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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Sparks fly on Serenity. Mal and Inara try to talk without fighting, and Jayne sees a sight calculated to freeze off his…you know.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 2693 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
SPARKS FLY (03)
Follows ADVENTURES IN SITTING (02). Precedes EXPECTATIONS (04).
Start at the beginning with A LION’S MOUTH (01).
Sparks fly on Serenity. Mal and Inara try to talk without fighting, and Jayne sees a sight calculated to freeze off his…you know.
Mouse over Chinese words in text for translations
Rating: All my stories are PG to PG-13 to occasional R. You will not find detailed descriptions of blood, gore, and sex, but you will find situations appropriate for mature readers, innuendo, implication, and (gasp) swear words.
This segment is R, for discussion of sexual situations and graphic swearing…after all, Jayne is in a foul mood in this one.
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* * *
Serenity floated placidly along in the black, her cavernous belly full of large cargo crates bound for the dusty world of 尘球 Chén Qíu, a staging area for an ongoing terraforming operation on a nearby moon. Secreted somewhere within this perfectly legal cargo was a mysterious something that Mal had been asked to deliver personally to Jack Holden, head of branch operations on 尘球 Chén Qíu for Holden Brothers Interplanetary Shipping. Buck Holden, head of Holden Brothers’ main office on Beaumonde, hadn’t told him exactly what the mysterious something was, and as a matter of policy, Mal hadn’t asked. He knew it was dangerous enough to have cost three ship captains their fare, if not their lives. He didn’t intend to be the fourth.
She hadn’t known how many ways it was possible to miss a person. She missed Wash profoundly when she was alone in their bunk, and not just when she was alone in bed, either, though that kind of missing had a physical yearning to it that was hard to ignore. She missed being called “lamby-toes” and “ 秋花 qiū huā .” She missed having pillow fights in the nude. She missed Wash on the bridge. She could still detect his scent in the seat cover, though the back of the chair had been replaced. She missed the dinosaur plays. The dinos were still there, but they didn’t speak anymore. She missed his welcome when she returned to the ship from a meet. No one else made such a fuss over the mere fact of her being alive and unharmed. She missed how he was a newshound—not so much else to do but watch the Cortex when he was waiting for them all to return from a job. She missed how he was able to inform her of the petty scandals afflicting the lives of Core celebrities for whom she 并不在乎 bìngbùzàihu —she loved hearing about them because he wanted to tell her. She missed his corny sense of humor. She missed his appreciation of her cooking, and the names he came up with for her culinary experiments, like “wife soup.” She missed him when she was conferring with Mal about a job, because Wash had been the third wheel of the executive council, irreverently challenging Mal’s command decisions in a way that was both valuable and irritating. She missed him at the dining table, because his sense of humor had added so much humanity to mealtimes. She missed the way he was so often not at the dining table, and found herself still thinking about fixing a plate full of the best food on offer to take to him on the bridge. She missed him when she was surrounded by everyone else, because he was her other half, and the funny half at that. She missed him at hoop ball, because he could always be counted on for an assist. She missed him when she read poetry—something she’d never done before she met Wash, and something that none of her other shipmates knew she did. Wash had enjoyed poetry. Had a taste for it. Liked to compose his own. Was mediocre at the classic style but had a shiny talent for indecent limericks.
How do I miss thee? Let me count the ways…
She knew Inara was a professionally trained counselor—it was part and parcel of being a Companion, another one of those things that separated Companions from whores—but she avoided talking it out with Inara. Inara would be sympathetic, maybe too sympathetic for Zoe. Zoe just wasn’t one of those touchy-feely kind of people. She didn’t want someone to tell her to express her feelings, let the grief out, share tears. She didn’t want someone to say, “Who needs a hug?” and give her one. Didn’t want tea and cookies.
She may not have wanted to express her grief publicly, but she also did not want Wash forgotten. Although she rarely, if ever, brought up Wash’s name herself, it still bothered her that the others avoided it too. She knew it was out of concern for her—they didn’t want to remind her of her pain. The foolishness of it just made her angry. Hell, it weren’t as if they’d be reminding her of something she’d forgotten, now, would it? That she’d hear them say his name and suddenly remember that she’d lost her husband.
Mal was the only one who understood. He had seen so much death, and understood the pain of loss all too well. He knew she didn’t want anybody’s pity, didn’t even want sympathy, much. Just someone who understood. Mal checked in with Zoe frequently, asked how she was faring with a glance, caught from her look whether she was having a good day or a bad, and let her know with another look that he understood, never dwelling on the pain. Gave her work to do so that she didn’t have to dwell on the pain. Let her know that he still thought about Wash, and often. It was Mal who kept Wash’s plastic dinosaurs on the bridge, straightening them up when he thought no one was looking. It was Mal who would mention Wash’s name in passing when she was around, ignoring the looks and shushing of the others. Occasionally Mal would be goaded into trying to be sensitive and supportive, and he’d try to offer consolation in more overt ways—asking if she was alright, even touching her hand. But she’d set him straight, and he’d go back to the role he fulfilled much better—her other other half, the friend and colleague who never failed her, who accepted her unconditionally, as she was, who gave her support and who always watched her back.
Wash was her husband, and she was a widow. But she still had a family, and that was the crew of Serenity. At times, her family brought her out of grief, and she began to live again, even if only in temporary fits and starts. One evening, Simon and Kaylee brought her out of the numbness of her grief, by talking of home, of all things. Kaylee hadn’t seen her family for more than a year now, and was missing them something fierce. Her homesickness reminded Simon that he had lost his Osiris home, that he was an exile. And that’s when Zoe began telling them stories about her youth. She never had a home planet—she’d been born and raised aboard a spaceship. But she always had a home. Her earliest memories were of her mother and father, ship’s pilot and captain, respectively, and herself, traveling through the black.
“…and there we were, out in the black, completely turned around. Mamma thought she recognized the star cluster on our port bow, so we headed that way, and this planet loomed up.” Kaylee and Simon regarded her with eager faces, urging her to continue. “It was not Verbena, needless to say. In fact, when we got close enough to recognize it, it was the same mining moon we started out from.”
“You went full circle?” Simon asked.
“Your nav sats musta been miscalibrated,” Kaylee offered, unable to resist diagnosing the mechanical issue. “Or maybe the boards was shorting.”
“Smart woman!” Zoe replied. “One of ’em shorted out.”
“Now let me guess. The back-up unit had the nav feeds crossed, so the signal was reversed.”
“Right again, Kaylee.” The girl really was a mechanical genius. “When the shorted one went off line, Mamma switched to the back-up nav, and from then on we were circling back to where we started.”
“I’m glad to hear there’s a back up,” Simon said. “I mean, what if all the nav sats failed? How would you know where you were going?”
“Well, that’s why you fly with back-up nav sats.” Kaylee was well-qualified to answer: she had installed the units herself. “We have three. But they don’t often fail. They’re very reliable machines. It’s a good thing, too, ’cause except for the nav feed, the whole thing is external. If they was prone to breakin’ down, you’d have to go for a space walk every time they needed fixing.”
“I think I’ll pass on the space walk,” Simon said, shuddering at his memories of his few times in a spacesuit.
“Me too.” Kaylee had no fondness for spacewalks, either.
“I once read a story, from Earth-that-was, about the ancient sea voyagers,” Simon recounted. “They didn’t have nav sats, of course, and they navigated their way by the stars. I read about a man who sailed for months in uncharted territory, with nothing but a compass and a sextant.”
“He must have had a clock, too,” Zoe stated with certainty.
“You need a clock?”
“Nav sat uses a chronometer,” Kaylee said. “And it still uses the stars. It takes observations, communicates with the cortex, correlates the data, and gives us a fix on our position. Then the pilot uses that to set the course. The flight computers do all the calculating for you.”
“It’s just as well to know how to do it the old fashioned way. Takes a while longer, but Wash always said, with a bit of practice—” Zoe stopped. Gorramit, why couldn’t she even mention his name without that empty feeling taking hold of her heart? She swallowed and tried to regain her stoicism. Simon, good man, tactfully re-directed the conversation past the uncomfortable moment.
“Do you know how to navigate?”
“Not so much, just rule of thumb,” Zoe replied. “Captain can do it.”
Mal awoke in a darkened room. Smooth silky sheets caressed his limbs and the light scent of incense perfumed the air. This was not his bunk. This was not his bed. The hand on his chest was not his hand. Huh. Inara… A smile spread over his face as the events of the evening came back to him. Best night of his life. He hoped his part in the proceedings had been satisfactory. He’d certainly tried. Given everything he could. Go slowly and pay attention. It was advice his mother had given him, although he was dead certain this was not what she was referring to when she gave it. Best night of his life, and it wasn’t even over. He reached over toward his sleeping beauty, almost not daring to put an arm around her, lest he wake and find the fairy tale not real. She stirred in her sleep and nestled back against his chest. He cuddled her, spoon-fashion, and buried his face in the soothing scent of her hair, drifting back to sleep.
Zoe walked from the dining area to the bridge to relieve River at the helm, passing the crew quarters on her way. The hatch was open on the Captain’s unoccupied bunk. The Captain’s sleeping well, she thought to herself with a smile, as she entered the bridge.
“Yes, he is,” River said.
Zoe did a take. Had she spoken out loud? “My trick at the helm,” she said to River. “You best get some rest.”
“Sleepy,” River said, referring to Zoe.
“Run along then,” Zoe responded.
She had felt the attraction for so long, attraction as unavoidable as the gravitational pull between two heavenly bodies. The question was whether they’d pull each other closer, settle into near orbit around each other, or fly by each other at speed, the energy of their attraction flinging the other off into the black. Or they might smash together and both be destroyed in the collision.
It was also a matter of avoiding pain. She knew he already suffered, that pain had been his constant companion for many years now, and she didn’t want to inflict more. She’d wanted to spare him, but last night she realized that he was already too far gone to be spared. Last night his declaration of love had moved her more than she could express. She’d had clients who’d professed undying love, in every form imaginable, to the last syllable of recorded time. But most of the declarations had been offers of patronage, more or less disguised. The last syllable of recorded time was, in her experience, a short interval. She’d never even been tempted to become someone’s Personal Companion, the answers she’d made to that uncivilized 混蛋 húndàn Atherton Wing notwithstanding.
He was not her most skilful partner, certainly not the most experienced, nor even the best physically endowed. Yet his lovemaking touched her in a way that no one else’s ever had. He had devoted himself to her, seeing to her needs and her enjoyment fully and entirely. He gave of himself completely. He had offered her everything, and had given her everything he had. Her whole professional life was focused on the needs of the client. See that he enjoys himself. Tend to his needs. She was so used to fulfilling the needs of her clients, of being the fantasy they yearned for, that the reversal of the situation had her completely turned around. “Spin me about” indeed.
His words had moved her. Their first kiss had sealed their bond. Then every touch, every kiss had melted her completely. Before they even made it to the shuttle she had already reached a peak of sensation such as she had seldom felt before. And from there, she had ridden waves of sensation to a higher plane of pleasure than she had yet experienced. She knew, theoretically, that the female orgasm had a significant mental component. It was this element that carried the sensation beyond the mere pleasure of physical stimulation into the realm of the sublime. She had thought, before, that she’d enjoyed the attentions of a few true lovers among the many clients she had taken. Now she realized that she’d had multitudes of clients—and exactly one lover.
He was sleeping next to her. The worried, tired look she’d seen on his face more or less constantly for the last several weeks was relaxed in repose. He looked years younger, sweeter, more vulnerable. Her smile as she regarded his sleeping form was joyous, and had she been able to see herself, she would have been surprised at the great tenderness reflected in her features. She did not want to wake him, but she couldn’t help reaching over to stroke his hair, then his cheek. He slept through her attentions at first, then began to respond sleepily.
“Did you sleep well?” she asked, when he had opened his eyes. She received all the answer she needed in the first look he gave her. Then he opened his mouth.
“Best night in bed I ever had.”
Damn it! Did he have to speak? The sweet, vulnerable lover’s face was covered over with a bit of a smirk. She had asked for it. She made her decision. If she was going to sleep with Mal, she had to learn to talk with Mal—without fighting. Determined not to let anything he said annoy her, she answered, “Flatterer. But you’re not answering the question.”
“It’s the truth Inara. Better ’n I ever imagined…”
“Oh, ho, so you imagined—” she answered, keeping to an amused, bantering tone.
“Are you sayin’ you never imagined—” he challenged.
Oh, she’d imagined all right, in very inappropriate places—at very inappropriate times. It had interfered very seriously with her work. It was the reason she had stopped taking clients. That time, many months ago, that she had nearly called an Alliance officer “Mal” instead of “Ephraim” as he reached climax—that had been the last time. She had come too close to disrespecting her clients, giving them less than the professional attention and courtesy she owed them. “I imagined,” she said simply, whispering, “and it’s better, by far.”
“Whoa, ho, now you’re stretching the limits of credibility here, Inara. You expect me to believe that? Inara, you’ve had—” He really did not want to think about it, didn’t want the shades of those lovers getting in bed between them, not now, not when they’d—“all those lovers—”
“Clients, Mal, not lovers—” she interjected, unable to keep a little asperity out of her voice. The distinction was vividly clear to her.
“—and you expect me to believe I’m—Inara, I ain’t no Leonardo—”
Leonardo? Whatever did he mean? A Renaissance man? What did Leonardo have to do with anything? She puzzled over his meaning.
“—Lorenzo, Don Juan, whatever.” She filled in “Lothario” to herself and smiled a bit. “I’m just an ordinary man. I got no special training—”
“Mal, you don’t need special training. I’m just trying to explain that you are special—to me. You’ve taken me to some place new—”
Mal put his finger on her lips. “I don’t believe it, 射线光 shèxiàn guāng , but it’s the sweetest thing I ever heard. Now let me explain what makes you special to me.” Mercifully, he stopped talking, and proceeded to explain with his hands, lips, and other parts of his body. There were no more words. The heat between them grew, passion flared, and the sparks flew.
On the exterior surface of Serenity, topside, were mounted a number of pieces of equipment. During take-off and landing and all atmospheric maneuvers, these instruments folded down under hatches or were covered with aerodynamic shells, but in space, the hatches and covers opened like flower petals and Serenity sprouted a vast array of sensors, antennas, and solar panels. Most of these items pertained to the communications, navigation, and detection systems of the ship. Key among them were the three nav sats—each one connected to a sophisticated long-range antenna for communication with the array of navigational beacons placed throughout the ’Verse for the use of civilian and military spacecraft. Each nav sat was a self-contained unit, and each one, in coordination with the cortex link that fed them the Universal Time Signal, was fully capable of providing all the navigational information needed for Serenity’s pilot to calculate the ship’s position and plot the course, with the aid of the bridge flightware. Serenity carried three for redundancy. As Kaylee had said, it was a serious matter to be without navigation in the black, and repairs in space were difficult. Repairs were best undertaken planetside, where one could climb the hull and work on the unit without the inconvenience of an EVA suit and gloves. The starboard nav sat was going to be needing some attention. Sparks flew, arcing from the base of the unit, over the bright Blue Sun logo painted on it, right up to the antenna. Sparks flew.
In the old times, Jayne had rarely had this problem. Sure, there’d been the odd cargo of smuggled cows, but in general, Mal had stuck to good old-fashioned contraband since Jayne joined the crew. Contraband was supposed to stay hidden, which meant it was stowed in the hidey holes, not clutterin’ up the cargo bay with gorram 臭鱼 chòu yú crates. Now a man couldn’t find room for a good workout on account of all the 青蛙的 乱伦 qīngwā de luànlún legitimate cargo in the way. With no one to spot him on free weights, he was aiming to do some pull-ups under the catwalk. Gorram 牛尿 niú niào crates were in the way, and he had to move the handles to another spot. Getting them re-attached at last, he pulled up with vigor and bumped his head on some gorram 拉屎 lāshǐ electrical fixture. A shower of sparks flew about his head and shoulders.
“Gorrammit!” He gave up on pull-ups and headed for the weight bench, which was wedged tightly between a crate and the bulkhead. He added some weights to the bar, lay down, and lifted the bar. Tried to lift the bar. Gorrammit again! Couldn’t lift the 该死的 gāisǐde thing without it bumped right into some piece of 狗屎 gǒushǐ 突出 tūchū sticking outta the side of the crate.
Jayne swore long and loud. It wasn’t especially creative, and he had to recycle some of the cuss words two or three times to pay proper homage to his feelings, but what it lacked in inventiveness it made up for in sincerity. “ 牛吸 臭鱼 青蛙的 乱伦 Niú xī chòu yú qīngwā de luànlún cargo takes up all the room! At least when we flew contraband, we could shove it in the hidey-holes, outta the way.” Time to throw in the towel. He headed toward the lounge in the passenger dorm, but as he approached he saw Simon and Kaylee sittin’ on the sofa in each other’s laps, laughing. Didn’t want no truck with that. A mood this foul was somethin’ to be treasured, so he stomped upstairs to visit the denizens of the bridge.
Jayne entered dining room lounge area to find it plunged in darkness. Some 该死的傻瓜 gāisǐ de shǎguā had turned all the gorram lights off, and he bumped into something he couldn’t see. Time to spread the joy. “Hey!” he shouted, “Who turned off all the gorram lights?”
He had his mouth all open to continue when he saw a sight calculated to make a man’s 睾丸 gāowán turn cold and drop off.
River Tam was standing on the coffee table, gazing up and out the skylight, holding a large wooden cross in front of her, gesturing with it towards the sky. She was dressed in some kinda flowing robe thing, muttering to herself, shafts of moonlight lighting her face and crazy hair. Like the High Priestess of…Somewhere Jayne had heard of once.
“What the 圣 臭鱼的 地狱 shèng chòu yú de dìyù are you doin’? Praying to the moon?”
River rocked back and forth on the balls of her feet, chanting. Jayne didn’t catch too many of the words. Thought he heard her say, “Sidereal…declination…ascension” and whole strings of numbers. She turned to him with that creepifying smile of hers and said, “Salutations, Jayne,” then turned right back to the sky, touchin’ that cross to her forehead and singin’ out more of them eerie-ass numbers. He weren’t about to stick around with crazy River waitin’ for things to get any more increasingly eerie-ass than they already was, so he made for the bridge double-time.
Zoe was nodding in the pilot seat when Jayne stormed onto the bridge with all the subtlety of a herd of stampeding cattle. She awoke with a little start she tried hard to repress.
Jayne didn’t notice, and didn’t mince words. “That crazy girl’s startin’ some kind a’ new religion back there.” He gestured toward the lounge.
Well. That woke Zoe up. “New religion? What are you talkin’ about, Jayne?”
“She’s swaying, chanting, shoutin’ out magical words, like she’s trying to put a spell on us all—”
“That does sound a bit…”
Jayne hadn’t even paused for breath. “—holding this—” he gestured “—thing out in front of her, pointing into the sky, shoutin’ out numbers… She done completely lost it, finally cracked. Better put her in a bughouse, if you ask me.”
“I didn’t,” Zoe responded drily.
Jayne was still rolling. “We shoulda let ’em go on Boros, Alliance ain’t after them no more—”
“Jayne, she’s navigating.”
“That what you call it? I call it crazy, and it makes my 睾丸 gāowán curl up. Makes my John Thomas wanna run and hide in the nearest hole.”
Zoe stood. “That’s enough, Jayne. Out.” Zoe didn’t take to coarse expressions having to do with human anatomy. Anyone could see from her expression that she was not in a mood to be crossed. Anyone but Jayne, who lumbered on, oblivious.
“Girl’s crazier than a 潜鸟 qiánniǎo in ruttin’ season, all her eerie-ass 睾丸 收缩 阴茎 变软 gāowán shōusuō yīnjīng biànruǎn crazy talk. Next she’ll get the kitchen knife out and start castrating the crew.”
“Out! Get off my bridge.”
Even Jayne noticed this time. Sparks flew from Zoe’s eyes. She looked to be in a right murderin’ mood. A bit over the top, Jayne thought, considerin’, but he also considered the best course a’ action here was to get gone. He left the bridge, muttering, “Kitchen knife…”
The starboard nav sat had melted into a pile of fused plastic and metal. The electrical plague that caused the meltdown seemed to be contagious, because now sparks flew about the central nav sat, arcing through the blackness around the unit.
尘球 Chén Qíu [a world made up for purposes of my story line, lit. “Dust Ball”]
秋花 qiū huā [autumn flower]
并不在乎 bìngbùzàihu [didn’t give a damn, lit. “did not care at all”]
混蛋 húndàn [scoundrel]
射线光 shèxiàn guāng [ray of light]
臭鱼 chòu yú [fish-stinking]
青蛙的 乱伦 qīngwā de luànlún [frog-humping]
牛尿 niú niào [cow piss]
拉屎 lāshǐ [shitting]
该死的 gāisǐde [damn]
狗屎 gǒushǐ [crap]
突出 tūchū [protrusion]
牛吸 臭鱼 青蛙的 乱伦 Niú xī chòu yú qīngwā de luànlún [cow-sucking fish-stinking frog-humping]
该死的傻瓜 gāisǐ de shǎguā [damn fool]
睾丸 gāowán [stones]
圣 臭鱼的 地狱 shèng chòu yú de dìyù [holy fish-stinking hell]
睾丸 gāowán [balls]
潜鸟 qiánniǎo [loon]
睾丸 收缩 阴茎 变软 gāowán shōusuō yīnjīng biànruǎn [testicle-shrinking penis-softening]
Okay, sorry about all the Chinese words and phrases here…but Jayne kinda got on a roll.
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