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EBFIDDLER

ENDS WITH A HORSE (12) Part (13)
Monday, May 20, 2013

Simon makes an announcement; Zoe and Inara take Mal to task


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1590    RATING:     SERIES: FIREFLY

ENDS WITH A HORSE (12)

Part (13)

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Follows WHAT BEGINS WITH AN APPLE (11).

The series so far:
A LION’S MOUTH (01)
ADVENTURES IN SITTING (02)
SPARKS FLY (03)
EXPECTATIONS (04)
BREAK OUT (05)
THE TRIAL (06)
SHADOW (07)
ONE MAN’S TRASH (08)
BANDIAGARA (09)
TWO BY TWO BY TWO (10)
WHAT BEGINS WITH AN APPLE (11)

Simon makes an announcement; Zoe and Inara take Mal to task

* * *

Simon chose a relatively quiet moment towards the end of the meal, and called for everybody’s attention. He wasn’t completely comfortable with everyone staring at him in silence, even though he’d brought about the situation on purpose. It made him slightly nervous, and he reverted to the stylized speech formulas he had been taught in his public speaking class on Osiris. “I thought I’d take this opportunity, considering that everyone is gathered here…” Simon began, in a manner suitable for making a formal announcement.

“Pompous ass,” Jayne muttered under his breath. “Doc, I know you an’ I reached a kind of an imp-ass, de-taunt, whaddaya-call-’em here, but can you just—”

“Détente,” Simon corrected, unable to help himself. “Impasse.”

“Gorram pompous ass.” Jayne kept up a steady stream of antagonistic and incomprehensible grumbling. He still couldn’t stand it when the pompous ass stood on his hind legs and pontiffilated—pontuffocated—talked.

諸君 Zhūjūn,” Simon declaimed formally, continuing his prepared speech. He paused to glare at Jayne again and added, “and the rest of you—”

喂 Wèi!” Jayne objected. “Just what do you mean by—”

“Let the man speak his piece,” Mal commanded, although he inwardly wished Simon would skip the preliminaries and just cut to the chase.

Simon cleared his throat and continued. “Kaylee and I have an announcement to make. We—”

“We’re gonna get married!” Kaylee exclaimed, unable to contain herself. She held out her hand and displayed her ring, a bright smile on her face.

Half the crew immediately started congratulating the happy couple, while half of them looked at Mal, waiting for him to raise the inevitable objection. “Congratulations, Simon,” Mal said, defying all expectation. “妹妹 Mèimei, you’ll be a happy woman.”

Simon and Kaylee accepted handshakes and hugs from the more demonstrative members of the crew. Then things began to settle down a little. Simon exchanged a series of looks with Kaylee, and spoke again. “And, we might as well also inform you—”

“We’re gonna have a baby!” Kaylee interrupted again.

“Well, that was fast,” Jayne remarked.

But everyone else was silent, watching Mal for the inevitable explosion. It didn’t come. Instead, he raised his mug. “To the happy couple,” he toasted, and took a swig of his coffee.

Everyone remained silent and edgy. Mal still wasn’t exploding, and they were unable to read his body language. Even Zoe wasn’t sure what he was thinking. “Got work to be done, people,” the Captain said, and he pushed his chair back, stood up, and carried his coffee mug off to the bridge.

“You two are in deep 狗屎 gǒushǐ,” Jayne remarked. “Cap’s gonna explode. He’d throw you out the airlock now, if he didn’t need a mechanic and a medic so bad. You watch, he’ll find a reason to throw you off the ship at the next stop.”

* * *

Mal felt the force of Zoe’s eyes on him as he went systematically through the standard checks—nav, propulsion, and helm—and settled into the pilot’s chair to review the flight plan in preparation for their entrance into controlled airspace.

“What?” he asked, which provoked a heated glare in response. “Why does everyone assume I’m gonna explode if folks on this boat want to get married?”

Zoe snorted and rolled her eyes, and even though it was entirely unnecessary to speak the words aloud, she answered pointedly, “Because you did it before, sir.” She remembered it perfectly well. When she and Wash told Mal they intended to stop by the office of the local Justice of the Peace and get married after the drop on Salisbury, he’d just about shot through the roof. It was as bad—or maybe even worse—as it had been when he’d first discovered that Zoe and Wash were spending the night in each others’ bunks. He’d ranted and stormed about interlopers, complications, and divided loyalties, he’d argued and opposed, and finally, in an absurd and desperate attempt to hold back the inevitable tide, he’d actually pulled rank and ordered Zoe not to marry Wash. “I distinctly remember being ordered—”

“I’m never gonna live that down, am I?” Mal sighed, as he tapped in the approval codes on the nav planner.

“Nope.”

“Just for the record, I ain’t against children, neither,” Mal added, with a nod at Zoe’s gravid belly. “Not at all.”

Zoe harrumphed again, recollecting how Mal had put up barriers and constructed obstacles every time she had so much as hinted that she and Wash might want to start a family. It hadn’t stopped her, but coupled with Wash’s initial reluctance to begin a family when their lifestyle was so unsettled, it had certainly hindered the process. She wasn’t about to let Mal off the hook so easily. “So, you’re ready to turn this boat into a flyin’ nursery, then, sir?”

“You bet,” Mal answered, giving it right back to her. “Which room you figure for the playroom? I reckon the passenger lounge, and one of the passenger dorms for the nursery. Gotta child-proof all the lockers, and put all the weapons and ammo under lock and key. Install chicken wire on the railings and put up baby gates at the stairs and ladders. Conjure I should hire a nanny next planetfall. Which do you figure ’d do a better job—Core-bred nanny or Rim-world nanny? Core-bred ’d do better at teachin’ manners and deportment, but a Rim-world nanny ’d be more likely to have the kind of experience we need for our work. Maybe a combo nanny/gunfighter. Whaddaya say? Figure we could—”

“Shut up, sir,” Zoe rejoined with a smile, as she punched his shoulder.

* * *

It was difficult, if not impossible, to live down his reputation, Mal found. First there was Kaylee’s fear of his reaction when she acknowledged her pregnancy to him, as if he were some kind of 混球 húnqiú who would throw her out on her ear for that reason. Come to think of it, even Zoe, who weren’t no shrinking violet, had backed him into a corner when disclosing her pregnancy—forcing him to acknowledge that he owed her a debt on account of Wash’s sacrifice before telling him. Zoe had taken him to task over Simon and Kaylee’s situation, and now it was Inara’s turn.

“You’re upset about Simon and Kaylee, but you don’t want to talk about it.”

“Why’s everyone think I’m upset about it?” Mal picked up a painted fan from Inara’s shelf of beautiful things, and began flipping it open and shut.

“You’ve internalized your anger, instead of expressing it.” Inara gently removed the fan from his hands, opened it carefully, and replaced it back on its display stand.

“Don’t got no anger about it,” Mal shrugged. “I’m happy as a clam.”

She took his hand and led him to the sofa. “Let it out, Mal.”

Her touch sent a thrill up his arm. “Let what out?” he asked, but he allowed himself to be guided to the seat next to her.

“Denial is no way to deal with your feelings, Mal,” she said, stroking his hand softly, “not in the long term.”

Ooh, it felt so good, what she was doing to his hand. Almost distracted him from what they were talking about. What was it? Oh, yeah… “Inara, this ain’t denial.”

“You just denied that you’re in denial.”

Sheesh. “This ain’t denial,” he denied. “I should know, I’m an expert at denial. Real good at repression, too. Not so bad at displacement and acting out, neither.” Mal rather enjoyed Inara’s somewhat stupefied expression as he rattled off the terminology, but the fact was, he wasn’t so completely unaware of his psychological issues as the others assumed. Sure, he’d engaged less-than-ideal defense mechanisms to cope with what anyone had to acknowledge was a rather high level of stress. (Try being beat upon in an Alliance prison for stress.) Independent Command didn’t have no veterans’ medical benefits, so until Simon shipped aboard, his only option was to read up about his problems on the cortex and try to deal with them himself.

Denial had been his only pathological choice. Acting out and passive aggression were his immature defense mechanisms of choice. Neurotic defense mechanisms he had employed many a time. Displacement, very commonly. Dissociation—helped him get through the war. Not many other ways to cope with seeing your friends shot dead next to you while you got a need to carry on doing what you’re doing—such as for example fighting a battle. Isolation—absolutely necessary to deal with the kinds of trauma he’d seen. Regression—shoot first, ask questions later. Repression—oh, now, that was one of his favorites. And withdrawal, another one that he employed on a regular basis, holed up in his bunk or on the bridge. And, honestly, he used the mature defense mechanisms the most often. Anticipation. Others called it negative thinking, but hell, he’d been around long enough to know that anything that could go wrong, would go wrong. Realistic planning for future discomfort? He counted on it. No matter how bad things got, they could always get worse. Humor. Yep, used that one in spades. Sublimation. Didn’t think about it so much, but he guessed he used that defense mechanism pretty often. Fate dealt him 牛屎 niú shǐ, and he turned it into something noble, or at least something that wasn’t complete and utter 牛屎 niú shǐ. (Inara could have told him that this was one of the qualities that made him such an effective leader. He himself was not aware of just how effectively he used sublimation.) “Anyhow, this ain’t denial. I am over that. I seen this coming a long time ago.”

“Really?” she asked, intrigued by this new idea. “When?”

“At least two weeks ago,” he answered proudly.

Amusement showed in Inara’s face as she waited for Mal to elaborate.

“Gave Simon the money for the ring.”

“Let me guess. Right after you told him to marry her, or visit the airlock. Right?”

Mal harrumphed. “That ain’t exactly how I—”

“Oho, so you phrased it more delicately than that, did you?”

“Woman, that is not—”

“Kiss me, Mal.”

* * *

Pregnant or not, morning sickness or not, there was work to be done, and directly after the meal, Kaylee headed to the engine room to do it. There was always something to be done on an older boat like Serenity.

Most boats this old didn’t fly near so well. Fact was, most boats this old didn’t fly at all. Most boats this old were either relegated to the scrap heap, or mounted in permanent display at a museum. It was the Captain’s tender love and care that got her flyin’ again, and Kaylee’s tender love and care that kept her flyin’. And Wash’s, too.

Kaylee swallowed past the lump in her throat and dashed away the tears that formed at the thought of Wash. Others didn’t see it much, but Kaylee and Wash had shared a special bond, the love of flying machines, and she missed his presence so much. Cap’n mighta loved Serenity best, but it was Kaylee who took care of her, and Wash who coaxed the best out of the ol’ girl. When they were sittin’ dirtside, and the others were out on a job, oftentimes Wash and Kaylee would spend their bit of downtime cookin’ up ways to make Serenity fly better, smoother, smarter and cheaper. Didn’t no one else but Wash appreciate the mechanics of Serenity like Kaylee did.

Budget was always tight, so almost every one of their improvements was jury-rigged and improvised. Wash would make an offhand comment, such as for example that he wished he could spin on a dime, or go to full burn in atmo without the blow-back fryin’ ’em all alive. Kaylee would think on it for a while, and when she come up with somethin’, she’d talk it over with Wash and find out he’d been thinkin’ on it, too. Between them, they come up with ways to get some real maneuverability out of Serenity, makin’ her the smoothest ride from here to Boros and beyond. The others mighta loved the boat, but only Wash could match Kaylee for techno-geeky appreciation, and when it was just the two of them, many’s the time Kaylee and Wash got up to a regular geek-fest.

It started simply because Wash had nothin’ to do but hang around and worry while Mal and Zoe and Jayne went out on a job. To distract him, Kaylee often diverted him with mechanical projects—installing special features, jiggering the systems to get that little bit of extra maneuverability or lift. They both enjoyed these times when their inner geeks came out to play. And it kept Wash’s mind off the possibility of his wife returning shot or injured.

In this way Serenity had acquired a large number of special modifications. Would’ve voided the warranty for sure, had there been one. Kaylee had disrupted many of the standard features of the ’03, improved them if she did say so herself. It began with her removal of the reg couple, very first time she set foot on the boat. Kinda useless piece of equipment, anyhow. Just tended to gum up the works when it got tacked—which it always did, on a regular basis. Could spend hours just flushing the gorram thing clean. Better just to plug the g-line straight into the pin-lock.

Out here in the Black, on a shoestring budget, you had to improvise, and you had to make do with the parts on hand, because the Captain just couldn’t afford all kinds of whatnot. Wash was a bit of a 天才 tiāncái when it come to wiring, and with her own skills at welding, there weren’t much they couldn’t do when they put their minds to it. Nonetheless, she was real glad that the licensing inspectors hadn’t never took a good look at Serenity’s engine—she’d modified the Trace almost beyond recognition, and it probably wouldn’t meet standards nor pass inspection—even though it now worked one helluva lot better than it had when she first come aboard. Inspectors and regulators didn’t never appreciate experimentation and innovation. Neither did government agencies, and Kaylee knew that it was pure luck that Serenity hadn’t failed her inspection when the Captain renewed her registration back on Persephone after the whole Miranda episode. They’d made the repairs at a Fed base (thanks to the Operative decidin’ to help ’em out) and the regulators had just assumed that it was Fed-certified spacecraft mechanics what had made all the repairs. Ticked her off to no end at the time to be done out of credit for her own hard work, but she kept her mouth shut and the paperwork passed through without a hitch.

Wash had confessed to her that he had dreams of flyin’ again like a fighter pilot—pretty wacky idea for a man who flew a mid-bulk transport—and yet, with all the changes they’d made, the pie-in-the-sky dream had become, in some respects, a reality. With her know-how and Wash’s suggestions, they’d modified the inertial drive, the press regulator, the helm coupling, even the grav boot, to get some real maneuverability out of this boat. Weren’t every Firefly could pull a Crazy Ivan. And few transport ships of any kind could fly canyonlands like the ice chasms of St Albans.

Cap’n had forewarned her they’d be bot-flown in atmo in Bernadette, and Kaylee now had to undo some of her modifications, so that the flight bot could work. Kaylee picked up her wrench and lay down on the creeper. She scooted under the slowly rotating fins of the Trace and fitted the socket onto the coupling. Actually had to re-install that gorram reg couple, ’cause the flight bot relied on it to regulate the engine. Was gonna take a bit of retrofitting to make Serenity behave like a regular ol’ ’03 for the flight bot. Well, it oughtta work. An’ if’n it didn’t, there were ways to override the bot and start fresh.

* * *

*

*

*

glossary

諸君 Zhūjūn [Ladies and gentlemen]

喂 Wèi [Hello! Hey]

妹妹 Mèimei [Little sister]

狗屎 gǒushǐ [shit]

混球 húnqiú [jerk]

牛屎 niú shǐ [shit]

天才 tiāncái [genius]

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COMMENTS

Monday, May 20, 2013 4:08 PM

AMDOBELL


I smiled at Inara telling Mal he had given Simon the money for the ring and practically made Simon do the right thing by Kaylee. Not that he's in denial or anything and the bit with Zoe made me smile. Still miss Wash. Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Monday, May 20, 2013 7:11 PM

NUTLUCK


So Mal has been taken hostage and a shape changer in his place and the Trojan is going to take over the flight bot and make it go all terminator on the crew. Good thing they have Cameron... I mean River to protect them. :)

Tuesday, May 21, 2013 6:44 AM

BYTEMITE


Ha, Mal and Zoe. Figures they'd turn what could have been a tense and very accusatory argument into a dry joke. Those two.

And Jayne's annoyance at Simon's sesquipedalian loquaciousness.

Do I sense foreshadowing?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013 6:34 PM

EBFIDDLER


Inara has Mal's response to Simon pretty well pegged. Nutluck! *snort* where do you get such wild ideas? ;-). I enjoyed defusing the potential Mal Zoe blow up with some humor. Foreshadowing? Who, me? *looks around innocently*

Wednesday, May 22, 2013 6:48 PM

NUTLUCK


I find them floating around inside my head.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013 6:54 PM

EBFIDDLER


Well, at least you won't be surprised when the Mal-Bot takes over the ship and Cameron I mean River has to save the day. ;-)


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