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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - DRAMA
The ship returns to Persephone, Badger's not particular happy to see them, and then Simon disappears.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1069 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
A/N: This story follows "Here Comes The Rain" and takes place about two weeks later. It also makes a few minor references to the comic "Serenity: Those Left Behind".
Of all the many, many places in the 'verse that stirred up a feeling of ambivalence in Captain Malcolm Reynolds, none measured up to Persephone. As he stood on the bridge of Serenity, watching the familiar planet gradually grow bigger as they approached it, he once again found himself wondering whether he loved it or hated it. Located at the very edge of the Core, it was by many considered the last civilized stopping place before you ventured out into the wild frontier. Mal knew better; he had been to plenty of worlds on the Rim that he'd found a lot more civilized than Persephone, only less fancy. But he guessed the Alliance saw 'fancy' and 'civilized' as being the same thing.
Anyway, when it came to resupplying, Persephone was always the best place to go. It had a well-functioning, smoothly run black market where close to everything was available and where few or no questions were asked. And so, regardless of how he felt about the place, he had to go there once in a while.
Next to him, in the pilot seat, Wash was preparing the ship for landing. "We're about to hit atmo," he declared, a little needlessly. "We're cleared for docking. Touchdown in ten minutes – or less, if I mess up again." He chuckled. Mal gave him a sideways glare and he added, mumbling, "That was a joke, not funny, I know, sorry."
Mal said nothing, just left the bridge, and as he jumped off the staircase and his foot hit the floor of the hallway, the ship shook a little as it entered the atmosphere and the gravity trust went off-line. He quickly regained his balance and went on his way to the cargo bay.
"Jayne!" he hollered as he stepped out unto the catwalk. Spotting his mercenary at his workout station, he continued down the gallery and went down the stairs at the other end.
Jayne was hard at work getting his right leg back into shape. It was only his second day out of the cast and judging by the amount of time he'd spent with his weights since then, he was quite impatient to regain his normal level of strength and mobility. He glanced up at the captain as he approached, raising his eyebrows in a quizzical frown.
"How's the leg?" Mal asked as he stopped in front of him.
"Gettin' there," Jayne mumbled.
"Good, 'cause I'm taking you planet-side."
Jayne's eyebrows crept up even further, this time with a more pleased and hopeful look on his face. "Yeah?"
"Can't have you lazin' about no more. Time to do what you're paid to. 'Sides, you've been more or less stuck on the ship for the last couple a months, a change of scenery would do you good. Not to mention how good it'd do everybody else, you steppin' off the boat for a spell."
"Ha ha," the big man grunted. He stood, threw his towel over his shoulder and grabbed the cane he'd left propped up against the workout bench. "I'm ready. Jus' gonna go get my guns."
"No more than you can conceal," Mal warned him as he limped away. "We'll be lookin' for a job, not a fight. Don't want people gettin' the wrong impression."
"Yeah, yeah," his merc muttered impatiently as he made his way up the stairs, a little slower than usual, something that seemed to annoy him ever so much.
Mal watched him until he disappeared into the hallway, silently wondering if he was doing the right thing. But he shook his head, deciding it was a chance worth taking, and walked to the control panel by the bay doors to wait for the well-known thump of the ship touching down.
It came a few minutes later and as soon as Wash's confirmation had reached him over the com, he pressed the button to open the doors and the spicy scent of the Eavesdown Docks rushed inside and into his nostrils. He inhaled sharply and allowed a tiny smile to cross his features. At least sometimes he liked this place.
Behind him, the others were beginning to gather. He turned and saw Kaylee walking in from the commons, with that broad smile on her face and that happy bounce in her steps he'd come appreciate so much. At the same time Zoë entered from above, making her way down the stairs; she had the shopping list with her, her eyes scanning it as she was going through it one last time.
"Can we afford all of this?" she asked Mal as she came to a stop in front of him.
"Probably not," Mal replied. "So you're gonna have to haggle."
Zoë suppressed a sigh. "Better look up Lu then. She owes us a favor or two."
Mal nodded. "You should be able to find everything on the list without too much trouble, though, 'cept maybe the ammo for the Buhnder. That gorram thing's so antiquated a museum's probably the best place to go lookin'."
Zoë smiled a little. "What about the infirmary? That need restockin' too?"
"It does," they heard Simon's voice. "And that's why I'm going with you."
They turned around to face him, and Mal had to bite his lip not to burst out laughing at the sight. The young doctor, who'd normally wouldn't be caught dead wearing anything else than his neat and ridiculously clean clothes, was now donning one of Wash's crazy patterned shirts, a baggy pair of pants and the silly orange glasses he'd had on the very first time Mal laid eyes on him. Kaylee was standing next to him, beaming with pride.
"I don't need remind you you're a wanted man, Doc?" Mal asked, but only just managing to keep the laughter out of his voice. "And Persephone was your last known location. It might not be the best place for you to be runnin' around."
"That's why we dressed him up," Kaylee smiled. "Ain't nobody gonna recognize him from the pictures now."
She got up on her toes and ruffled up his hair, and Simon almost unconsciously tried to smoothen it again. "Not the best plan in the 'verse, I know," he admitted.
"Probably one of the worst," Mal corrected him. "This ain't like you, Doc. Why the sudden urge to step off the boat here of all places?"
"Oh, there's no urge, trust me," Simon replied with a frown. "But we need more morphine, and after what happened the last time..."
"Hey, I did my best!"
"I know, and it was a good forgery," the doctor said, not unkindly. "It's not easy distinguishing the real thing from the placebos. And that's why I think it would be best if I was the one going shopping for it."
Mal still hesitated. "Look, I won't have time to watch your back."
"Don't need you to. I know where to find this stuff, and these glasses will prevent any high-tech security equipment scanning my irises for my true identity. I'll be fine."
"And your sister?
"She stays here, of course. The shepherd's agreed to look after her."
Mal thought on it for a moment more. "Okay, fine. Kaylee, you go with him. Might give his new alias some kind of credibility."
"Hey, Doc, lookin' good," they heard Wash's voice and they turned to see him smiling at them from the top of the staircase.
"Right," Simon mumbled as the pilot came down to join them.
"You take good care of that shirt," he said. "I always scored wearing that."
Mal arched his brow. "Wow, there really is a planet for everything."
"Oh, he's just jealous," Wash told the doctor, waving the captain off. "Once I went home with no less than three little…" Just then his eyes met Zoë's and he abruptly stopped his reminiscing. "That was of course before I met my incredibly sexy and beautiful wife."
"M-hm," Zoë said. "Doctor, you can keep that shirt."
Jayne returned from his bunk just then and Mal saw – to his satisfaction and somewhat great surprise – that his hired muscle actually had done what he'd been told and not overburdened himself with weapons. As far as Mal could see he'd only brought his two sidearms, half hidden under his green jacket. He limped down the stairs, still using the cane and eyed Simon suspiciously. "What's this?"
"That's the doctor," Mal replied. "He's tryin' out somethin' new today."
He was interrupted by a loud thudding sound emitting from the common area by the infirmary, followed by the surprised shout of Shepherd Book's and the shrilling voice of River's, and they all turned to look in that direction.
"Well," Mal said when a few seconds of silence had passed and nothing else had happened, "best get goin'."
"So, are we goin' to another one of Badger's tea parties?" Jayne asked Mal fifteen minutes later, as they were making their way down one of Eavesdown's many winding streets.
"Not if I can help it," Mal answered. "I'm done with that little weasel."
"Badgers ain't weasels," Jayne remarked. "But they belong to the same family of mammals." Mal stopped long enough to give him a quizzical glare. "What?" the mercenary protested. "I was laid up for a long time. I had to read somethin'."
They walked on. "No, I ain't talkin' to Badger," Mal continued. "'Sides, I don't think he'd welcome us anyhow. Not after what we done to 'im the last time our paths crossed. Droppin' 'im in the middle of nowhere like that."
Before Jayne got to answer they heard footsteps behind them and then the cocking of guns. "Then again, I could be wrong," Mal said.
He and Jayne eyed each other, communicating wordlessly, synchronizing their next move, and then – in one fluid motion – they both drew their weapons and spun around and pointed the barrels of their guns at…
Badger was standing there, his bowler hat pushed back at the back of his head and his oversized tweed jacket opened at the front. He was unarmed, but behind him five of his men were lined up, all pointing various pistols and rifles at Mal and Jayne.
"Well, speak of the devil," Mal muttered and then spoke up, "Badger! I see you found your way back home."
"Malcolm Reynolds, heard you was back," Badger said, ignoring the comment, and Mal noticed how his eyes were colder and less teasing than before.
"Good news travel fast around here."
"And nothing gets past me, I assure you. I basically run this gorram place, you know that. You got some nerve showing up 'ere."
"If it makes you feel better, the plan was to avoid you," Mal said. "We're not here for business."
"Well, I am," Badger replied.
"I didn't say it was with you, now, did I?" Badger's face stayed dead serious. "No, you, I'm 'ere to kill."
"That so?" Mal gripped his gun tighter. "Yeah, I can see why you would wanna do that. I'd advice against it, though. Odds are Jayne or myself will have just enough time to put a bullet in your brain before we're taken down. That's of course assuming you have one."
Badger's eyes narrowed, and for a long beat they just stood there, the two parties pointing their weapons at each other, waiting for someone to make that one stupid move. Then the self-proclaimed lord of Persephone's underworld smirked and lifted his hands in a defensive manner. "Alrigh', got more impor'ant things on today's to-do list than dealing with losers such as yourselves anyhow." He shifted his gaze to Jayne and eyed his cane for a moment. "What 'appened to you?" he asked.
"Little accident," Mal said before Jayne got a chance to reply. "How about we just go our separate ways now, how's that?"
"By all means," Badger said and gestured for his men to drop their weapons. Mal and Jayne did the same, but kept an observant eye on the little man and his gunslingers as they stepped back. "Good luck finding any work 'ere, though. Like I said, I run this gorram place."
Mal gave him one last poisoned look before he reached the corner and turned and walked away.
"You think he's right?" Jayne asked as they continued down the street.
"Nah." Mal shook his head. "Badger might be the king of Eavesdown, but not of the whole planet. Gotta be someone somewhere on this gorram rock in need of our services."
A young boy ran past him at that very same moment, snatching his money pouch from his belt. He didn't get far though: Jayne cloth-lined him with his cane, knocking him over. Then he bent down and picked him up, took the pouch back and shook him violently before dropping him back to the ground. "Now, get!" he snarled as the boy scrambled to his feet and ran away and then he turned back towards his captain, grinning. "Oh, it's good to be back outside."
Kaylee had looked forward to explore the docks alone with Simon, and even though it hadn't quite turned out the way she'd hoped, she'd still enjoyed it. They had walked the crowded streets – he in hurry as if he wanted to get it over with as fast as possible, she taking her time to see the sights, smell the scents and just sense what it was like to be planet-side again. She skipped from store to store, from stand to stand, looking at all the strange things one could buy. Simon was always right behind her, tense and jumpy, despite her many attempts to calm and distract him.
"Look, Kaylee," he urged her for the umpteenth time. "I think we ought to go buy that medicine now."
"Oh, we're not in a hurry," she said, not taking her eyes of the colorful scarves she was admiring. "We've got time for some pleasantries first. I, for one, have put aside some money and I wanna buy myself somethin' nice." She looked at him over her shoulder, smiling.
He sighed, but relented. "Okay." He walked over to another stand to have a look at the merchandise, or at least to pretend to be looking at it.
Still smiling, she turned back towards the scarves and tried to pick the one she liked best. The thought of him standing there right behind her made her feel all fuzzy inside, and she almost blacked out with joy as the warm wind and the sounds from the traffic engulfed her and wrapped around her like a blanket of pure happiness.
"Simon?" she said. "Which of these do you think suit me best?" She turned around with a red scarf in one hand and a blue one in the other, holding them up to her face.
He was gone.
"Simon?" she repeated, scanning the area.
Still no sight of him.
With her heart beating increasingly faster in her chest, she dropped the scarves and ran out into the middle of the street, turning her head in all directions, searching for him. Persephone was a place of color, but Wash's shirt still shouldn't be too hard to spot in a crowd. But she didn't see it.
"Simon?" she called.
He wasn't there.
Saturday, December 31, 2011 9:30 AM
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Sunday, January 1, 2012 4:00 AM
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