BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

EBFIDDLER

A LION’S MOUTH (01) Part (01) v2.0
Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Takes place right after the Serenity Movie. Modified after a comment from BlueEyedBrigadier


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1916    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

(01) A LION’S MOUTH Part (01)

Follows the SERENITY MOVIE. Precedes ADVENTURES IN SITTING (02).

Author's Note: This is a re-worked version of the first part of the first story. I have made changes based on readers' feedback (BlueEyedBrigadier, this means you), so this is 'Version 2.0' of A Lion's Mouth, Part 01. I would especially like to hear from anyone who read the earlier version, as to whether this addresses the issues raised, legitimately I believe, by BEB. I warmly welcome readers' comments and constructive criticism. Here's a link)to the previous version for anyone who wishes to compare. The changes are found in the Mal/Inara scenes.

Next Part

Takes place right after the Serenity Movie. They take off, fly through the storm, the buffer panel falls off and…here’s what happens next.

* * *

Jayne was in fine form, holding forth on the bridge, coffee cup in hand. He had a captive audience for his story, because River was at the helm and Zoe was supervising River’s pilotage, and neither could leave her post. It was one of his favorite anecdotes, and he had the timing down perfectly, on account of he’d told this story to just about every woman he ever picked up on his planetside searches for play. He was surprised hisownself that he hadn’t already told it to the crew of Serenity.

“You have,” River thought with vehemence. “Four times. You just don’t remember.” She rolled her eyes, but Jayne didn’t see—River was looking out towards the Black, and Jayne’s attention was focused on Zoe.

“…So I then says to him,” Jayne wound up for the punchline, “ ‘Show me where them thrusters is at, an’ I’ll show you the fast way to get to Beylix.’ ”

He looked expectantly at Zoe. “Hmm.” Zoe looked dully abstracted. She was wrapped up in her own thoughts.

Jayne wasn’t about to let his moment of glory pass unheeded. “Don’t you think that was pretty cunning?” he persisted.

“Uh-huh.”

“I’m talkin’ at you Zoe!”

Zoe shook herself. “Oh, yeah, Jayne. Right.” She attempted to pay a little closer attention. What had Jayne been saying?

“Well don’t you think that way was more better?”

Zoe looked unimpressed.

“The augmenting adjective is superfluous with the comparative form,” River said, not even turning from the controls.

Zoe and Jayne regarded River. As Zoe’s gaze passed over the window, she remembered something she needed to tell River.

“River, our course runs us near the Lion’s Mouth.”

“Lions? Here in the black?” Jayne asked incredulously.

“It’s an asteroid field, Jayne,” Zoe replied. “Well, more like rubble—hundreds of thousands of rocks, most of them big as Serenity. It’s the result of a terrible accident—”

“No accident,” River inserted, at the same time that Jayne asked, “What happened?”

“—a terraforming accident,” Zoe continued. “Planet Leo, ’bout twenty years ago, it was undergoing later stages of the terraforming process, when somethin’ went wrong. A massive explosion.”

Jayne was curious. “Like what happened on Shadow during the war?”

Zoe gave Jayne a dark look. “Alliance didn’t bomb Leo. And Leo wasn’t settled yet, so it wasn’t—the death of a whole planet, like Shadow. But a big part of Leo shattered, ended up strewn around in a massive belt. River, you steer clear of the Lion’s Mouth. It’s too dangerous for a novice pilot like you to venture in.”

* * *

Kaylee and Simon were in the engine room. It was Kaylee’s favorite place on Serenity, and if was possible for her to love it more, she did now, ever since Simon had taken to passing most of his spare time in the engine room with her. Although “passing time” was a pretty mild way of putting it, considering what they spent much of their time doing. Still, Cap’n had said that it was a good idea for everyone on Serenity’s crew to learn a bit more about one another’s jobs, so that in case someone was unable, for whatever reason, another crew member would at least have a notion what to do. At least, that was the excuse that Kaylee used for luring Simon into the engine room at every opportunity. He didn’t seem to object to his new role as apprentice mechanic in the least. Right now Kaylee was running through a routine checklist of engine functions. Simon was paying close attention—at least he was staring at Kaylee’s mouth with intense interest. Whether or not he had comprehended a single word that mouth had been saying was another matter. Kaylee smiled at him and decided to take another approach to Simon’s mechanical education. “You want me to show you how to keep the works runnin’?” she asked, sweetly suggestive.

* * *

The cargo bay was unusually full. On any other transport ship, this state of affairs would have been normal, but the crew of Serenity was more accustomed to a token load of a few crates, while the real cargo rested in the various nooks and hiding holes behind certain panels in the bay and throughout the ship.

Mal was busy in the cargo bay, checking each of the many crates to be sure it was securely stowed, and checking each crate’s ID code against an electronic list he held in his hand.

Inara entered the catwalk above the bay from her shuttle. She looked over the cargo bay, and Mal. She was struck by the unusual quantity of goods and Mal’s unusual activity, so she asked as she descended towards Mal’s level, “So, this cargo is completely legal?”

Mal looked up at her and gestured with his list. “Got papers on it and everything.” He continued with his work, tightening straps and checking fittings. “Kinda shocking, ain’t it?”

“Are you turning over a new leaf?” She reached the cargo bay and stood level with Mal.

“What else am I gonna do, Inara—load up contraband while we’re docked at a Fed repair base?” The Operative had seen them through the refit at a Federal base. Mal never thought he’d see the day that Serenity was seen to by the Feds. He bent over to check a lower fitting and winced in pain. He still wasn’t really healed from Miranda. Properly speaking, the violence occurred on Mr Universe’s moon (known to Alliance chart makers as “Ferdinand Moon”), but Mal, like everyone on Serenity, still thought of the whole series of events as “Miranda.” He shook off the pain and moved on to the next crate. “But yes, I am turning over a new leaf. I actually renewed the ship’s registration—my pilot’s license—everything.”

“You’ve been flying without a license for…how long?” Inara asked.

“Oh, it was all legit when I first bought Serenity, years ago. I didn’t turn to a life of crime right outta the gate, you know. Ran small cargo jobs—legal cargo—for a good long while before I realized we were getting poorer than poor.” Inara listened carefully. It wasn’t often that Mal talked about the past—even the more recent past, like times on Serenity before Inara first rented the shuttle. She was especially curious about what Mal had been like before the War, before his life was shattered at Serenity Valley, but he never brought up those times himself, and turned aside most attempts to get him to open the book of his life. Mal was continuing, “Then the Holden Boys offered me more money than I’d ever been paid to run uncustomed goods to Boros. We ate well after that run, for the first time in months….”

His simple story gave Inara a lot of food for thought. She knew, of course, that Mal had turned to smuggling and other illicit activities as a means of getting by. Times were hard. He seemed to have a talent for mayhem, and she realized she had simply assumed that he took to violence and crime naturally. It was sloppy thinking, unworthy of a woman of her education. A Companion was trained to observe people closely, to read their feelings, understand their motivations. Now, as she heard him speak quite casually, almost cheerfully, about the hardships of Serenity’s early years, of a crew literally starving under his command, Inara realized a re-assessment was in order. She had fallen into the trap of accepting his statements at face value, of believing the tough-guy thief façade that he chose to present to the world, without questioning enough what underlay it. Despite knowing, intellectually, that his thieving ways had been schooled into him by harsh necessity, she realized with a bit of shock that it simply hadn’t occurred to her to imagine Mal on Serenity without the thieving and smuggling. She should have started by imagining him as a legitimate businessman, captain of an ordinary transport vessel, trying to make a living in a harsh environment, one that was undoubtedly harsher for veterans of the losing side of the war. The recent events on Miranda had shown her something new—how far Mal was willing to go to fight for something he believed in. She should have seen it.

Mal had stopped speaking. He looked toward her with a hint of a smile, and noticed she was looking at him in a kinda disconcertin’ way, as if she was tryin’ to see right through his skin. “You know,” he continued, “I actually feel a bit naked—uh, you know, exposed, with not havin’ nothin’ to hide here.”

The word “naked” hung uncomfortably in the air for a moment. Then Inara smoothly broke the awkward moment. “You once told me that having cargo made us a target for every other scavenger out there.”

* * *

Serenity moved through the Black, approaching the farthest reaches of the debris field left by the shattering of Planet Leo. River dutifully piloted the ship clear of any larger chunks of rock, but the smaller particles of dust and grit would nonetheless give some punishment to the outer hull and interfere with the sensors. This was not a major shipping lane, and there was not another vessel in sight. But sight was only one of the senses. An acute observer might have noticed something, less than a shadow, a mere disturbance in space, noticeable more for what was not there than for what was. A roughly triangular shape occluded the distant stars and planets. It was moving in Serenity’s wake, pacing her.

* * *

Mal was a bit surprised. Was Inara actually quoting him? Never knew she was paying such close attention. And did she just say “us”? He knew better than to get his hopes up, so he blinked himself back to the present and said, “Yeah, well, I know how scavengers think. Being one my own self.”

“Mal, you’re far more than just a scavenger.” Inara’s eyes were shining. She moved a little closer to him and continued, “You shouldn’t think of yourself that way. You really are so much more.”

Right. She had his full attention now. She was lookin’ at him like he was some kinda— 英勇的 狗娘养的 人 yīngyǒngde gǒuniángyǎngde rén . She opened her mouth to speak again. “I’ve seen you—.” Serenity gave a sudden, violent lurch, throwing Mal into Inara’s arms. They both fell to the deck.

He knocked the breath out of her. With the impact of the fall, of course. And, she had to admit—but only to herself—for other reasons. Had he, perhaps, launched himself on her in the heat of passion? She wouldn’t mind…. She closed her eyes, ready to be kissed. But Mal was already in Captain mode. He instantly picked himself up and tore up the stairs to the bridge to find out what the hell was going on. What was going on? Inara wondered vaguely, as she slowly sat up. Why had Mal been so eager to get away from her, when she felt like this? Had the earth moved? Or was that just Serenity?

* * *

Mal came pounding onto the bridge to find Jayne sitting on his 屁股 pìgu amidst a collection of rolling coffee cups and plastic dinosaurs that had been thrown to the floor by the sudden lurch. Zoe was on her feet, hanging onto the back of the pilot’s seat.

“What in the 九地狱 jiǔ dìyù was that all about?” Mal demanded.

“ ’Xactly what I just said,” Jayne put in, picking himself up out of the wreckage.

River did not take her eyes off the flying. “They come out of the black, little ones that you almost don’t see. You can’t see them but they’re still there. Always there.”

“Well, that sure clears it up,” Mal said. “What—”

Mal grabbed the back of the chair as Serenity lurched again in response to River’s sudden movement of the yoke.

“Won’t stop. You think they’re gone but they’ll never stop,” she whispered. “The ones with teeth, the cat playing with the mouse, playing—” she gave a creepy little smile “—five, four, three, two, one, tag! You’re it!”

River suddenly put the ship into high gear, engaging the thrusters, and using the attitude jets to maneuver them precariously close to a cluster of rocks, most of them much smaller than the ship. River twisted them through the dangerous labyrinth of the Lion’s Mouth Asteroid Field, maneuvering Serenity like a fighter jet. Mal got his sea legs on and stood directly behind her seat. He was focused entirely on the survival of his ship. He didn’t dare interrupt—his piloting skills were in no way up to taking over the controls in such a hazardous place at such a hazardous speed, and he didn’t want to distract River into a fatal error. She was speaking just as wildly as she was flying.

“Loss and possession, death and life are one! There falls no Shadow where there shines no Sun. Blue Sun!” The last words came out as a mad howl. A fine moment for River to start one of her crazy times, Mal thought. He briefly locked eyes with Zoe. No, she hadn’t seen it coming. “If the Sun breed maggots in a dead dog—”

Jayne looked disgusted. He didn’t want no truck with maggots and dead dogs.

“—being a god kissing carrion—” River turned to Mal, to his great consternation, as they veered precariously close to a chunk of rock large enough to knock off the cargo bay. She stared into his eyes and spoke directly to him. “Have you a daughter?”

“A whabba who? No, River. Just fly the damn ship, sweetheart.”

“Let her not walk in the Sun,” River intoned, mercifully re-directing her gaze to the viewscreen and control panel. “They won’t stop. You try to get away but they won’t stop. They’ll take it back,” she whispered.

Mal and Zoe exchanged a look. Could he slip into the co-pilot seat while Zoe tackled River and hit the button to transfer the helm to the co-pilot flight desk? The view out the bridge window was sickening, as River executed barrel rolls through narrow corridors and shaved past chunks of rock large enough to shatter Serenity. “You can’t go where she can’t see you. Peek-a-boo!” River’s giggle was far more disconcerting than her Cassandra-type wailing. “Here’s something you can’t do.” She slammed a control hard over and Serenity spun on a dime, narrowly missing a jagged chunk of shiny obsidian the size of a house. “I am like a leaf on the—”

Mal saw Zoe eyeing River darkly. Delusions of Wash? How much had River picked up from watching Wash fly? “Move him into the sun,” River chanted. “Its gentle rays awoke him once.” Her talk, and her flying, grew wilder and wilder. “Let others hail the rising sun!” Mal’s only comfort, if you could call it that, was that she hadn’t hit anything yet. “Two by two…hands of blue! Two by two! Hands of Blue!” River turned to Mal suddenly and said, with perfect lucidity, “Trying to lose them.”

Mal had nearly given up making any sense of her wild spew, but this was the most comprehensible thing she had said, so Mal latched on to it. “Trying to lose who?”

“They’re following us. They won’t stop. They’ll keep coming, and coming…”

Mal slid into the co-pilot’s seat and started running a comprehensive diagnostic, starting with external scans and sensors.

* * *

*

*

*

glossary

英勇的 狗娘养的 人 yīngyǒngde gǒuniángyǎngde rén [heroic son of a bitch]

屁股 pìgu [butt]

九地狱 jiǔ dìyù [nine hells]

Next Part

COMMENTS

Tuesday, August 23, 2011 5:26 PM

EBFIDDLER


Still working modifications on Story #7, which is a long one, so in lieu of posting the beginning of that, I'm putting up this modified version of the first part of the first story. I've changed the Mal/Inara scenes in response to comments that Inara seemed a little out of character in the earlier version. Depending on feedback received on this, I may edit the original story to include the modifications. I'd like to know what you think, especially if you've read the earlier version.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011 6:43 PM

NUTLUCK


I thought this one was better. I thought you have slowly but steadily gotten better with how all the characters act, talk and the inter crew dynamics with each story.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011 5:56 AM

AMDOBELL


Inara works better in this version ebfiddler though you do know you could simply just edit the original? It would save you writing a whole new chapter to include the alterations. Ali D
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Wednesday, August 24, 2011 10:45 AM

EBFIDDLER


If this version seems better, I'll be editing the original, and removing this one from the site. Was hoping for some more feedback before making that choice. Thanks, Nutluck and Ali D for voicing your opinions.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011 7:14 PM

BLUEEYEDBRIGADIER


Well, since I'm the one who spawned this revision, I guess I had better chime in, huh?

;D

Getting to the heart of the matter, I definitely think the majority of the Mal/Inara scene in the cargo bay has been noticeably shined up and brought to a level where Inara's thoughts on Mal's history feels less like a basic stranger cluing in to something big and more Inara furthering her evolution from the series and "Serenity" when it comes to her POV of the 'Verse and the crew.

The only thing I would complain about from the revised scene is Inara's reaction to having Mal fall on her and his mad dash to the bridge. To me, that part still feels a little off in how Inara's inner self is portrayed...it reads like she's channelling someone far more airheaded than the Guild-trained Companion she is. However, I think that kind of moment - the "What the frack just happened?! He/She was almost mine!" type of scene is probably very hard to write in a way where the partner left in the scene gets to be confused and frustrated or contemplative without seeming to be stupid or completely oblivious to the moment. Or it could just be my interpretation of tone that's off...Inara could be speaking in a self-deprecating manner when she's musing about whether the earth's moved or just the ship.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011 7:15 PM

BLUEEYEDBRIGADIER


Well, since I'm the one who spawned this revision, I guess I had better chime in, huh?

;D

Getting to the heart of the matter, I definitely think the majority of the Mal/Inara scene in the cargo bay has been noticeably shined up and brought to a level where Inara's thoughts on Mal's history feels less like a basic stranger cluing in to something big and more Inara furthering her evolution from the series and "Serenity" when it comes to her POV of the 'Verse and the crew.

The only thing I would complain about from the revised scene is Inara's reaction to having Mal fall on her and his mad dash to the bridge. To me, that part still feels a little off in how Inara's inner self is portrayed...it reads like she's channelling someone far more airheaded than the Guild-trained Companion she is. However, I think that kind of moment - the "What the frack just happened?! He/She was almost mine!" type of scene is probably very hard to write in a way where the partner left in the scene gets to be confused and frustrated or contemplative without seeming to be stupid or completely oblivious to the moment. Or it could just be my interpretation of tone that's off...Inara could be speaking in a self-deprecating manner when she's musing about whether the earth's moved or just the ship.

Friday, August 26, 2011 10:11 AM

EBFIDDLER


BEB, thanks for being such a good sport and writing in with your feedback.

I'm glad that you found most of the re-write to bring things back in character (that's what I was aiming for). I think I'm just reluctant to give up my one-liner, and that's causing trouble. (rookie writer, doesn't want to listen to good advice from editors :-P) I view it as Inara speaking a bit sarcastically to herself--she knows the earth didn't really move--she's kind of chiding herself for being so silly about it. And yet she's having some feelings about Mal that she is no longer able to deny, even to herself.

The fact is that in my series of stories I am less interested in the story of "how did Mal and Inara get together" (though that is an interesting topic, and lots of great fanfics focus on it), than in the story of "so, after they first got together, how did their relationship develop?" It is the evolution and gradual maturation of this relationship, and all the rocks in the road along the way, that really interest me. And I've got lots and lots of rocks to throw in their way--probably run out of energy to write, before I run out of rocks.

Thanks again for your input.

Saturday, August 27, 2011 7:28 AM

PLATONIST


Two things, Inara's internal dialogue on Mal is better in this version AND I like the fall with her anticipation of contact still intact, shows how being close to Mal throws her of her game as it does Mal, the closeness that is:)

It’s cute, sweet and sexy… just thought I’d add that cause it’s what I really like about it.

Thursday, September 1, 2011 1:01 PM

BYTEMITE


If the earth moved line was always meant to be self-conscious and chastising, then I don't think I have any problem with either version as written.

I myself kinda like an interpretation where Inara thinks the war made Mal more violent, and then necessity made him criminal. But Mal's a "reserved" kind of person, and even after eight months in the series Inara admits she can't really predict him and doesn't really know him. I don't imagine after two years that would improve any, especially if she's gone part of that time. And fair's fair, Inara isn't without her own secrets.


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