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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
The alarming statement woke him up fully, just in time to hear the rumble of reaction thrusters pass overhead, but no, the 'her' in question was the formerly docile and apparently very pregnant donkey he'd found River curled up with. (Secrets)
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1259 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
Dust and sand. She blinked and there was grit in her eyes, she ate and there was more Ezra soil in the bowel blistering local cuisine than there was Ezra culture. Pvt. Haverson couldn't imagine why anyone would live in the capital city, let alone build there; despite being feed by a major river, canals everywhere, they were still in the middle of a shài hàn zào desert wasteland.
Josie was just glad it wasn't hot yet. The temperature around here was dòng yáo; if it didn't feel like a blast furnace, it was freezing, and the difference between day and night was more than merely aesthetic. Morning was the only respite between the two extremes, and didn't last near long enough.
Sometimes she thought she'd really like to punch out the genius who'd decided on black and purple for their standard issue tactical armour suits. Or, heck, whoever was managing the shift schedule around here; they'd been trained by the best, but three days without sleep was pushing it and sometimes she had this nagging feeling like she was forgetting something important, and couldn't bring herself to care. At least the electronics in her helmet were helping keep her alert, otherwise she'd probably be konked out right here and heading for disciplinary action.
She leaned back against the sandbag barricade, Iskellian-15 at rest against her shoulder. Another farmer passed between her and her partner on guard duty, leading what was probably a pack animal under the baggage but looked like two enormous bundles with four legs. "How many donkeys do these people have?" Mick asked, and Josie had to agree. Smelled like there was already more than enough manure in this beige hovel hellhole.
A line of grungy and foul-smelling misery had already formed hours before, promising only to get worse as the morning warmed and tempers heated. Just a few more hours, Josie told herself. One of the aristocrats in the area was putting on some big evening affair for the troops, and the officers had decided to shuffle everyone through in shifts under the pretense of providing security detail. Really, it was mostly an excuse for some relaxation. None of them honestly had any taste for the upper class conception of entertainment or cuisine, but far be it for any of them to complain.
Next was a hovermule, beat-up, used, and utilitarian, goldenrod with a cargo grappler attachment on the front like it had been swiped from a loading dock somewhere. Ancient though it was, it still looked more advanced than most of the transportation they'd seen. It was something of a marvel that the vehicle hadn't been stolen and stripped; clearly neither the brawny driver or petite passenger were local.
Though cheerful enough, the girl and her coveralls seemed to be in a desperate state. The man was even more scruffy and inordinately pleased about something, in a way that belied his unkempt facial hair, his rumpled jacket over a dirty muscle tee.
"Name, business, and Ident-card," Josie requested, already bored.
"Cap'n Rob Harbatkin," he declared, with particular emphasis on his title. The man actually puffed out his chest and jabbed himself with a thumb, and Josie thought he was probably in violation of a customs restriction on ego. "Got some work out on some lady's homestead having a fancy to-do."
Him and every other untrustworthy spacer from the docks, seemed like; Councilor Larrol had stopped at no expense for her party. The Ident-card cleared and she passed it back. "Ship?"
The girl grinned; Kaywinnet Lee Frye, according to her card. "Serenity, she's an aught-three Firefly. Best out there you'll ever see," she claimed.
Aught-threes weren't even in production anymore, hadn't been for decades even, so Josie imagined that was both fairly accurate and not at all the ringing endorsement of the ship's condition that the girl thought it was. She frowned at her datascreen, something about the name tickled her memory. There it was, an alert out on a Firefly class B cargo ship. "Step away from the vehicle!" she called out, and Mick obligingly raised his own IS-15 rifle.
Frye looked terrified, the deer in headlights look of someone who wasn't used to being at gunpoint, but Harbatkin just snorted. "Aw hell, not this again," he complained, but both complied and began to climb down from their seats. "Don'tcha all know there might maybe be more'n one Serenity out there?"
Another glance at the datascreen. Registered: Capt. Malcolm Reynolds. She scrolled down; sure enough, there was a second entry, only registered to a Capt. Robert Harbatkin. "Oh hell," she cursed, echoing the sentiment.
"They have us chasing after the wrong ship?" Mick guessed.
"Looks like," Josie confirmed tiredly. She shrugged at Harbatkin, who looked annoyingly smug, but nothing else offense worthy. "Sorry, but I still have to search you for contraband," she explained, and he just grunted and crossed his arms.
She looked for any signs of sabotage, then popped the access panel and reached into the machine. Her hand encountered something unexpectedly soft, and didn't give away immediately when she tugged. She pulled harder, and a quilt came free as something heavy fell over with a clunk. She frowned, checked, no, nothing sewn into the seams. Further investigation found some spare engine parts were the culprit, packed in with a few more blankets. Eventually she touched the metal framework of the hovermule and shoved it all back in, slightly disappointed. "Bah. At least C Company found something. Hey Mick, you hear about the missing roller? Got dumped in a sewage canal or something."
He shook his head in disbelief. "Apparently Baker about had a fit. Where'd they even get all that paint?"
"We good here?" the spacer asked, beginning to sound impatient.
Josie waved him off. "Yeah, yeah. Get going." A fight broke out down the line as two groups jostled for position, and she was already running towards them as the two drove away.
- - - -
The yōu líng followed them, curious spirits rippling along the mirrors as they passed, whispering about new arrivals at terminal two, announcing the new flavour of Blue Sun cola. Her heart beat raced in excitement and apprehension, and she didn't look at the ghosts, because in the stories, that was when they would grab you, and you would be lost. Her slippered feet skipped over the tiles, careful to step only on the narrow line the color of rich wood instead of the deceitful pale tiles that meant death.
She held Chevalier, velvet and white, close in one arm, her other hand held by her māma, who looked back often, to make sure she was there. "Hurry, xiăo xĭ què, keep up," māma encouraged, and she smiled back. They rarely were ever allowed outside together, because Honoured Father was always displeased with them and kept them shut away in the tower, where everything was rich and nicely decorated but very cold.
They ducked between two scarlet red pillars, and she stopped sort at her reflection as it stared back at her, wide-eyes dark, shadowed by the twilight world beyond. Her reflection had her hair pulled back by two ribbons into midnight ringlets, wore a long-sleeved hànfú shān robe embroidered with gold butterflies and flowers so violet it matched the dusk.
This was the guardian of the gateway míng dào, she decided. Chevalier, as ever, was very brave, and foolhardy. He whispered to her in her own voice, pitched low, that he would chase the images away. He tossed his long mane and tail and his plush silver horn and hooves tapped at the glass, his beaded black eyes glared into the eyes of his double. But the guardian remained, so he returned, abashed, back to her arms.
Her māma was standing at the high window, very elegant in a cream embellished sari, gazing out into the evening and waiting.
She would have to outsmart the guardian herself. She had a clever idea then and closed her eyes, until a glow against her eyelids made her open them again. She couldn't see her reflection for the light, and watched, amazed, admiring the long neck, the blazing tail of the gleaming white firebird that alighted on the ground outside before them. The Chinese word for "Spirit" was inscribed on the side in red.
The bay doors were already open for them, gold light spilling out warm and welcoming, rather like the man who appeared from the burning heart to greet them. She wasn't fooled; he might look vaguely Sihonese, maybe darker from travel, but surely a firebird in disguise would try to look as human as possible. "Anise!" he cried. He picked up māma in a hug that lifted her from the ground, and she watched, wondering if they would fly away into the wind. She gazed up at him uncertainly, hugging Chevalier closer as he reluctantly let māma go, and she grabbed a fistful of her māma's dress for good measure. "I'm so sorry. Will you be all right?"
Māma reached down for her hand again and squeezed. "We will now." She sounded so tired, everyday moreso. It frightened her. Māma shook her head, her own curls bouncing. "I should have left years ago," she murmured wistfully, an admission, then finally met his eyes, her face pained but determined, softening into gratitude. "Thank you for coming."
"Always." His expression was resolute, but kind and concerned, and maybe something more. "Where will you go?" What were they talking about? She frowned.
"The Guild," māma asserted. He nodded, resigned and understanding. "My sister offered to let me stay in my old dorm room at House Madrassa. It'll be good for her, to be around girls her age, and Vihara can look after her."
She hid again, peering out from behind her mother's skirt when he looked down at her, studying her with a friendly skepticism. "She's much bigger now than in the captures."
Her māma laughed indulgently, an actual laugh. "Little girls tend to do that."
She began to feel more confident, reassured by māma's smile. She inched out, her own curiosity getting the better of her as he crouched down to her eye level, and she suddenly thought he seemed familiar, even though they hadn't ever met before. He was nice, really, and she thought she might like him, even if he was a firebird in disguise. "Have you ever been to the stars?" he asked.
- - - -
From the very first, Serenity had been more than just a metal hull. A firefly was a symbol; of illumination, of the soul of a person, of life and fragility. Fireflies drifting over a battlefield soothed away pain with beauty, represented hopes for a new beginning. Their light drew love from far away, and, encircling, could bring two people together.
For Inara, a Firefly was a ferry, carrying her spirit home to friends and family, that had given her both the stars and the life she had known with the Guild. She'd never forgotten, and that glimpse of the wider system from the bridge that day, black and sparkling and normally muted by the lights of the great cities, had awakened in her a longing to learn how to fly herself.
Perhaps that was what had compelled her that day to walk down the dusty lane at the Eavesdown Docks on Persephone after she'd left Sihnon. She knew it was silly to keep looking for a ship from almost twenty-five years before, most likely sold many times over or lost in the sea of space. But the transport she'd taken out here was legally bound to the core and border, and that wasn't far enough for her, not with everything washed away and feeling like she hadn't even had the chance to live yet.
The captain and the first mate had been off on business that day, leaving the mechanic and pilot to look for passengers. They had set some chairs and drinks out in front of the loading ramp, and Wash had been entertaining Kaylee with his absurd jokes, weaving his hands around in an approximation of an elaborate atmospheric chase. He'd lived up to those boasts, and then some, even if they caught up to him in the end.
Inara had been enchanted right away, and they had been happy to talk to her and answer her questions, even obligingly agreeing to show her the ship when she asked. Somehow, despite the years of dirt accumulated, the modifications made by various owners through the years, she'd known. She found the drawings she and her mother had made under the helm controls; a stick figure unicorn, and chinese calligraphy. "Fú shòu mián cháng."
After a few moments fighting back the tears, she stood and apologized to her new friends, still blinking rapidly, still smiling, assuring away their concerns for her. She then remembered the two empty shuttles from the tour they'd given her, and formed a plan to rent one. And inquired when the captain would return. She hadn't anticipated how complicated everything would become after that.
As the engine rumbled into motion, the propulsion propellers reverberating under the floor to either side of their hiding spot, Inara relaxed and felt Mal let out a long breath of his own. They were packed in behind the blankets and a metal compartment their industrious little mechanic had added in, she on her side and half on top of him, her head pillowed by his shoulder, his arm carefully around her waist. The mule was decidedly not soundproof or windproof, so they'd both been able to hear the Alliance sentry give up her search. They hadn't been found.
He hadn't spoken to her at all since their argument; rather, he'd left it to Kaylee to explain his lingering concerns that someone might be looking for her. Her friend had enjoyed teasing her with the solution they'd come up with to sneak them both out of the city, but never would Inara have imagined they were actually serious. One positive had come out of their fight, however. Mal's insistence this morning on pretending she didn't exist had helped significantly when they had to squeeze together.
Now that the danger had passed, however, everything had gone back to being very awkward. Mal shifted, like he was about to say something, finally, and she tilted her chin up, trying to see him.
Despite his anger, he'd stayed up all night in a chair, guarding them and they room they all had to share, worrying but doing his best to act disinterested. Now his eyes were closed, lashes fanned out over his cheekbones, his breathing soft. Peaceful. Inara studied him for a long moment, resisting the urge to reach up and feel the soft strands of brown hair splayed across his forehead, then sighed and settled back against him. She watched her fingers, resting on his chest, rising and falling, and eventually her own night of tossing and turning caught up with her.
- - - -
Simon felt like he'd only been asleep for a few minutes before he'd been prodded by his insistent little sister. "You have to help her," River told him, frowning at his bleary early morning stupidity as he rolled away from her, wanting a few more hours with Kaylee. There was a rather obvious problem with this plan of action. "You're a gorramn doctor."
The alarming statement woke him up fully, just in time to hear the rumble of reaction thrusters pass overhead, but no, the 'her' in question was the formerly docile and apparently very pregnant donkey he'd found River curled up with. As was now customary for his life, there were complications; the donkey was in labour, straining, and the - colt? calf? newborn? - animal was coming out hooves first.
Zoë soon found them, but rather than asking him to report for whatever task the captain had in mind, she took in the situation, then moved to assist him by holding the mother's hind legs down. The labour was too far along to turn the animal around, which would be a problematic in any case with the mother laying on its side. All he could do was help the head, shoulders, and hips along. After quite a lot of braying, near-miss kicking, and pulling, both animals were resting and doing well, as far as he could tell. "It's a donkey," he joked weakly.
"A boy," River corrected, completely fascinated. Zoë seemed scarcely less interested, contemplative as they watched the miniature donkey attempt to stand and nurse for the first time, it's fur drying and little more than a gray puff ball on long ungainly legs.
Simon smiled more genuinely at his sister. "What's his name?"
She grinned back mischievously. "Simon."
The captain interrupted before he had a chance to object. "Zoë!" They could hear him cursing, stomping around outside searching for them.
That was a nice moment that was ruined. A hint of something almost vulnerable in the first mate's expression disappeared instantly behind a neutral mask, her dark eyes hardened and bronze face statuesque. "Right here, sir."
Mal's boots and coat came into view, but he stopped on the stairs just outside, ducking his head to look into the burrowed manger from under the archway. "Need your help loading, if you forgot." He straightened to leave, paused, then stooped down again to give them a second look. "You three been havin' a hayfight or some'n down here?"
Simon hurriedly brushed the offending straw from his hair, but Zoë took a more direct approach. Coolly, she scooped up a handful of grass to lob at the captain, who dodged to the side and down a few more steps. Mostly.
"That's for the animals," Mal disapproved.
Zoë was shaking out her crimped sienna mane. "And?"
"Funny." He held up a hand for a truce, asking for an explanation. "Well?"
"Doctorin' for the settlement," Zoë answered, glancing over at the two donkeys. They observed the peaceful scene for a moment longer, then the captain grunted thoughtfully and headed back up the stairs, and they followed obediently.
Kaylee launched herself from the mule and across the grassy expanse when she spotted him, calling his name and almost tackling him. Her amber-brown hair seemed almost golden in this light flowing around her shoulders, and and she looked, smelled, and felt soft and sweet. Mal rolled his eyes and ignored them, continuing on with Zoë to join Jayne in his attempts to secure their supplies to the ground trailer. Inara was looking on from one of the shuttles, seemingly keeping her distance and avoiding the captain.
Simon saw River tense beside him, then run at the crew. "River," he called, but Kaylee reached up and turned his face back to her, catching his mouth in a surprise kiss. A warm fog melted over his thoughts like sunlight or perhaps too much rice wine, but for one: a sudden clarity, a realization that he'd missed her even though she'd only been away for one night.
"Leave her be," Kaylee murmured, her lips lingering, brushing against his. "She's not more'n a few feet away." He couldn't argue with that logic, and was about to continue indulging when the captain cleared his throat at them pointedly. They startled, and Kaylee pulled away to glare at the interloper around him. "Xìng zāi yāo huò bào jūn," she shouted.
Simon, for his part, had seen River staring at them, and flashed back to that time she'd watched them in the engine room. A change of subject was in order. "How was the city?"
Kaylee turned back to him and shrugged, patting his arm apologetically. "Went okay. Getting in was scary, but that turned out. Cap'n and 'Nara are fightin' again, though. Won't let her go to a party." She frowned over at the shuttle. "They even wasted a perfectly good love nest I found them, not talkin' or anything," she complained. The captain knocked something over behind them, and she nodded, satisfied by the effect of her retaliation. "Been quiet around here?"
"I wouldn't say that," he answered. "I slept in a barn and delivered a newborn." She looked impressed, and he liked it when her hazel eyes sparkled like that. "A donkey, breech birth," he clarified, feeling like he had some right to brag. "Hooves first."
She blinked at him, in a way that reminded him he was from the core, then smiled consolingly. He heard snickers from the crew. "Simon," she said gently, "They're supposed to do that."
Mal walked past them, lugging the container he'd dropped around to the other side of their pile. "Might make a proper Rim doctor outta you yet, son," he deadpanned.
Jayne couldn't contain himself, doubling over and hooting with laughter. Simon bristled. He was extremely tired of being the punchline simply because he was still technically the newest member of the crew; he endured the jokes only because they didn't stem from any real dislike anymore, and because, besides Jayne, they kept his sister out of it. "I'm honoured, really," he replied, injecting as much sarcasm in his voice as he could manage.
He reached out to River, intending to maneuver her away before the insensitive troglodyte could start. She didn't seem aware of any of them now, fingers fidgeting and clasping together as she murmured to herself.
Kaylee huffed at the others, offended on his behalf. "Let's go back to Serenity," she suggested, and wrapped her arm around his waist. "They're about done here and Inara said she'd fly us back." A smile. "Maybe I can help some with the barn thing," she offered, her voice turning flirtatious, quiet, so only he would hear. "There's these baths in town, and I betcha I could get us both in. They let us share." She enticingly left the rest unsaid.
"What -" he started to ask her to elaborate anyway, but a thought occurred to him. "Wait, everyone? Even Jayne?" He struggled to make sense of the disturbing idea. Two words that simply did not belong together in a sentence: Jayne and hygiene. "You had a bath... with Jayne?"
Her face fell, hurt and confused. "You don't want to go with me?"
Mercifully, Inara came to his rescue, descending from the hatch to welcome them. "Oh, mèi mèi, of course he does. Provided, I imagine, that Jayne isn't there." There was amusement in her voice, but she was gentle as she helped River into the shuttle. "Though I can't imagine he'd be interested in joining you so soon after his last bath. We nearly had to pull him in."
"Definitely," Simon agreed, "a bath would be much better if it were only the two of us." He nodded his thanks for the save. Inara was wearing an exotic looking dress in chiffon plum he hadn't seen before swirling around her feet. He wondered about it, he knew they hadn't had time to go back to Serenity first. He suspected everyone wanted a change of clothing about now, but Inara didn't exactly have anything else to wear considering the way she had arrived. Perhaps Kaylee had asked someone in town, or maybe even the captain, who tended to be overly attentive in regards to Inara's concerns.
Kaylee looked relieved, and contrite. "Sorry. I don't go meanin' to kick up a bother. Just sometimes I almost expect you to look down on me," she admitted. She laughed at herself. "Kinda see where you're comin' from, though, least no one I know ever seen you naked." He sensed Inara stiffen, trapped here now with their secret bare between them. A worry crept into Kaylee's eyes when he didn't, couldn't answer. "No one I know ever seen you naked, right?" she repeated, insistently. He couldn't look at her, and she glanced over at Inara, and understood. "Oh no," she whispered, horrified, backing away. "No, no, no no no."
"Kaylee -" the companion started, trying, lifting a hand to reassure her, but she turned on her heels and ran.
He tried to chase after her, and Inara followed. They were confronted by the crew's suspicious, reproachful eyes already on them the moment they stepped out, except for Mal, who just looked irritated. "I don't have time for this," he told them, exasperated. "Inara, get him out of here."
There was something resigned in her expression, and she nodded mechanically, and pulled Simon back inside. He heard Jayne scoff, derisively. "Always knew he was a jackass."
Friday, September 16, 2011 2:59 PM
Friday, September 16, 2011 6:12 PM
Friday, September 16, 2011 7:53 PM
Saturday, September 17, 2011 4:04 AM
Saturday, September 17, 2011 1:40 PM
Sunday, September 18, 2011 5:24 AM
Sunday, September 18, 2011 7:10 AM
Sunday, September 18, 2011 7:56 AM
Friday, September 30, 2011 10:55 AM
Thursday, January 05, 2012 11:47 AM
Thursday, January 05, 2012 12:36 PM
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