Indigo - Part XXV
Monday, January 16, 2012

Maya. Post-BDM. In which we make the reacquaintance of Wes and Brad Tanner, Mal pays a call, and Addie receives visitors. NEW CHAPTER


The snow was deep and crisp and even, and sparkled like a billion supernovas in a white sky.

“You really think we can walk through this?” Indigo asked, shading his eyes from the sunlit glare. “Someone’s sure to notice us. Or me, anyway.”

“That’s why we’re taking the mule.” Mal glanced up into the comparative darkness of the Firefly’s cargo bay as a clanking of chains and grinding of gears announced Jayne was starting to lower the hover vehicle. “Better get out of the way ‘fore he squashes us both and takes over the ship.”

The men moved to one side to allow the mule to descend, but Indigo still wasn’t convinced. “That’ll just be more obvious.”

“So much so nobody’s gonna think twice we’ve got someone on board we shouldn’t. And you can hide in the footwell.” Mal fastened his coat, the leather settling around his shoulders and conforming to his body in a warm embrace from an old friend.

“That’ll be fun.”

Mal smiled slightly at the ironic tone.

“Are we ready?” Freya asked as she descended the metal staircase into the bay. She was bundled up in her own heavy coat, her cheeks already pinking from the cold air coming in.

The hover mule touched down on the floor with barely a whisper.

“Just need to get her warmed over,” Jayne said, releasing the clamps and climbing into the driver’s side.

“Story of my life,” she murmured, making the big man growl a laugh. Walking around the yellow vehicle she approached her husband. “You forgot this.” She draped his scarf around his neck, tucking it beneath his collar. “Don’t want you catching a cold,” she added tenderly.

“Thanks, ai ren.” Mal smiled.

Indigo looked down at his boots. As much as he’d cared about Polly, Sara’s mother, there’d never been this easy intimacy between them. Maybe if he’d been around more, not just making visits, things might have been different, but in his heart he knew it wouldn’t have been. He was too ... contained.

He hadn’t had a home, had roots since he’d walked out on an abusive father as soon as he was old enough, and doing what he did there was no point. Then Polly told him she was pregnant. That was the closest, but he hadn’t been miserable when she’d declined his offer of marriage. But Sara ... Sara had broken through his shell enough so that when he’d found out she was in the hands of slavers he knew he’d kill to save her. Maybe there was hope for him yet.

Then Freya glanced over at him, and for a moment he just knew she could read the thoughts off the inside of his skull. No. That’s crazy, he told himself. Pull yourself together, Abraham.

Freya’s lips twitched, but he had no chance to wonder if it was just a coincidence as the engine fired on the hover mule and it lifted from the deck, the air beneath shimmering.

“Time to be gone,” Mal said, tugging his gloves on then holding out his hand to Freya. “Your carriage awaits.”


Cutter McCoy watched as Hiram Pederson strode to the back of the saloon and eyed up the girls waiting there as if he owned the place. Then, with a laugh that cut through the conversation in the room and left nobody in any doubt as to his intentions, he scooped two of them up with his arms around their waists and went up the stairs, whispering to them both under their falls of long hair.

“I don’t like that bastard,” Cutter muttered as the slaver disappeared around the corner. They’d had a drink, discussed a few matters, even played a hand or two, but that didn’t make them friends.

“I’m sure he feels the same about you,” Brad Tanner said, lining up the chips in front of him, his face annoyed at their reduced number. “But Pederson’s useful.”

“You know how he keeps ‘em, don’t you? His cargo?”

Wes leaned back in his chair. “Are you growing a conscience?” he asked, his voice deceptively soft, a smile playing over his pretty face, putting his brother in mind of a snake about to strike.

“No,” Cutter admitted. “I like the good things in life too much for that, and I ain't never gonna get rich just being the sheriff of Cason’s Point.”

“Because if you were considering saying something to someone, it would be best if you thought again.”

“Or I’d end up like Troy?” Cutter pushed his chair back with a squeal and stood up. “You ain’t that good.”

“Want to find out?”

Cutter scoffed. “In a fair fight you’d be bleeding into the snow, and you know it.”

“Which is probably why I don’t fight fair.” He barely blinked, but suddenly Cutter found himself down on the floor, Brad’s knee in his chest, and everyone in the saloon realised they had something better to do.

“Get off me,” he grunted.

Brad didn’t move.

“This is easy money, Cutter,” Wes went on. “We don't even break sweat. And I for one intend it to go on for a long time. But you even think of mentioning Troy’s name again, or talking to folks that you shouldn’t, and they won’t even find the pieces, dong mah?”

Cutter glared at him, barely able to breathe, knowing that it would only take a little more pressure for his breastbone to break and drive ribs into his organs. “I told you, I wasn’t planning on talking to anyone,” he managed to say. He bucked a little, trying to throw Brad off. “Let me up.”

Brad looked at his brother, who nodded and smiled. “Sure.”

Climbing to his feet, the younger Tanner even put out a hand, but Cutter ignored it. He got up, brushing dust from his coat and smoothing his hair.

“You ought’n’t to be doing that,” he warned. “There’s no need. And you know the things I’ve done for you.”

“And been well paid.” Wes reached into his pocket and took out a roll of credits. “Here. We haven't got our cash yet, but here’s something towards your share.” He tossed them towards the sheriff.

Cutter caught them, glancing at the amount before stuffing them inside his jacket. “It’ll do to be getting along with.” Picking up his hat he strode out of the saloon without even a goodbye.

“He could be trouble,” Brad said, sitting down again.

“Perhaps in the future, but at the moment he’s right – he likes the good things in life too much. We’ll just keep an eye on him.”

“’Cause it wouldn’t take much, one dark night ...”

“And I’m sure you’d be your normal efficient self.” Wes smiled again and picked up the deck of cards. “Come on,” he said, flicking the old pasteboards and making them rattle.

“Gorramit,” Brad complained, “You’ve got most of my cash as it is.”

“Then you’ve still got some to bet with.” Wes began to deal, keeping the cobra-smile at bay this time. It wouldn’t do to let his brother know he could read that scarred face like a book, and even if he couldn’t there were tiny marks on the cards he knew Brad hadn’t noticed. “I’ll go easy on you,” he promised.

Still grumbling, under his breath this time, Brad sat back and picked up his hand, stifling a groan at the paltry display.


Mal drove, over Jayne’s argument, taking the mule out of the docks towards the centre of town and creating his own little snowstorm in his wake from the downdraught. Once they reached the main road, though, the snow had been ploughed away into huge heaps at either end, and a handful of children were taking advantage by sliding down the far one on sleds, and those without were using what looked like tin trays.

Ethan would love that, Freya murmured into his mind.

He glanced at her sitting next to him as he manoeuvred the mule between two buildings towards the back of Addie’s place, and smiled. All of the kids, xin gan. The hover vehicle settled to the ground and the cloud of snow fell slowly back to join the drifts as the engine died. Maybe another time.

Another place, you mean.

It’s winter on Lazarus, too.

She flashed him a quick smile then climbed easily from the mule, her face flushed from the cold air. He followed suit, Jayne jumping down after.

The big man looked up and down, then said, “Clear.”

“Frey?” Mal asked, looked at his wife.

She unfocused a moment then nodded. “Nobody close that I can ... see.”

“Shiny.” He rapped on the side of the mule. “Come on.”

Indigo unfolded himself and stood up. “Gorramit, but I think I’m getting old.” He got down, stretching his limbs.

“Well, you won’t be getting any older if we don’t get out of sight,” Mal said, stalking through the shovelled snowdrifts to a door. Making a fist he banged on it, rattling it in its frame. “And hide your face in case there’s anyone inside we don’t want to see you,” he added.

Indigo nodded, pulling his hat low over his eyes and the collar of his coat as high as possible so that only an inch or two of skin was visible.

After only a few seconds the door flew open, and Addie herself stood there in all her glory. “What the hell do you think you’re ...” Then she registered who it was. “Boys.”

“Morning, Miss Addie.”

“What’re you doing coming in the back way like thieves?” she demanded, but she was smiling. This morning she was decked out in maroon and purple velvet, the colours making her look sallow which she had tried to alleviate by using a lot of pink blusher.

“Getting cold,” Mal said, rubbing his hands together. “Can we ...”

“Sure, sure.” Addie stepped back. “Come inside.”

“Thank you kindly, ma’am.”

They trooped into what turned out to be a warm kitchen, a large range down one side and a high wooden table taking centre stage. Cupboards lined most of the other three walls, while through a closed door came echoes of faint music and conversation.

Charlie, Addie’s man-of-all-work, was standing at the range, holding a spatula in one hand and a gun in the other.

“Put it away,” Addie commanded. “They’re friends. And your bacon won't finish cooking itself.”

That was the smell that was making everyone’s mouth water.

Charlie wrinkled his nose and slid the pistol back under his apron, then turned around to deal with the spitting pan.

“So to what do I owe this pleasure?” Addie asked, her gaze going from Mal to Jayne, then flicking past the woman and other man standing behind as if they were of no interest whatsoever. “Or did you miss me?”

“We’ve come to buy a couple of barrels of that fine beer you brew,” Mal said, smiling easily, opening his coat and tucking his thumbs into his gunbelt.

Addie laughed, moving a little too close to put her hand on his arm. “For you, anything.”

“I did tell you I was married, right?”

“And half my customers have partners at home.”

“Well, mine ain’t at home.” He nodded towards Freya. “She’s right here.”

Addie looked around, seeing the other woman properly for the first time, and studied her minutely. Tall, short dark hair, her own coat open enough to see the well-used weapon at her hip, curves in all the right places ... “Yeah, well, I guess she’ll do,” Addie said almost approvingly, dropping her hand.

Mal chuckled. “Addie, you’ve known me all of a day, and you think you know?”

“I'm a good judge of character,” Addie insisted. “I have to be. Else I wouldn’t be in business for long, would I?”

“Never having owned a saloon, I wouldn’t like to say.”

“But you’ve drunk in enough of ‘em.”

“That I have. That I have, Miss Addie.” Mal drew himself up. “Now, about that beer?”

“Sure. Come on down to the cellar and I’ll see what I can do for you.” She led the way to a small door in the corner, calling over her shoulder, “Charlie, you make a fresh brew. It’s chilly down here, and I know I’ll be wanting something hot when I come back.”

“You think I ain’t got enough to do?” Charlie whined.

Addie ignored him, opening the door and clicking on a pale light. She led the way down the steep flight of stairs revealed, the others following and leaving Charlie to his half-hearted grumbling.

She had been right, it was chilly, but different to the feeling outside. In the sunlight there was at least the illusion of warmth, and while cold it also felt fresh, and clean. Down here, though, the air was damp, and smelled of must and age, and the darkness in the corners of the cellar almost seemed to seethe.

“Where’s your kit?” Jayne asked surprised, looking around. “You said you brewed this yourself.”

Addie chuckled. “It’s not down here, you big lummox. It’s too cold for the ingredients, so that’s in one of the back rooms upstairs. No, I just keep the product down here – means I don’t have to refrigerate and it’s always a decent temperature, even in the summer.” She pointed to a stack of small barrels. “Take a couple and we can come to an arrangement over price.”

“Later,” Mal said.

She turned to look at him. “What’re you talking about?” she asked, bringing herself up to her full height, even if that was still a head or more shorter than him. “You said –”

“I know what I said. And we’ll buy ‘em off you. But that’s not why we’re here.”

“Then what ...” She stopped, her hand to her mouth as Indigo took off his hat, allowing his face to be seen. “Are you fong luh?” she demanded. “Coming here in broad daylight? Do you have any idea what they’ll do to you if they find you here? To me?”

“We need to talk, Addie,” Indigo said, his rolling voice reverberating off the close-packed earth walls.

to be continued


Monday, January 16, 2012 2:59 PM


Loved the visual image of the whiteness of the snow and the dirty laundry going on inside the townspeople. Glad to see more of this story - piece by piece it's coming!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012 4:13 AM


A little Indigo to wake up to, what a nice way to start a morning :)

Curse you for your patience and slow slow buildup, the bowstring just keeps getting tighter and tighter, so excellent.

I'm seeing the scheme come together, and theres a nice crew of villains to dislike for our BDHs to dispose of, can't wait for the payoff.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012 5:05 AM


yeaa an update ,hopefully you will unleash River and Jayne soon.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012 5:06 AM


I like how Mal and Frey have each others' backs and good to see more of this story slowly unfold. Can't wait to see what Indigo has to say to Addie and what happens next. Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Tuesday, January 17, 2012 10:52 AM


Hmm, lot of stuff seems to be going on in the exact same tavern.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012 6:33 PM


I'm interested to see what happens next! I liked the notion of hiding in plain sight -- with an ordinary hovermule that nobody thinks twice about. Liked the details of the hovermule's journey -- the snowstorm from the downdraft and the children playing with their sleds. I liked the scene with Miss Addie especially.


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