The Bouncing Ball Ch 19
Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Jane and Me.... no more needs to be said... enjoy. Cat goes hunting....


Chapter 19 His ears felt sticky and the whistling in his hair meant his mouth didn't listen and the taste in his knees was like cough candy ... I'm dead. Something laughed out near the edge of the park and he tried to turn his head to look but the magpies had taken his fingers ... Shit. Stone was drip-drip-dripping into his eye sockets and the clouds had faces but they screamed in silence ... Double shit. The ponies were losing at Tall Card but he had the ace and his head was wrapped in brown paper and it smelled of vinegar ... "Mother?" "Not your mother, son." He fought to escape the clowns with no legs, pulling himself hand over hand towards the light, towards the cool water dampening his lips, and he opened his eyes ... "Shit." "Now, is that any way to talk to a man of the cloth?" Badger stared. "You're dead." Putting the cup down on the small table, Book sighed. "I was once." "Then ..." Badger felt a rising panic. "You're ... a ... a ghost?" This time the older man smiled. "No, son. I'm flesh and blood." "How? I mean, 'e told me you were dead. Tried to get me to give him a bigger cut. Said 'e'd done the Miranda gig." Badger knew his tongue was running away with him, but he couldn't stop himself. "'Ow can you be sitting here, large as life and twice as ugly?" "Magic." Book gazed levelly at him. "And you aren't really supposed to be here either, so in the same way you're dead too." "Dead?" Badger quickly felt his chest. "No, I ain't. My heart's beating. No thanks to you lot." "Cat saved your life. With more than a little help from Simon." "What?" Suddenly the events of the day came rushing back, and he had the grace to blush, if only a little. "Oh. Yeah. But I meant before. After that gorram broadwave. You know what the Alliance tried to do to me?" "And so, like the rat you are, you saved yourself, never caring what happens outside of that." "Rats survive." Badger shrugged, as well as a man could lying on a medbed linked up to a drip. "Cat told me you were a good man." Book shook his head, his eyes flicking around the room. "Seems she's mistaken." "King no longer, sad or not." "What?" Badger looked around. It hadn't been Book who spoken those last words, but a woman, sounding like ... like someone he'd once met. Movement in the common area made him try to sit up. "Who's out there?" he called, his voice still weak. A young woman, not much more than a girl from the look of her, slid around the doorway, her long dark hair drifting around her face. She was wearing a pale green dress that fell to her knees, but her feet were bare. "River, should you be in here?" Book asked. She shrugged. "Come to pay my respects to the deceased." "I ain't dead," Badger put in, but her accent reminded him of home. "Calls for mother, but wants to be punished." "I do not!" "River, why don't you go and find your brother?" Book suggested gently, even as she climbed elegantly onto the counter, sitting down with her legs crossed. She put her wrists on her knees and adopted the lotus posture. "He's coming. Just giving Cal his injections." Her voice was back to normal. "So he doesn't catch anything from weasels." She fixed Badger with her dark eyes. "I know you," he said. "I got a good memory for faces. Long time ago. Doing a deal with Warrick Harrow." His eyes narrowed. "You and that pansy ass doctor both." "Pansy ass saved your life," she pointed out. "If not your leg." "What?" Badger looked down at himself, at the sheet covering him, at the contours of his right leg, foot sticking up, then his left leg ... which ended mid-thigh. "Wu duh tyen, ah ..." He tried to scrabble backwards, as if he could get away from the horror of it, but his frantic movements dislodged the needle in his arm, and he got tangled up with the drip lead. "Oh, good grief ..." Simon hurried into the infirmary, grabbing a hypo from the tray and quickly injecting the little man's neck. For a moment nothing seemed to happen, then Badger relaxed, his eyes rolling in his head, and he fell back, his limbs like water. "Oops," River said. "What did you say to him?" Simon wanted to know, glaring at her. "Sorry, son," Book put in quickly. "It was my fault. I was going to break the news to him gently about his leg, but your sister got there first." Simon didn't sigh. He knew it wasn't a sigh, because he was very careful not to give any meaning to the exhalation of breath that filtered from his lips. But sometimes, even though his sister was so much better, he wished he'd been an only child. She wrinkled her nose at him, well aware of the thoughts in his head, then something else tickled her senses. No, not there, not there, not ... there. She sprang from the counter, her stance already different, her body aligning itself for battle. Running from the room she shouted at the top of her lungs and mind, "Jayne!" Simon stared at her disappearing form. "River?" ==== "Shoulda taken mine," Mal muttered. "This damn thing's like a tank." He shook his head. "Not that I could get to mine. Not with this niou se great thing cluttering up my bay.” He sniffed. “And your engine smells like it’s gonna explode.” Cat sighed, sitting in the left hand seat of her hover mule as Mal negotiated trees and rocks barely visible in the starlight. "You're driving. What more do you want?" "My boat the way I like it." "Gonna make this a habit?" "What?" "Complaining." "You think this is complaining? You wait 'til you hear me going on about the septic vat." Cat's nose crinkled up. "Ew. Though it does seem a little ripe as of late ..." Mal steered into the first of the streets at the edge of town. "I was thinking of handing that little task to Declan - seeing as I'm captain." "You really don't like him, do you?" Mal shrugged. "It's him or Jayne, only River threatens to skin me if I make her other half do it too often. And he complains more, too." "Declan will do as you ask. I'm sure he did it enough on his own ship." "Hell, Cat ... take all the fun out of it, why don't you?" She smiled, the lamps making her fangs seem very long. "Oh, trust me, I said he'd do it. Might want to skin you alive after, though." "Maybe. But I'd sure smell him coming." Cat laughed. "And hear him ..." Mal joined in. "Did I ever tell you about the time Hank didn't make sure the connection was solid before turning on the vac? Damn, I thought Zoe was never gonna speak to me again." "Zoe?" Cat shook her head. "Not sure I could ever imagine that." "Believe me, that woman has a glare that'd make a Preacher feel guilty." Cat chuckled. "Now that ... I remember." She settled back, lifting her booted foot to rest on the bar in front. "So ... did you and Frey have a good conversation?" The mule jerked as Mal twitched. "Shiny. Thanks." "Did you apologise?" "You know, I don't go doing everything everyone tells me. If'n I did that ... well, it'd be a mite uncomfortable." She laughed out loud. "Considering some of the things I've told you in the past ... well, your alter ego, anyway ..." "I wouldn't worry - I figure I've not been missing much." "And you're trying to change the subject. Did you apologise?" Mal didn't speak for a moment, just letting the memory of his wife's response to his halting words flow over him, and the kiss that followed, making the possibility that he was going to very late joining Cat an almost certainty. At least until Freya stepped away from him, did the buttons up on her shirt and told him to hurry back. And he hadn't even told her where he was going. He shifted uncomfortably in the seat. "I did." Cat turned to stare into the darkness, hiding her smile from him. "Good." "Yeah." Freya had also explained why she hadn't told him originally, at least once Cat and Dec had appeared. "I know you, Mal. You're going to try and make me stay behind when the fight starts, aren't you?" "Well, I -" "And I don't want us to fight about it." "So you thought it'd be better not to tell me at all?" "I'm not saying it was a good idea." "You think?" "I'm sorry." "Looks like maybe we're both at fault here." "Does that mean they cancel each other out?" "I don't know about that ..." He'd stopped worrying at that point, his hands finding their way inside her shirt ... then he'd heard Batha in his head. What do next? He'd almost leaped up the ladder, sticking his head out of the hatch to come face to face with a pair of green eyes and an expectant look. "Mal?" "Huh?" He jerked again, realising Cat had been speaking to him. "You back with me?" "Right. Yes." This time she didn't bother hiding the grin, running her tongue down one long fang. "Get your mind in the game, captain." "I'm here, Cat." He glanced at her. "And by the way, tell your gorram cat to stay away from my bunk. She was sitting outside while Frey and I were ... talking." "Why? She putting you off your stroke?" "No." "Right. And she ain't mine. Explained that to you before. You need to listen - saves for embarrassment later." "I don't care if she ups and says she's married to Simon ... just tell her to stop stalking me." "Bat, stop stalking Mal." 'No.' Cat shrugged. "I tried." "Thanks." Mal ground his teeth together, muttering something under his breath. It took all of Cat's will not to bust out laughing. "No problem." They were getting closer to Badger's building. "Pull off and hide in this alley. We'll go the rest of the way on foot." Mal smiled slightly. "You got it, boss." "Boss?" Cat rolled it around her tongue. "Huh. Could get used to that. Though it used to be Mistress." She smiled devilishly. "Just keep this in mind." Mal poked her lightly with a forefinger. "I've got a long memory and a mean streak." "I know. Your right hook is pretty smart as well." ==== Freya was whistling. Nothing unusual in that, since she tended to when she was busy, and her thoughts were elsewhere. This time, however, she had a smile on her face that was nothing to do with the task at hand, which was getting the plates out ready for dinner. "Hey." Kaylee stepped down into the kitchen. "Watcha doing?" "Helping." "I thought it was my turn?" "It is." Freya's smile widened. "Don't worry, I wasn't intending to cook." "Shiny." The mechanic crossed the room slowly, her hands thrust deep into the pockets of her overalls, a thoughtful look on her face. "What is it?" "Just wondering." "Wondering what?" "When you were going to tell us." "Tell you ... oh." Freya felt a wave of guilt spin through her. "Kaylee, I -" "Only I know you've been wanting it for a long time," the young woman went on. "And I'd'a thought that maybe we might be told?" Freya's eyes narrowed just a little. "We are talking about the same thing, aren't we?" "That you're pregnant? Yeah, I think we are." Only Kaylee could make her words quite so accusatory while still sounding petulant. "And I had to hear it from Jayne?" "Mei-mei -" "I mean, I understand Simon not telling anyone, since it's that doctor/patient confidentiality thing he likes to talk about, but ... Jayne?" "Kaylee, you were busy with Book, and I -" "Jayne?" Freya felt as if she was being berated by a teddy bear. "I'm sorry. Yes, you're right. I should have told you in person. I shouldn't have let someone else break the news to you." Kaylee nodded slowly. "That's shiny." Then a smile grew on her face. "Pregnant ..." "I know ..." "Pregnant!" "I know!" Kaylee flung her arms around her friend. "I am so glad for you and Mal!" "Thank you, mei-mei." "I bet Mal's happy." "He ... yes, he is." "And Ethan and Jesse?" "I haven't told them yet." Kaylee pulled back a little. "Why not?" "I'm just ... waiting for the right time. I don't want them to feel unwanted." "That pair?" Kaylee scoffed. "You really think they're gonna think you and Mal don't love 'em to pieces?" "Ethan was afraid Jesse was going to replace him," Freya pointed out. "And now look at 'em." Kaylee shook her head. "You tell 'em. It'll make their day they're gonna have a little bro or sis." Hank stuck his head through the doorway. "Hay. Have either of you seen Zoe?" "Not for a while," Kaylee admitted. "I thought maybe she'd like to help me with dinner. Seeing as we're here for the night and nobody's eaten yet." "Sounds like a plan," the young mechanic agreed. "If'n you don't find her, let me know. I'll give you a - " River's voice rang through the superstructure. "Jayne!" Freya staggered slightly as the word reverberated through her mind as well, other images coming with it. "Shit," she murmured, then ran for her bunk and her guns, shouting over her shoulder, "Kaylee, hide the kids!" ==== Mal settled the mule against the wall, hidden as much as possible in the shadows at the base. "Any idea how we get inside?" "Easy." Cat jumped lightly from the vehicle and grabbed for the long rope on the back seat. "You don't." He climbed down, only a little slower, picking up a small back pack and shrugging into it. "Whoa, there, Cat. You thinking you're gonna do this without me, you can think again." She hefted the roll over her shoulder. "See, I didn't really think about it. Figured lie to you to get you to apologise to Frey, then hogtie your pretty ass to my mule so you don't think about following me." Mal glared at her. "If you're trying to seduce me, it ain't gonna work." His eyes glazed a moment. "Although I'll bear it in mind for Frey and me ..." Cat shook her head. "You don't get to risk your life for something I can do just as well by myself." "And I have a notion your Mal wouldn't'a let you go into this on your own either." "Mine loved me. What's your excuse?" He was taken aback by the force behind her words, and all he could come up with was, "I ... I'm captain." "Not here, you're not. You're just a stubborn man." She paused. "Didn't think about this when you had the notion of asking only me on this little outing, did yah?" "Have to say, no, it didn't occur to me. But I'm coming. And you can put away those claws before you do something I'll live to regret." Cat laughed. "I've regretted a lot in the hundred years I've been around." She paused then sighed, a gentle sussuration of breath that ended on a faint growl. "Way I see it, I'm your way in so we're going to make this really simple. You stay behind me, you step where I step, and the very moment I think it's too dangerous you get the hell out. I'm not going back to tell Freya I failed. Someone's got to be around to raise those babies, and it sure ain't going to be me." Mal stared. "Uh ... babies? You mean there's more than ... there's ..." "Twins. That would be the plural." She shook her head at him again. "Just let Frey tell you later ... and act surprised." Mal was trying to breathe - the acting surprised seemed to be coming quite naturally. "Always were twins in my family ..." "Hurrah ... hurrah." She reached into the mule and found a flashlight that she tossed to him. "You'll need this." Clutching it to his chest, Mal managed to pull himself together. "Okay, Cat. Fine with the following and the stepping, but we'll see about the me hightailing it if there's a problem. Okay?" Cat's eyes glowed for a moment, then she said, "Fine, Captain ... Daddy." Mal rolled his own eyes. "Oh, God ..." "Just reminding you what's important." "You'd have to hit me over the head with a two by four to make it any more obvious, Cat." She looked around. "How 'bout the butt of a shotgun?" He glared at her, then strode away. At the corner he stopped and turned. "Well? Are you coming, or what?" Cat's gaze narrowed. "Sometimes I wonder if men are worth it ..." She slid up next to him. "And you follow, not lead. I'm the captain here." She tilted her head. "Huh. Could get used to that title." She walked swiftly around the corner, keeping to the shadows. "Do not even think about that," Mal whispered in her ear, keeping up with her. "Don't want your ship, Mal. Got one of my own." He checked the dark crossroads, making sure nobody was around. "Which I seem to recall from what you said before was mine in the first place." "Very true," Cat had to agree. "But mine has certain bells and whistles yours does not." She suddenly dropped into a crouch, pulling him with her. A mercenary walked by, his jacket open to show the body armour beneath. "How come they're still hanging around?" Mal breathed. Cat spoke equally quietly. "Maybe they figure Badger will come back for something." She took a deep breath and held it, listening intently. "Only about four of them." "Where?" "One per side. We get past this one and inside... we should be safe." There was a groan like someone in pain, but it came from the building ahead. "From them, at least." She moved forward, like an oiled snake. "And I thought I was the one tempted fate like that," Mal whispered, following her towards the hole they'd made their exit from before. "Who do you think I learned it from?" Cat smiled over her shoulder. "You ... and my husband." She slipped inside, but as she did so something settled above. "Damn it." Mal risked the flashlight, the brief illumination showing his companion was covered in dust. "Do not sneeze." Then he had to hold one back himself. "Gesundheit." Cat moved past the hanging ceiling panel, trying to shake off the memories of burning. "Got to love the smell of roast flesh ... especially when it was your own." "You sure know how to be romantic," Mal said, but it was almost absently. "What?" "Not sure." He stifled a second sneeze. She turned to him, her better night vision allowing him to remove a piece of fallen insulation from his hair. "Steps should be intact." "Cat, wait." "What?" "Those guards out there ... there's either too many or not enough." "Don't know what you're talking about." She headed for the darker well of the staircase, hearing him follow. "Yes, you do." He grabbed her arm. "Cat, what's going on?" She glared at him, trying to stare him down, but he was as stubborn as she was. She sighed. "That's because they were alerted to Serenity's presence." "What are you talking about?" Mal could feel anger starting to fire in his belly. "I heard one of them talking on his comm." It was while they were waiting at the crossroads. Just a tiny flicker of a voice, but her sensitive ears had picked it up. "Your ship is under attack."


Tuesday, February 8, 2011 10:20 AM


Time for Declan to earn his keep I think... and I loved Badger's waking up hallucinations.

- 'Ski

Tuesday, February 8, 2011 12:43 PM


Holy moly, Mal and the crew never get a break, do they? I loved Mal and Frey getting back on the same page but twins? Ooh, that is going to be one very full creche on Serenity. Really worried about who is attacking the ship and what is really happening back at Badger's place? Don't know what meanie marked you down with a 9 but this should have been given a 10. Love, love, loved it! Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Wednesday, February 9, 2011 6:16 AM


Nice twist at the end there.


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