"I did," Mal agreed.
"She listens to you about as much as she listens to me."
'Talk smart. I listen.' A mental paw slapped down, and a rat ended its life in a squeak. Practising. There was a hint of a little round hat and a flamingo pin in the growling laughter.
'Don't eat that,' Cat advised. 'You've no idea where's it been.'
'Save it for later.'
Badger exhaled loudly. "And I thought I missed you."
Cat smiled at him. "You always say the sweetest things." She walked languidly over to one of his expensive chairs, and draped herself across it.
"Hang on ... you're all wet!" Badger protested.
He backed down a little at her green gaze. "Just ... don't get mud on 'em."
"Thought that was the way you liked me."
Mal was mildly surprised to see Badger actually blush.
"Anyone want to fill us in with what's going on?" Jayne's voice carried.
"He's one of them." Freya explained. "Like Cat. I told you after that last meeting you had with him, he felt different." Her eyes shot to Mal, who shrugged.
"And how do you know this is ... your Badger?" Mal asked Cat.
"Scar on his left cheek. Half moon." She pointed at it. "My husband gave him it the first and only time Badger here ever called me a monster."
Mal glared at the little man. "Told me you got that in a bar fight."
The man rubbed at the mark before smiling. "We were in a bar. Just might've not been yet."
Mal sighed heavily, wondering if his headache was ever going to go away. "You know, I'd seriously just like to go back to a point when all I had to worry about were pirates trying to board us, take our cargo, or Alliance deciding they didn't like the look of our faces and tossing us in jail. All this time business ..." He sighed again, then stomped to the sofa, dropping into it and crossing his arms.
Cat smiled, then turned back to Badger. "Always wondered what happened to you after the war."
"And I always figured you'd be the one to show up here." He shook his head. " 'Ski always did warn me not to cross you."
"Looks like you didn't listen."
Something in his tone alerted her senses, and she took a deep breath. He was ... afraid ... she could smell it on him. But there was more, something she couldn't quite put her finger on. She looked at Freya, trying to get her attention.
Mal interrupted her thoughts. "So if you're from her world, where's the Badger from this one?"
The little man shrugged. "He met with an 'orrible misfortune. Burned to a crisp so that no one could identify him."
"Sounds to me like you were the person who arranged this ... misfortune," Mal said astutely.
"Don't ask and I won't have to lie to yah." He seemed almost proud. "Accidents happen."
Freya glanced at Cat. 'What?'
Hearing someone other than Batha in her head made her face twitch, but Cat thought carefully, 'Read Badger. Something's wrong here.'
Freya shrugged, but her eyes unfocused.
"So what happened to you?" Cat asked, trying to keep Badger's attention on her, and not on the Reader rummaging through his dirty mind.
The man glared at her, then looked at Jaris. "Wait outside."
"Sir, I really don't think -"
"I don't pay you to think. I pay you to do what I say. And I say wait outside. I'll buzz if I want you to come in and kill 'em all."
Jaris still looked uncertain, but he drew himself up and saluted. "Yes, sir." He marched out, the doors closing softly behind him.
"Don't want him to hear?" Mal asked, leaning forwards.
"Some things are ... personal. Private." Badger moved to his desk and played with a small ball there, then looked up at Cat. "After 'Ski died and you joined Reynolds, well, there wasn't much left for me. Couldn't screw with our cap here anymore without risking bodily harm from you, so life got a bit boring. Alliance approached me with a deal. Be one of those experimental jumpers. See if the thing worked and all that. Come back and tell them I made it there. Trip worked, but here the war hadn't happened yet and there's a lot of money to be made. Why'd I want to balls that up by going back?"
"So you shipped your counterpart's body back and no one was the wiser."
"Who's the sad little king now?" He looked at him with his beady eyes.
"I ain't about to argue of the thousands of rules you violated by staying here." Cat shook her head at him. "But you really think you could get away with it?"
"Already did," Badger said, his chest puffing out a little.
Mal couldn't help a slight chuckle. "Badger, I never knew you had it in you."
"The one you knew didn't." He turned back to the redhead, shaking his head sadly. "Never thought I'd outlive him, Cat. Damn idiot risking his life for all those people. One of the stupidest men I've ever met ..." His eyes faltered. "...and one of the bravest."
Jayne looked unconvinced. "You sure he ain't Alliance?"
"I'm sure," Cat said softly.
"'Cause he don't sound like Badger."
"And you don't look like River's husband," Mal pointed out. "But I've got it on good authority that you are."
"Yeah, but ..." Jayne went on, obviously having been thinking. "If Badger was with Cat and this 'Ski in a war that ain't happened yet, how come he ain't older?"
Mal was shocked at the ex-merc's insight. It hadn't occured to him. "That's ... true." He glared at Badger. "Well?"
Badger looked almost embarrassed, then pulled his jacket lapels straight. "Money. The Badger here had a load tucked away, and I ... well, I brought some stuff with me. And it only meant a little tuck here or there ..." He smoothed his hand over his head.
"Didn't run to a wig, then," Cat said.
"He didn't so I couldn't." Badger was annoyed. "Might've made me a laughing stock. Couldn't have that."
"Of course not."
He obviously felt the conversation was getting out of his control. "And there's no work, before you ask," he said to Mal.
Serenity's captain got slowly to his feet. "Gotten all respectable now and can't throw us little ones a bone, huh?"
"Can't risk being seen with you. After all you don't got the papers to be transporting, since the Alliance is cracking down on that. Proper man that I am can't associate with known criminals." Walking back behind his long desk, he sighed. "Been a good run though, Reynolds."
"You're such an ass," Cat grumbled as the small man looked at her.
"Ain't nothing against you. Hell, if I had something you know I'd be 'appy to put it your way, Cat ..."
"That's nice of you." She stood up, her long limbs rearranging themselves. "Only it's not really why we're here."
"We need information."
"On what?" His little eyes darted from one to the other.
"Cat." Freya spoke.
"He's done something."
Everyone's attention was on Freya now.
"Done what, ai ren?" Mal asked, his fingertips caressing the butt of his gun.
As much as she appreciated him calling her his darling, she didn't let that distract her. "I can't tell. He's damn good at hiding it, but ... something to do with a jumper."
They didn't see Cat move, but suddenly she was around the other side of the desk, leaning over Badger. "What have you done, Badge?" she asked, her breath hot on his cheeks.
"Me? Nothing." His hand started to creep along towards the security button, but not slowly enough that Cat didn't know what he was doing.
"Don't even think about it."
"You touch me and I'll push it."
"Whatever. You know your men aren't fast enough." A growl escaped her lips. "Tell me. Now."
"Look, Cat, I don't know what's going on, but I haven't ... I promise ..."
Noise outside that sounded like gunfire brought Cat to high alert. "What the hell did you do, Badger?"
"Nothing. I swear," he retorted, even as he was reaching for a shotgun under the desk. Unfortunately Cat got there first, tossing the weapon to Jayne.
"Not much different from this 'verse. Put an expensive suit on a rat. Still makes him a rat," the big man grumbled as Mal grabbed Cat by the arm.
"Just 'cause Badger's a pal of yours don't mean I won't still rip him a new one if he's done what I think he's done," Serenity's captain ground out.
"If he's sold us out I'll be first in the queue to do it," she echoed in agreement.
Meanwhile a very irritated Badger had activated a vidscreen on the wall, flicking through images until he stopped on one of the foyer downstairs. "Shit," he murmured.
Men in purple armour were already inside, and more were pouring in.
"Got that right," Mal said, drawing his sidearm, the others doing the same.
"We need to get out of here." Badger said. "There's a back way, if they haven't surrounded us yet."
"Through the bathroom." He pointed at a door half hidden by a tall pot plant in the corner.
Mal nodded, calmness overtaking him. "Alright. Everyone head out the back way. Jayne, take point with Freya and Zoe next, and I know I'm going to hate myself in the morning for saying this, but look after Badger. Cat and I will take the rear."
"Got it, Mal," Jayne said, throwing the door open and stepping through into the tiled bathroom, the two women following him.
"I got to get something first," Badger growled, trying to get past Cat.
She grabbed him. "No time."
Badger tugged his arm free. "My men aren't gonna let anything happen to me. And I need to get to my safe."
"It's worth your life?"
"You'd say the same if you knew."
Hard pounding started on the door to the outer office.
"Time's up," Mal yelled, beckoning them both with a swift hand.
"We got time," Badger insisted. "They ain't gonna get through that easily. The lock's from Burniston's, and the door's real wood, thick too."
He started across the thick carpet, but it was at that moment that Cat's sensitive hearing caught the tell tale snap of an Alliance grenade being activated, and the primer whine gearing up. There was a distinct low thud against the door.
"Fuck," she murmured, grabbing Mal and tossing him into the bathroom, the door slamming shut just as the blast rocked the floor beneath them, throwing them to the ground as dust sifted from the ceiling onto them.
"Mal, you okay?" Jayne asked, running back in from the far door.
Mal clambered gingerly to his feet, his ears ringing. Working his jaw to try and clear it he said, "Alive. The others?"
"Frey nearly took a header down the stairs, but Zoe grabbed her in time."
"Is she all right?"
"Hit her head but she's okay." Jayne glanced at the door back into the office. "High yield," he said, ever the grenade expert. "They meant business."
"Red!" It was Declan, appearing like a jack in the box in the exit to the stairs, Zoe not a pace behind him. "You all okay?"
Cat nodded. "Yeah, we're good. Not sure about Badger." She tried the door, but even with her strength it wouldn't budge.
"Rat like him probably has many exits," Jayne put in, a snarl to his lips.
"Let's hope," Cat said. "I hadn't finished asking him questions." She looked past him to Declan. "How many targets outside?"
The young man's face was set. "A lot."
Mal glared at him. "Need more information than that, son."
Declan growled at that, but said, "We've got six on the roof, twelve around the perimeter, the same inside the building, and I heard one of them saying reinforcements are on the way." His eyes glittered dangerously. "Enough info for you, Pops?"
"Better," Mal agreed. "And you call me that again and you're off my boat."
Cat sighed. "Boys, let's not fight when there are others more willing to kill us outside."
"Yes, Ma'am," Declan nodded.
'More coming.' Batha's mental voice was urgent.
'I hear them,' Cat responded.
"We need to be out of here," Mal said, his gun in his fist. "We get caught on the stairs and Badger won't be the only rat in a trap."
"You want me to go first?" Jayne asked, taking a step down, but a tortured creak had him pausing.
"That explosion did more damage than they anticipated," Zoe said quietly.
"The builders probably cut corners."
Mal looked at Cat. "You any good at this too?"
"Sure, put the woman in danger. What ever happened to being a gentleman?" Cat asked, her hands on her hips.
Jayne grunted a laugh. "You see any o' them around here, you yell out."
"Fine," Mal said, his teeth grinding. Jayne, Dec, you take point."
"Oh hell," Cat murmured, then pushed the others out of the way. "Move."
Friday, December 10, 2010 8:56 AM
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