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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Jane and I are at it again.... with some outside help from my other favorite co-author, Werzbowski. Thanks for lending your talents to your character, 'Ski. Anyway, Cat sees ghosts....
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 970 RATING: 10 SERIES: FIREFLY
The explosion rocked them as they stared at the fire ball engulfing the building before them. Its main supports still stood, but its interior had been wrapped in flames and the double doors hung off their hinges. Glass showered down on the crowd as they protected their heads with their arms. A lot of the bystanders ran, not knowing if there were going to be more, but some diehards remained. Batha shook the fragments quickly from her coat, the others following her lead, careful not to get cut. Surprising even himself, Mal snapped to attention, scanning the area for any sign of Cat, worry lining his features.
He glanced at his wife, noting she was thankfully unhurt with one part of his mind. "Frey?"
"I can't ..."
He nodded just once then looked down. "Batha, any sign from her?" he addressed the panther directly.
The feline took a moment to process this. The captain never called her by name, especially to her face. 'Pain.'
"Hers?" he asked again with more urgency, a ting of remorse flooding his features. Pain was okay, meant that the person was still breathing, but it might also mean dying.
'No. Weasel.' Slowly, the panther approached the building, sidestepping burnt body parts and the occasional fried gun. 'Kitten? A few steps closer ... Cat?'
'Don't call me Kitten.' A flood of emotion overcame the panther and she roared loudly as movement could be seen from inside. 'Need that drink.'
Even though Batha could hear her, the others had to stand and watch as the shadow amongst the flames emerged from the damage. A figure walked toward them, carrying Badger, who had stopped complaining once his eyes had cleared from the smoke. A crack of thunder echoed off the buildings as everyone around voiced the same four words ...
"Holy Mother of God."
Someone in the crowd screamed, and those residents of Eavesdown who had stayed around turned and ran from the sight.
Cat had lived through many things and, after years with her trouble making husband, pain as well as blood had become nothing more than an inconvenience. Of course, that was also back when everyone around her knew exactly what she was capable of. She'd forgotten once again the only one who knew anything about her was the man in her arms. Even Declan had only heard stories. Feelings of amazement, fear, and relief flooded her, none of which came from her own mind. Another perk to being in full feral mode.
The crew ... hell, everyone who'd been drawn by the explosion watched as rain fell around the pair, water droplets stinging on burned skin, bone, and organ. Resembling a zombie Jayne had seen once on a Hallowe'en Cortex show, Cat (or at least what he thought was Cat) strolled towards them, her beautiful red hair no longer decorating her head. Instead, there were a few frazzled strands here and there as bits of her skull peered out from her scorched scalp. The woman shouldn't be walking.
Jayne blinked several times before glancing at Zoe, whose mouth hung open. At least, the merc thought, he wasn't the only one.
Mal couldn't believe what he was seeing. A creature made of nothing but bones and flesh stopped in front of him as a pair of fangs glistened where lips should have been. Her strength was amazing, but he knew it was only a matter of moments before the creature would perish. "Grab Badger, Jayne."
"What?" Jayne asked, still shocked, but then complied almost without thinking. His strong arms took the speechless man from Cat and stood back. Where Badger had been was still flesh, tanned and perfect and, as her burned clothes fell from her, naked. Round breasts pointed at the merc, but for some reason he couldn't pull his gaze away from the blackened skin on her back or the way her rib bones were visible. Somehow, he wished for a moment she was two different people and the perfect one would step away from the damaged and live. "I'm sorry," he muttered.
She didn't acknowledge him, but instead slowly backed up and allowed the rain to fall over her body, washing the blood away as amazingly no more flowed. With a last sigh, she collapsed to a crouch, the others knowing it was only a matter of time before death claimed her.
Fortunately for them, they would all be proved wrong.
Like someone building a puzzle, Cat's body began to heal, starting with the muscles and working up to the skin. As if strings on a puppet, they began to twist through her arms, legs, back, and chest, threading and wrapping around vital organs. Pink lungs inflated with air as her red heart beat its cadence slow and even. Hair grew as the skin over her skull closed up, curtaining off the tore up face. Standing, Cat let the hard soak wash away what remained of her clothes, and any dead skin that had clung to her.
"My god ..." Zoe managed, the rest of the crew didn't say a word, just staring as the woman they knew as Cat reappeared naked before them, like the very best magic show ever.
The only sound was that of a purr gently coming from the big panther that rested in front of them all, licking a paw. 'Show off.'
'Not my fault I have skin and no fur.' Cat's lips slowly curled into a smile as they grew from the skin around her fangs.
'Tempt men belonging to others. Need cover soon.' Even though Cat could feel the warning, the panther laughed gently after, relieved she had lived.
"They did make her perfect. Of course, married men and such shouldn't be indulging in such displays of skin."
It was a voice none of the crew had heard in a very long time.
Since everyone seemed transfixed with the fully healed and most definitely unclothed Cat, Mal said absently, "In a minute, Preacher." Looking toward Jayne, the captain pointed at Badger in his arms. "We need to get him back to Serenity ASAP. Can't have the 'Mayor' dying on my watch. And you, Batha, need to stay out of sight. Be hard enough transporting a bleeding man after this mess." He glanced at the crowd that was gathering on the edges again, knowing it was only a matter of time before the Feds turned up.
'Not going anywhere. Humans deal. Stay near Cat.' The panther's voice held a degree of harshness that needed no interpretation. Her long tail ran down Cat's bare leg as she sat on her haunches. Humans stop staring work get done faster.
"I agree with the cat," the dark skinned man added.
Once again Mal seemed not to notice. "Zoe, call Serenity and tell Simon we'll be needing his services so have the infirmary checked out ..."
While Mal rattled on, Badger - slightly weak from loss of blood - leaned over to Declan. "Never rightly knew why your da didn't have that woman first chance he got. Man was a gentleman, I'll say that much," he said to the young man, who was quickly unbuttoning his shirt.
"Actually, he told me he was afraid she was like the mantis." A frown on his face echoed his distaste. "You know, bites the head off during mating. Funny thing is ... Da never specified which one he meant." Moving away, he walked over and wrapped his shirt around Cat's naked body.
"I don't have a problem showing off my skin," she insisted.
He smiled at her, whisking a few strands of newly grown hair from her face. "True, but if you want a crew left to save, I'd highly recommend keeping this on." His eyes appreciated the rise and fall of her chest. "'Sides, you look good in my shirt."
"So much like your dad." She drew in the smell of him and then leaned to kiss his cheek. "Thanks for being a gentlemen."
"Might need to keep it up, gonna be rewarded like that for it." He smiled. "Want me to get the door for you, M'lady?"
Watching him bow, Cat pointed at the one hanging from its hinges. "That door? Not sure I want to go back in."
"Ummm....ya," He rubbed at his head. "Didn't think that through, did I?" The grin on his face was infectious as she pulled the shirt tighter around her wet, bare body.
Mal, still finding it difficult to believe that they weren't about to bury the woman, let his mouth run. "I know you two have a lot to talk about, but can you get a room later? We need to be gone from here."
"Yes, sir, Captain," Cat said, saluting, the action making the shirt move interestingly.
He swallowed. "Shiny."
"Come on, Dec." She walked past him, her fingers rolling over his arm as the name she called him settled in.
"Did you just ..." His eyes widened as he watched her, her long luscious legs sweeping across the dirt. "Hey, Cat, wait up."
As Declan slid in next to her, Cat paused by the stranger. "Boss man."
"Cat." He frowned. "We need to talk."
"Figured you say that," she continued as Batha growled low.
"Don't think you're off the hook because you're an animal."
'Panther. Did what needed doing. Not ashamed. Proud.' Her green eyes blinked as only a cat's could, with a knowing of something no human could ever understand. 'Freed her. Cat important to me. Not care about time. Time your problem.'
Cat let the conversation between the pair go without a word from her as she saw Mal's face turn white as the realisation of who exactly was standing there in front of them all struck him.
He managed to take a breath, but only one word came out. "Book?"
"Huh?" Jayne, who had been thoroughly wrapped up in Cat's naked display, felt his jaw drop even farther at the sight of the once dead shepherd. Zoe, on the other hand, seemed to look past him, waiting for someone else.
"Yes, Mal." The white haired man smiled knowingly.
"You're ... you're dead."
"In this 'verse, yes," he replied, "but not in all of them."
"I..." Mal ran a hand through his hair, suddenly facing the truth and not sure how to process it.
With a strong hand, the shepherd touched the captain's shoulder and whispered. "Believe, son. Just believe."
Freya, her own face as pale as milk but with two red spots high in her cheeks, couldn't take her eyes off the newcomer.
Declan watched as the reunion took place and leaned over to Cat's ear, his hand sliding to the small of her back. "Is he always this dramatic?"
"Who? Book?" She laughed. "Are you kidding? First time he approached me about this mess, he did so disguised as a burning bush."
"Really?" He looked at her, shocked, and she smirked.
"No. I actually shot him."
"You shot a Shepherd?"
"In the leg."
"Well, it would have been in the heart, but he'd drugged me."
Declan looked at her for a moment before casting a glance at Book and Mal. "You know three days ago I might have actually thought that was strange and then I met you. Guess my dad was right after all. You are the craziest woman I've had the pleasure of knowing."
"Oh darling, you haven't seen anything yet."
Book smiled. "As much as I'm glad to see you all, you were right. We need to move." His gentle eyes ran across the crowd. "Not that anyone is going to believe what they just saw, but we are drawing rather a lot of attention."
"What?" Mal swallowed. "Yeah. Right." He half-turned to speak to Jayne, but his gaze stayed on the old man. "Get Badger back to Serenity. Fast as you can."
"Glad someone remembered, me," Badger complained, his voice tinged with pain.
"You shut up, or I'll 'accidentally' drop you," Jayne threatened, stepping back into the shadows before vanishing like a puff of smoke.
Batha, her eyes glowing, followed him silently.
"Think we can do that?" Dec asked Cat.
"Somebody said once a naked woman is at home anywhere," Cat pointed out.
"Not with me around." He wrapped his arm around her shoulders and they slipped away.
Mal stood for a moment longer, then tore his gaze away from the old man to glance at the burning building. Nobody was rushing to put out the flames, but then the good people of Eavesdown always did enjoy a thorough blaze.
"Son. We need to be leaving now."
Serenity's captain looked down at the hand on his arm, then into a face from so long ago. "How?" he asked.
"I'll explain what I can. Back home."
"It never stopped feeling that way." Book smiled, but it faltered as he felt Freya's hard gaze on him. "There's lots to tell," he added, but not only for Mal.
"Yeah." Mal seemed to pull himself together. "Zo. Time to leave."
His first mate hadn't stopped scanning the crowd, but now turned to face him. "I know, sir, but ..."
Freya touched her shoulder gently. "He's not here," she whispered.
Zoe's expression didn't change. "No. Didn't think he would be."
Still, as they hurried away, pushing through the crowd, she still had to check each face before it passed by.
River quickly ran a brush through her hair, then stared at herself in the mirror. She knew they were safe, that they were coming home, but with someone who hadn't sat at their table for so long. A multitude of memories assaulted her, from " ...snow on the roof is too heavy ... his brains are in terrible danger ...", and "... bible's broken ... contradictions, faulty logistics ... it doesn't make sense ..." to a man dying in her jia yan's arms, all because of her.
"I don't understand," she whispered to her reflection, but there was no answer.
She sighed, knowing she would just have to wait and see.
As they approached Serenity, Cat couldn't help but notice Frey shying away from everyone. Without reading minds, she could tell Mal's wife was mad, more so at Book, though earlier it had been towards Mal. Well, Cat had warned her to tell him about the babies. Yes, it probably would affect his decision when the time came, but that's what made Mal ... Mal. It was his ability to put all those hard decisions into something so simple, it blew a person's mind. Family first ... everything else came after. In that order, he told her, always in that order.
"You know if we move just a few inches to the right, there's a big puddle I could lay my shirt over," Declan whispered, his hand not once leaving the small of her back. She looked at him, body drenched in water as her fingers lifted the material that clung to her bareness.
"You mean this shirt?" She smiled as he shrugged.
"It would keep the mud off your feet." A sly grin lined his features as her belly ached for her husband. Quickly, she put the thought out of her head and smacked him lightly.
"Behave, Declan," she weakly chastised, catching a glance from Jayne, who tried hard not to stare at the rain soaked shirt clinging to her curves. They'd caught up with the man easily enough, mainly because his burden was being annoying, and now - despite having seen her naked just a little while before - Jayne was almost tripping over his own feet.
'Merc need to get room.'
Batha had been fairly quiet after Cat's healing, knowing the woman needed time to gain strength. More though, the panther was pissed at her. Cat hadn't thought things through and had almost left the feline with Declan and this rag tag group. Not that Batha didn't love being with the cubs, it was just she belonged with Cat.
'He's a man, Bat. All of them are appreciating.'
'Shouldn't. Have mates. You need cover. More cover.'
'Yes, Mama. Stop being pissed at me.'
'No. Risk life for stupid reason. Make me worry.'
'Not like worry. Feels like thorn in paw, only worse.'
Leaning down, Cat wrapped her arms around the wet panther and scratched behind one ear. 'I promise not to make you worry ever again.'
Jayne couldn't look away as the shirt rode higher.
'Stupid promise.' Green eyes took in the woman's and Batha swatted her face with a muddy paw. 'Kitten dirty.'
Using her hand, Cat wiped the mud off her face and on to the panther's black coat before standing. 'So is Puddy Tat.'
'Huh.' The panther flashed her long canines at the woman before taking a step back, her four paws sliding in the thick mud as she started to lower her shoulder.
Cat's green eyes widened. 'Don't even think about ...'
Batha ignored her. Rolling in the filthy puddles, her black coat became soaked with brown, and as she leaped lightly back to all fours she shook herself off over both Cat and Declan, who hadn't heard any of the conversation. Not tat.
"Dammit, Batha!" Declan complained, now covered in mud as well as soaked through.
With a merry laugh echoing in Cat's head, the big panther headed toward the open ramp, her long tail swishing joyously behind her.
Jayne, having somehow missed the muddy shower, chuckled lewdly, then continued up into Serenity's interior.
"You were going to have to change anyway," Cat pointed out to Declan. "Me too."
"Yeah, but you only got my shirt on."
"I can fix that." In a moment she'd pulled the wet fabric from her body and tossed it back at him, striding up the ramp as naked as a jaybird.
"Really, Cat," Book said, admonishing lightly. He followed her, passing Declan. "Better close your mouth," he advised. "A boy could drown out here."
"Well, this is gonna be fun," Mal muttered, more to himself than anyone else as his crew entered the ship.
Kaylee was standing on the stairs, her hands clasped tightly in front of her. "I saw Jayne carrying ... and Cat was … is everyone ..." Her eyes widened so much she looked like a Sihnon festival mask. "Preacher?" Those same hands flew to her mouth. "Preacher?"
The young mechanic couldn't help it. She screamed.
Mal winced. "Kaylee, do you have to?"
"But it's ..." She hurried down to the bay floor, almost falling over her own feet, until she stood just a foot away from the man in question. "Book?"
The Shepherd smiled. "It's me."
"But you ... you're ..."
"What did I tell you about resurrection?"
She slapped him lightly on the arm, then realised what she'd done. "Oh, I'm sorry ..." She stared at her hand. He'd felt so solid, so ... real.
"I'm not a ghost," Book said, reading her as easily as if she'd been printed on paper.
"No." A smile started to form, which became a grin, which widened until Mal was sure her head was about to split in two. "No," she repeated, then threw her arms around him. "Preacher ..." Tears flowed, joining the rain on his clothes.
He patted her back. "It's okay, Kaylee. Breathe."
River, silent on bare feet, crossed the cargo bay and stared out into the rain, her eyes focused somewhere else. Then she thought hard before pressing the button to close the airlock.
Cat wasn't sure where to go next. There were things to do, speeches to give, but for some reason, nothing was going the way she wanted. She reached for the dry tank top and a pair of jeans, uncovering Mathilda in the process. Running a finger longingly along the barrel of the old shotgun, she looked down at it and shook her head. "Man had all the subtlety of a raging bull and here I am trying hard to walk around on egg shells."
Fondly she caressed the pits and scraps along its metal and wood frame, paying close attention to one spot in particular. "Could have been killed that day coming back after me."
"Nah, I'm too ornery to die ... well, you know ... except for that one time."
She jumped and span on her heel, not sure of what to think, then just stood not saying anything. Her husband lay on her bed, ankles crossed as his big boots hung off the end. A freshly lit cigarette was in his mouth, the white pillar of smoke floating around his head like a sick halo. For a moment, they stared at each other, before Cat took a breath. "I thought I was the one with nine lives. Lao Gohn, is that... you?"
"Yup." Werzbowski nodded, blowing out a stream of smoke. "Though I'm not so much here, as in there." He finished by pointing at her head.
"You mean I am going insane." She sighed heavily, then turned to lean on the small chest of drawers, staring at her reflection. "I can barely do this sane, how the hell am I going to do it when I'm out of my damn mind?" Her eyes moved to look at her bed, but it was empty. Perhaps her subconscious wasn't capable of dealing with the mirror.
"Insane is a strong word," the shade said. "Just do what I always did ... make it up as you go along."
"That's what you were good at. I was the one who showed up when it failed." She managed a smile, giving herself something to do by going through the drawers, finding a pair of socks. "Sure wish you were here."
"I am ... sort of."
"Great. I'm married to a ghost." She gave in and chuckled as she turned back to him. "Gonna complain a lot and steal the covers?"
Taking his cigarette from his mouth, 'Ski laughed. "I'm not a ghost, I'm a manifestation of stress placed on your mind by multiple temporal displacements ... or somesuch. Temporal mechanics give me a headache."
"Temporal? Manifestation? Where in God's name you learn all those fanciful words? Sure ain't talkin' like the man I married." She smiled as he lifted a tequila bottle that had somehow appeared in his hand.
"Whashisname may have mentioned something about it, and if it's in your head ..."
"You better stay out of certain things in my head, Reddik," she chastised like she would if he were real, though, in truth, there was no secrets between them. Her fingers slid under the chain around her neck as she played with Max's tags absentmindedly.
He pointed at them with the bottle. "Can't believe you still wear those."
"Told you that I wouldn't take them off until I could give them back. Like Mathilda."
"I miss that shotgun."
"I miss you and her having my back," she replied.
"You realize the problem here, though, right? First time Mal called me a monster you'd have shot him, and then ... where would we be?" A gentle roll of laughter escaped her lips, shocked she'd make such a statement.
"Reynolds ..." He spat. "So many timelines, still the same jackass. At least Badger made mayor."
"He did at that. Not his timeline, though. Sneaky damn bastard." Reaching out to touch him, she was surprised to feel warmth near her fingertips. "Think we'd make it ... if we had another chance? Could help Badger cheat his way to president or somesuch."
"Would be fun, I could be Secretary of Offence."
"Then I get to be the arm candy?" Cat chuckled at her husband's play on words as she ran a hand down the gun again, memories flooding her mind.
"You are lickable like candy." He grinned.
"Wish you had gotten more than a taste." She turned to him. "Simon needs me, but I want you to know, even though this ain't really you ... I made a mistake and 'though there's nothing I can do to make up for it, I was wrong and I was stupid. You were the one I belonged with. Not Reynolds. I'm sorry."
Something in her realized she had just called Mal by his last name, a trait picked up from her husband. It was one of many, though this particular one would stay between the two of them ... at least for now.
"I know, and I know. Talk to you later, Babe." He began to fade.
She wanted to reach out, hold him back, make him stay with her, but all she said was, "Will you be here... if I need you again?"
"I'll be around ... when you're undressing, or in the shower ... you know, the important times."
"That's why I love you. Always thinking of me first." She turned to go toward the common area as he disappeared, the smoke from his cigarette vanishing last of all.
Jayne, in the meantime, had carried Badger into the infirmary, meeting Simon coming the other way to find out what all the noise was about, but seeing the injured man immediately the young doctor was quickly back in professional mode.
"Good God," he breathed. "What the hell happened here?" It was a testament to the damage that he swore at all.
"Explosion," Jayne said succinctly, laying the man on the medbed. "Gorramit." He'd looked down and seen the blood on his clothes.
"You've been bled on before," Simon said, briefly checking the wound before quickly gathering instruments.
"Yeah, but generally 'cause I've been the one doing the maiming."
There was a shudder through the ship, and the young doctor looked up in surprise. "We're leaving?"
"Seems like." He stomped off to change, narrowly avoiding his captain.
The internal gravity took a moment to catch up, and in that second Mal had stepped into the cool room. He slapped his thumb down onto the comm. "Hank. What the good gorram're you up to?"
"Uh ... River said you told her ... you didn't?" Hank's voice seemed tremulous, even over the link.
"Not that I recall."
"Needed to leave."
Mal turned from the wall and saw the young woman herself standing in the doorway. "You wanna explain yourself, albatross?"
In answer she took his arm and led him outside into the common area. There she turned to face him, and fixed him with her huge, dark eyes. "They would have followed."
"So we escaped?"
Mal exhaled heavily. "Were we the target? Or ..."
"Both. Family of Serenity. And white faced weasel."
"I'm taking it you mean Badger."
"Taxidea taxus, of the weasel biological family Mustelidae." She shrugged. "Sold the Panthera sapiens."
River tried to gather her thoughts. Partly it was still the effects of the alcohol she had imbibed two nights before, but also it was knowing that Book was in the cargo bay, and she was afraid his hair might get loose. She stiffened her spine. "Sold jumper. Didn't know."
"What? Xiao nu, you're not making any sense."
"Badger sold the jumper. He knew she was coming but not who. Why they were ready for us."
"They were watching the docks?"
"No. His new offices. Ready to strike, take us all out."
"Damn near did." He lowered his head to look her straight in the eye. "That's why you told Hank to take off?"
"You killed many, but there will be more." She tilted her head slightly. "And the Alliance might take an interest."
He nodded slowly. "Okay. Thanks. But you ask me next time, dong mah?"
She saluted. "Yes, sir, captain."
"Mal, where's Freya?" It was Simon, calling from the infirmary doorway. "I'm going to need her help."
Mal dragged himself back to the here and now. "Why?"
"I need a scrub nurse. Or I can't guarantee to keep Badger alive."
He started to reach out mentally, then remembered he was still mad at her. "She's ... upstairs. I think."
"I'll do it," River put in quickly. "In Freya's condition ..."
Simon's eyebrows raised. "Condition?"
"Oh. Yeah." Mal took a deep breath. "When you've finished doing what you can do for Badger, I'd take it as a kindness if you'd look Frey over. Seeing as she's pregnant."
Now the young man's jaw dropped as well. "Why didn't she tell me?"
"That, doc, is the sixty four million credit question."
Simon pulled himself together. "Then ... yes, fine. River can help."
"You need another pair of hands?" Cat asked, having stepped down silently into the common area, now at least dressed more conservatively. "I was always pretty good at field surgery. And blood won't affect me."
"Fine. On one condition."
"You let me examine you as well."
"Simon, I'm healed."
Cat sighed. She'd forgotten he hadn't been there when she'd pulled Badger from the flames. "I'll ... tell you later." Besides, there were other things he didn't know, like the arrival of Book.
Simon sighed. "Okay, fine. I don't have time to argue. Just get in here and scrub up."
Cat nodded and followed him back into the infirmary.
Mal waited until she was out of earshot before looking at River. "We okay? Are we safe?"
"For the moment." She wrinkled her nose. "I can't feel much ... there's too much emotion on board."
"Book's arrival, I'm guessing."
"Mmn. Kaylee's projecting particularly powerfully."
"She always did feel close to the Preacher."
River put her hand on his arm. "You need to talk to him."
"Oh, don't you worry about that, albatross. That's top of my list of things to do today."
Inside the infirmary Simon was lining up his scalpels. "River will know what I want when I want it, but you have to be ready. From the looks of things your tourniquet stopped him bleeding to death, but the damage is serious."
"Hey, I'm still awake," the patient complained weakly.
Cat ignored him. "Whatever you want me to do, just tell me. I'm strong."
"I know." Simon lifted a hypo. "I need to put him out now."
"Wait." Badger lifted a hand. "Wait. I need to tell Cat something."
Anyone who knew Simon could see from the slight tightening of the skin around his eyes that he was annoyed, but he merely said, "Fine. I'll wait for you, shall I?"
Simon glanced at Cat, who shrugged. "You have one minute," he said finally, stepping away to the corner of the room.
Badger glared at him as best he could, but decided it had to be enough. He looked up at the redheaded woman. "Cat. You gotta go back to my gaffe."
"It's in pieces, Badger."
"Nah, the safe'll be okay. It's a Remington." He seemed almost proud.
"So it's in one piece. So what?"
"So if I give you the combination, you need to get something out for me."
"Badger, I'm not going after your cash for you."
"Nah, it ain't that. And if you'd listened to me before I wouldn't have to ask now."
"You got blown up," Cat pointed out.
"Yeah, well ..."
"What do you want? And I'm not promising anything."
"A data tab."
"My insurance policy."
"Nah, not like you think. And you'll be glad I got it."
She leaned forward, letting her fangs show, even as her eyes glowed. "Talk to me, Badger."
"Just get it. It's in a case in the drawer at the bottom. Just bring it to me."
"Okay, that's it," Simon said, back at the medbed, hypo at the ready. "Time to sleep."
"Cat, promise me," Badger pleaded, even as the young man injected him in the neck.
"I'll think about it."
"'N if you think of it, there's ... a few bags ... of jewels ... if you ..." Badger's voice trailed off and his eyes rolled back in his head.
"Damn. He didn't give me the combination."
"I have it," River said softly.
Cat lifted a perfect eyebrow at the young psychic. "You read him?"
"Yes. And never again." The look of disgust that flittered across her features made Cat laugh.
Mal, standing at the doorway and eavesdropping as befits the captain of a ship, began to think.
Hank had settled them down in the foothills outside Eavesdown, nudging under an overhang so that they weren't visible from the air.
"So," he said, as he turned the engines off. "How come you ain't with the others?"
Zoe, standing at the back of the bridge, crossed her arms. "Don't you want to have your wife keep you company?"
He flicked one final switch then slowly span the chair around to face her. "Honey, I never met the man, but you lived with him for more'n half a year."
"I was married, Hank."
"Now, you see, I'm kinda thinking that's the crux of the problem."
"Because if Book's back on board, why isn't Wash?"
She uncrossed her arms, but only so she could rest her hand on her gun. "Wash is dead."
"So was Book." He stood up, closing the gap between them. "Zoe, baby, it's okay. I know you miss him. When you think it's forever, and it turns out not to be, you can't help but miss 'em."
She knew he was talking about Risa, his first wife, but it didn't help. "And I'm married to you."
He ran his hand up her arm to tangle his fingers in her hair. "And I sneak into Mal and Frey's bunk every day to use her incense to thank whatever gods might be about for it."
Her lips twitched. "Is that why you smell like a bordello sometimes?"
"Glad you noticed."
A sigh escaped her lips. "Hank, I ... I guess I feel guilty."
"I don't want you to think I don't need you."
Now he smiled. "Zoe, I need you so much it hurts. And I know you feel the same way. It's okay."
Her eyes narrowed slightly. "Well, it doesn't hurt."
He laughed. "Look, if Wash ever did reappear, well, I guess we'd have to talk about it. Maybe share you. But since that's unlikely ..."
"Hank, I'd have said it was the unlikeliest thing in the 'verse, but Book's in the kitchen right now." She could hear the murmur of voices coming along the corridor.
He leaned in and pressed his mouth to hers. Then he whispered, his breath against her tongue, "Come on. Time to join in."
Friday, December 31, 2010 12:40 PM
Friday, December 31, 2010 1:54 PM
Sunday, January 02, 2011 5:59 AM
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