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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - DRAMA
Mal and the crew finally get to meet MacHaig.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 908 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
Jayne was not particularly fond of kids. Kids were stressful to be around. You had to behave all the time, constantly mind your tongue and manners – and you couldn't punch them when they annoyed you. And the worst type of kids were the ones who stared or asked stupid questions – and Jayne found out soon enough that his nephew Finnegan did both.
He'd returned to the house that morning with his parents, and this time around he'd gotten over the initial fear pretty fast and started following Jayne around wherever he went. Not even throwing him angry glares did the trick; he backed off a little each time, but always came back.
His sister's kid.
It felt weird. When Jayne had landed here two days ago, the Jude he'd remembered had still been a skinny, little girl in ponytails sitting on the porch throwing her dolls a tea party. And here she was, a woman – grown and married. To Fergus, the freckled little kid who lived down the lane and always told on him and Jo when they'd been out doing their shenanigans.
A wave of realization and another indefinable emotion suddenly washed over him. Fergus wasn't that little freckled kid anymore, and Jude didn't have ponytails, and he didn't really know much about any of them. Jo had been right about that.
"Are you a pirate?" The boy suddenly spoke to him.
Jayne glared at him. "A pirate?" he spat. "No, I'm no pirate! Why'd you think that?"
"You look like one."
"Oh yeah? What does a pirate look like?"
Jayne's narrowed his eyes even more, hoping it would scare the boy away again.
"Then what are you?"
Ok, different tactic. He looked away, pretending to be busy. "I'm nuthin'," he muttered.
"You can't be nothing. Nobody can't be nothing."
Jayne huffed and glanced at him. "I ain't gonna tell you, kid."
"'Cause if I do it'll give you nightmares, that's why."
The boy's eyes still didn't waver. "D'you kill people?"
Jayne suppressed another sigh. "When I have to."
"You gonna kill the man who killed grandpa?"
'Course I'm gonna, Jayne thought to himself. But he was smart enough to know that a five-year-old kid wasn't supposed to know stuff like this, so all he said out loud was, "Now what gave you that idea? That someone killed your grandpa?"
"Auntie Jo said so."
Well, that would explain it. "I bet auntie Jo says a lot of things you aren't supposed to hear."
"She says you don' care."
"Well, that's not true!" The words came out louder and harsher than intended, and this time Finnegan did take a step back. "Sorry," Jayne muttered, waving him away, "Go play."
Gorram it, this kid was worse than River! "I dunno! Whatever you like to play with."
"Will you play with me?"
"But I wanna play with you."
"Well, that's too bad, 'cause I don't wanna play with you. Now, get!"
Finnegan gave him a glare – yes, he actually glared at him – before he turned on his heel and took off.
Wash came by just then. "Wow," he sarcastically remarked, "You're a natural around kids."
"Shut it!" Jayne snarled and walked away.
Mal came up to Wash just as Jayne left. "Where's your wife?" he asked. "Sleeping in?"
"Yup," Wash replied. "Apparently it's local custom to seal a hunting trip by drinking considerably amounts of potato wine."
Mal chuckled. He hadn't seen Zoë considerably drunk in years. Too bad he'd missed it.
It had taken him a while this morning to notice her absence. He had been listening in on the conversation between Kaylee, Obadiah and Fergus as they tinkered away on Jo's pick-up truck. Obadiah had shown them the silver coat of arms he wore on his tartan plaid and told them that the head of the Cobb clan had carried it for fourteen generations. Mal recognized a good cock-and-bull story when he heard one, but he'd still found it rather entertaining.
It wasn't until he'd swept his gaze across the yard and caught sight of Jo skinning the dog, that he realized he hadn't seen Zoë all morning and stepped up to Wash to ask him about it. Otherwise they were all present: Jude was helping her mother with the laundry, Mattie was on the bench by the house with little Abby on his knee, and River was standing next to him, looking at the baby with great fascination. The boy, Finnegan, was running around, apparently trying to make as much noise as possible, and by now Jayne had retreated to the chopping block by the barn.
Good move. Chopping wood was good for the soul. And Jayne looked like he needed it.
Simon was missing too, Mal realized, though that wasn't so surprising. The doctor had emerged himself in work at the earliest convenience, just like he always did whenever he felt awkward and out of place. Which was more or less all the time. He was probably in the infirmary conducting his research and Mal was about to ask Wash whether he knew something about that too, when he spotted Zoë heading their way.
"Speak of the devil," he muttered.
"You calling my wife a devil?" Wash said.
"Well, she was a dust devil, wasn't she?" Mal lifted an arm and waved at his first mate as she approached them. "Zoë!"
Zoë stopped and threw both her hands up. "Please, don't," she said, squeezing her eyes shut. "Don't… shout."
Mal grinned, but before he could say anything else, Jo called out and made everybody shift their attention to her. She'd dropped what she'd been doing and picked up her rifle and started loading it instead. "We've got company," she declared.
Mal saw it too. A hovercraft was heading their way, followed by two more. He hurried over to Radiant, who looked at the approaching vehicles with worry in her eyes. "Is that…?" he began.
"That's MacHaig," she confirmed and then turned towards her youngest daughter. "Jude, take the kids, get inside."
Jude nodded and roped in her son, then picked up the baby from Mattie and disappeared inside the house with them.
Mal's eyes flashed to Jayne. His mercenary had already drawn his gun and started walking towards the visitors. Mal ran to intervene. "Jayne!" he hissed as he stepped up to him, placing a hand on the gun, trying to shove it back inside its holster.
"Outta my way!" Jayne snarled and didn't even offer him a glance. He only had eyes for MacHaig.
"Jayne, don't be stupid, listen to me!"
"No, I told you to stay out of this!"
"Jayne!" Mal hissed again, still keeping his voice low. "You start shootin', they'll shoot back. You have a house full of innocents here. Your sister's kids, gorramit!" Jayne stopped, indicating he'd give his captain one last chance to make his case. Mal took it. "I won't stand in your way when the time comes, I promise you that, but this is not it. Think! I know you're capable of it."
Jayne gritted his teeth, threw one short look at his mother and then reluctantly holstered his gun. Jo still had her rifle, but wasn't aiming it at anyone for the time being. Kaylee had joined Mattie and River by the bench. Fergus had taken up a protective stance in front of the door, and Obadiah had straightened his back to keep a vigilant eye on the situation, standing his ground, but letting Jo and Jayne make up the front line.
The hovercrafts swooshed into the yard and came to a halt in front of them. The driver of the first one pulled off his goggles and flashed a wolfish grin at the Cobb siblings. "Jayne Cobb!" he exclaimed. "Look at you, all grown up."
"Drop dead," Jayne hissed back.
"Just as hospitable as your sister, I hear. It don't matter none, my business is with your mother."
The man, who Mal came to understand was MacHaig, was a man in his sixties with white short-cropped hair and piercing blue eyes. He was well groomed and wore expensive-looking clothes, but still seemed to be a little rough around the edges like land barons of his caliber often were. He showed no fear or reservation whatsoever, just climbed out of the vehicle and nodded for the man in the passenger seat – a puny little fellow with thin hair and glasses – to follow his lead.
"Radiant!" he called. "You ready to pay your debts?"
Radiant stiffened; Mal saw it as he slowly made his way towards her, and he turned to look innocently at MacHaig. "Why, does she owe you money?"
Both MacHaig and Jayne turned to glare angrily at him.
Only MacHaig spoke, though. "You must be Malcolm Reynolds," he dryly remarked.
Mal had reached Radiant's side and casually leaned back on his heels. "And you're well informed."
MacHaig smiled, but his eyes stayed just as angry as before. "Your people have been around town askin' questions," he said. "I don't much appreciate it."
"Just makin' inquiries 'bout a job."
MacHaig didn't at all look like he believed him and the not-so-convincing smile disappeared. "If you know what's good for you, mister, you'll stay out of my business."
"Don't worry 'bout us," Mal reassured him. "We're just passin' through. We'll be gone soon."
"That you will. And so will the Cobbs. You hear that, Radiant? Unless you can provide the banker here with the money you owe him, he'll seize your land. Today."
"What?" Jo yelled, and Radiant gasped and stared disbelievingly at the little man with the glasses.
"Douglas?" she said. "What's this?"
The banker couldn't even look at her; he just stared at his feet and his voice was nearly inaudible as he spoke. "I'm sorry, Radiant. But I need the money. I need the money now." He sounded like a robot.
Jo took a threatening step in his direction. "You spineless piece of goushi!" she spat at him. "And you," she addressed the men on the other hovercrafts, probably brought there for backup, "my father counted some of you among his friends!" Her voice was heavy with anger, desperation and a sadness she wasn't fully able to disguise.
Mal stepped a little closer to Radiant, slid the thick pad of bills out of his pocket and discreetly poked her hand with it. "Take it," he whispered without looking at her.
She glanced at him and then downwards at his hand and the money. "I ain't takin' charity," she hissed back.
"Ain't charity," he said. "It's front money. I'll have Jayne work for it, don't you worry none. Just take it." She still hesitated, so he added, "It'll buy us some time."
"What's it gonna be, Radiant?" MacHaig shouted. "Pay up, or I will. And your property will be lawfully mine." Grinning he turned towards the banker and shrugged, "Five hundred credits, was it?"
Radiant finally snatched the pad of bills from Mal's hand. "I have the money!" she declared and lifted her hand to show them.
Everybody's mouths dropped open in surprise – MacHaig's, Jayne's, Jo's, the banker's – but Radiant just ignored them all as she stepped up the latter and handed him the pad, and as the little man counted up the five hundred credits, Mal saw how a smile of relief spread across his face.
MacHaig, however, was not smiling. "Where'd you get that?" he demanded to know, and then spun around to pierce Mal with his glare and answered his own question. "You gave it to her!"
"She's paid her debts," Mal calmly replied as the banker gave Radiant the receipt. "How she got the money is not important."
MacHaig directed his index finger at him. "You'll regret this!"
"Leave!" Radiant told him and waved the receipt in his direction. "This is my property one hundred percent now. Get off it! All of you!"
For a long moment nobody moved. Jo slowly raised her gun a little, Jayne rested his hand on his. Then MacHaig seemed to accept the fact that he'd lost this round, and with a final venomous glare in Mal's direction he mounted his hovercraft and darted off, leaving the poor banker in the dust. The other men took pity on him and pulled him onboard one of the other vehicles before they followed their boss.
Jo uncocked her rifle and then threw an arm around her mother, steering her towards the house. "Thanks," she muttered to Mal as they walked by.
Jayne on the other hand was glaring daggers at him. "What the hell happened to 'not get involved'?"
"Where did that money come from?" Wash asked. "Was it the money for the mule?"
"But that's okay," Kaylee hurriedly added. "They needed it more than us, right?"
"Well, yeah, sure," Wash mumbled, but couldn't hide the disappointment on his face.
"You sure this was wise?" Zoë said.
"You shoulda let me kill him!" Jayne exclaimed.
"Bizui!" Mal said, and again that word worked its magic. His crew fell silent. He turned to Wash. "We'll still get a mule. Jayne'll pay us back, every last bit."
"I will?" Jayne said, but Mal only had to throw him one warning look and then he added, muttering, "Yes, 'course I will." A frown fell upon his face as he got lost in his thoughts.
"You know this don't fix it, right?" Zoë said. "He'll be back."
"Most like," Mal agreed. "But he's run out of legal ways to take the land. He's cornered."
Zoë sighed. "Why do I have a feeling this will get ugly?"
Jayne was done doing the math. "It'll take me years," he stated.
Mal looked around. Obadiah and Fergus had followed the women inside the house, and River and Mattie was out of earshot. "Not necessarily," he said. "I have an idea."
Zoë cocked an eyebrow. "Yeah?"
"Yeah," Mal nodded. "Wash made some pretty interesting observations for me in town yesterday."
"That I did," Wash nodded, ignoring the scrutinizing look from his wife.
Mal started walking towards Serenity, and the others followed. "The way I see it," he told them, "we have two things working for us. One, the man's arrogant to a fault. That means he has his guards down. Two, people clearly don't like him. If we can make 'em believe we can actually take this guy, I betcha they'll jump at the chance to swap sides."
"And then you'll let me kill him?" Jayne asked.
"Better. I'll let you humiliate him."
Jayne snorted. "How's that better?"
"You actually have a plan, sir?" Zoë asked.
"Yes." After a moment's consideration, he added, "Well, obviously there's still a few minor details we need to work out."
"Obviously," Zoë said.
They walked up the ramp and as they stepped inside the cargo bay, Mal nearly bumped into Simon who was on his way out. "Doctor," he smilingly greeted him. "Just the man I needed to see. Got a job for you."
Simon's face was as always difficult to read, but if Mal would have to guess, he'd guess that the young man looked even more somber than usual. The smile fell of his face. "What?" he asked. "What is it?"
Simon glanced at the pad he held in his hand and then looked up to meet his eyes. "I know what's wrong with Mattie Cobb."
Friday, February 10, 2012 7:10 AM
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