BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

CASTIRONJACK

Honest Run: Din
Thursday, May 5, 2005

Pair up. Where's River?


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 3057    RATING: 10    SERIES: FIREFLY

Previous chapters include: Honest Run: Detail
Honest Run: Detachment
Honest Run: Diagnosis
Honest Run: Dance
Honest Run: Dignity
Honest Run



There was a beep in Inara’s shuttle. For a moment, Inara paused. Usually, if someone from the ship wanted to tell her something of interest, there would be a pleasant knock on the shuttle door. Mal took exception to this, but he was the only one. The console chimed again before the companion edged over to it, guiding the curtains aside as she did so, “This is Inara.” “Inara,” Zoe came in over the com in the shuttle, “Look out for River. She’s had one of her episodes…” “Is she alright?” Inara held down the button, “What happened?” “Honey, stress ‘non-violent’ episode,” Wash came in over the com, “It’s a warning, not a warning, you see?” “That made absolutely no sense, Wash.” “It’s kind of a code peach versus a code yellow,” Wash continued, “A look out, but not…” “You almost had me at the code peach idea,” Zoe interrupted edgily. Inara smiled in spite of herself. To spite the increasingly serious mood that Zoe was in, Wash was responding with a more… upbeat attitude. Its effects were… undetermined. “Honey…” Wash said. Despite Zoe’s exasperations, Wash still remained at her side… Inara couldn’t figure out whether she was enduring his attention, or desperately needing it. “Dear,” There was some deep marital sighing, “Fine. Whatever. Why don’t you just tell her?” “Fine, I will.” Wash said, “Inara. It’s Wash.” “Yes, Wash?” Inara said, trying to keep the smile out of her voice. “Apparently there were some issues with soap and Jayne. River hugged him, he freaked out, River said something about spiders, he freaked out more, she let him go and split.” “Soap?” Inara asked. Zoe again, “My honey’s way of expressing his intense jealousy of Jayne…” There was a hrrph on the other end, “Jealousy? Me? Of Jayne? Bewilderment, honey, that’s all it is. Inside of an hour or two the man has three of the four women of the ship draped all over him,” Wash said, “I’m surprised that Book hasn’t decreed it a harbinger of the end times…” “That’s it?” Inara asked. “That’s about the rock bottom of it,” Wash told her, “Jayne’s more unsettled than her, though. We tried to go after her, but I think she knows the ship better than the captain or Kaylee…” “Kaylee just left a few minutes ago…” “Yeah, Kaylee’s in the engine room putting up her tools that she had in the cargo bay. We just talked to her, so…” An interruption, “We’ve secured the ship,” Zoe said, businesslike, “Just in case,” A pause, “But she just seemed sad is all. Infirmary’s locked up tight, so’s the gun lock up.” That was troubling, “It that really necessary?” Inara asked, “Whatever her abilities may or may not be, River is extremely empathic. There’s no way to predict how she’ll act should she pick up on this…” “We just don’t want to be wrong,” Zoe said, “I don’t feel like counting crew at dinner and finding more than one missing… Like I said, she might just be missing her brother. Dinner’s going to be ready soon. Jayne’s going to set up the table with Kaylee.” “I’ll go look for her,” Inara told the com. “The shepherd’s doing the same,” Wash said, “Just tell us you’ll be careful.” “I’ll be careful.” “That’s what we wanted to hear, Wash and Zoe out.”



River stood next to the doorframe to the cockpit. Observing Zoe and Wash quietly and unobtrusively. Only minutes before, the pair had searched the ship from end to end for her. Looking, but not finding. River had evaded them with ease, as their minds weren’t on the search itself. Zoe was concerned for her friend and captain. Wash concerned for his wife. That much was plain to the rest of the crew. River kept what little else there was to herself. Quietly, she observed the couple. Both too consumed with concern and each other to notice the shadow beyond.



“She’ll be careful…” Wash confirmed. “Book’ll be there soon, regardless.” “Still on course?” Zoe asked, staring out through the front. “Mmmhmm,” Wash said as he sat down, “Doesn’t look like anyone’s laid a hand on the autopilot,” he flicked some switches and stared at the console, “No contacts, but for the…” Wash looked up and saw Zoe enthrall to the stars, “Massive Alliance Warship that passed us minutes ago…” Nothing. “Op,” he checked another readout, “They left a note.” Still nothing. “On the hull,” Wash continued in a bored tone, “Must have donned some high quality Alliance gear for this one…” “Really?” Zoe asked, but still not completely tuning in… The pilot screwed up his face as he read it aloud, “‘Wash me.’” “That’s nice, honey.” “Warrants and finger scrawled editorials,” Wash said, “What has the Alliance stooped to…” Zoe blinked, “Alliance?” she turned around to face him, “What?” “Oh nothing,” Wash said leaning back in his chair, “Just another one way conversation.” “Oh.” She said, “Sorry, dear. Still on course, then?” “Yeppers,” Wash said, “You know the preacher’s been pryin’ on Jayne as to our destination.” “Too bad Jayne doesn’t know,” Zoe said, “Captain didn’t let him in on this little jaunt.” “Yeah,” he said, “About that,” Wash picked up a dinosaur and leaned back, “Doesn’t that feel a little weird to you?” “That the captain didn’t let Jayne in on the details on this little trip?” Zoe asked. “Well, yeah,” he pointed the plastic sauropod at her, “Sure. That too. But also why isn’t Jayne askin’ about it? I haven’t heard a thing out of him lately. Been keeping to himself…” “One of the things we could all do without on this ship is Jayne,” Zoe stated unapologetically, “Don’t need to know what the man does in his ‘alone’ time,” she playfully inspected him, “Kind of odd that you’re asking about it, honey… Unless this is an extension of the bare feet argument…” “More of the apple argument actually…” Wash shook his head, setting the dinosaur on his stomach, “I dunno,” he folded his hands behind his neck and leaned back, “We’ve been doing work with him and Mal for a while and something is afoot.” “Afoot?” Zoe asked. “Yep,” Wash placed his feet on the console, “Like these,” he pointed to his shoes, “But in a mystery whodunit sense…” “Hardly thought much about it actually,” Zoe said, “Don’t usually think of Jayne as a person…” “Yeah,” Wash said, “I know,” but there was something in Wash’s tone that Zoe didn’t care for. “Do you?” Zoe said, “There’s been a cup tossing or two as far as you guys go…” “Yeah…” Wash was still leaning back, but now his hands were steepled about his chin, “True.” “Jayne’s Jayne, dear,” Zoe said, “Man ain’t worth wringing a mystery about.” Wash put his feet back down, “I guess so,” he checked the instrumentation again, more out of habit than actual need; “Mysteries abound on our ship don’t they?” “Drama, mystery, bullets…” Zoe nodded, “Psychic assassins… I say we’re full up…” “And about to be fuller,” Wash said. “You’re talking about the rendezvous,” Zoe stated flatly. “Edge of Alliance space, mysterious call from the Black…” “It’s a quick pick up, Wash,” Zoe looked back out to the stars, “That’s all it is.” “Since when do we pick up passengers off planet?” “Because last time we picked ‘em on planet went so well…” “Is that regret?” “For taking on doc and his sister?” Zoe thought for a minute, “No,” she said, “They may have made things more complicated, but it’s new and different complicated. The complicated that the captain isn’t making himself and all…” “The kind of complicated that Mal’s gotta endure instead of making it himself…” “Exactly.” “But still,” Wash said, “Picking up passengers from space seems a bit…” Wash reached for a word. “Foolhardy?” Zoe offered, “How is this different than anything else the captain’s ever planned?” she asked. “I dunno.” Wash met her eyes, “How is it?” There was a meaningful pause, but Zoe didn’t bite, “We can always shot ‘em if we don’t like ‘em.” “Ah… Yes…” Wash leaned back, “The ever popular Serenity bullet hole contingency…” Suddenly, Zoe pulled her hand back, “What was…” She stared behind her husband, catching a hint of a moving shadow. “Honey?” “River?” Zoe called out. Wash got up and turned around, “She was here?” Zoe examined the aperture, “Don’t rightly know…”



A shadow loomed over Kaylee. She paused. Bent over, her arms were full of the realigned transducer that she had finished that morning. Hunched over as she was, Kaylee felt a little… Exposed. Her eyes flicked over the floor and pulled in some familiar boots. “Jayne?” she said with a sigh of relief. Of course it was Jayne. Her cheerful mood dampened slightly, a little angry with him. Ever since Early, Kaylee just didn’t feel as safe on Serenity as she used to. “Yeah?” She straightened, “Hold this,” she dumped the transducer, an oversize durasteel puppy as far as Kaylee was concerned, into his arms, “How long were you standing there?” she asked him. “Wasn’t long,” he moved the transducer over to a single arm as he watched her throw her tools into their toolbox, “Zoe says we need to fix up the table for dinner…” he frowned at the hefty part, “What is this anyway?” “It’s the auxiliary transducer for the life support system,” Kaylee told him shortly, “Why didn’t you say somethin’?” He shrugged, “I dunno,” he said, “Was just thinkin’,” he tilted his head toward the transducer, “What’s it used for?” Jayne rolled the part around in his arms, “It’s kinda heavy for you, ain’t it?” “Not too heavy,” Kaylee frowned at him, “I can hold it by myself, if that’s what you mean…” She stepped forward as if to take the part. “I got it,” Jayne shrugged her off, “What did you say it did, by the way?” “I didn’t,” Kaylee said, “But it’s the heart of the auxiliary life support system,” she sighed, “It helps us breathe in emergencies. Ain’t been the same since the explosion months ago.” “It broke?” he curled his lip as he squinted at the part. “No,” Kaylee picked up the last of her tools, “Well, yes. It was broke.” “What d’ya mean yes and no?” Jayne looked at the end of the part, noting its workings, “Was it broke or not?” “Jayne,” she sat on her toolbox, “Why’re you askin’ so many questions? You ain’t been int’rested in Serenity’s goings on, not ever,” “Just askin’ questions,” Jayne shrugged, “Just talkin’ to ya, Kaylee…” he looked at her, “Is all.” “Do you really want to know why it broke?” Kaylee asked him. “Sure.” Kaylee narrowed her eyes at him, “Alright. Well, it wasn’t really broke. It was out of alignment,” she waited. “So it wasn’t straight,” Jayne continued to scrutinize the part, “Don’t see how, but I gotcha.” “Those are the parts that you can’t see,” Kaylee said, “They’re in the casing.” “Oh,” he said, “So I shouldn’t shake it then?” he asked, “’Cause it makes all the parts get all crooked inside…” “Well, yes,” Kaylee said, “That’s what the problem is. I mean you can’t shake it loose by yourself, or even if you dropped it…” she gave him a quick look, “Don’t do it.” “I weren’t gonna,” Jayne said, “But what’s wrong wi’it then? What made it all ‘out of alignment?’” “Well, the transducer harness’ broke,” Kaylee patiently explained. Her smile started to return at Jayne’s interest, “The thing that holds it can’t hold it right and Serenity’s shaking it all the time when we burn or atmo…” “So the cap’n’s gonna get you this harness new?” Jayne asked. “Cap’n’s not gonna get it,” Kaylee said, “We are…” “How’s that?” “We’re goin’ to meet up with some salvagers out here and trade a ride for the whole transducer assembly,” Kaylee stood up, “I thought you knew ‘bout it.” Jayne shrugged, “Cap’n had me move stuff from ship to ship. Ship to shuttle. That’s all he told me.” “Guess he was too busy to tell you the rest,” Kaylee offered. “Guess so,” Jayne’s eyes got far away. It wasn’t an expression that Kaylee had ever seen before. Almost… pensive. She’d known him for a few years now, so she forgave the coarser comments that came when something crossed his mind. But lately, the sharp edges and corners were becoming less and less frequent, “Jayne?” Jayne refocused on her, “Well, come on,” he rolled the beast in his arms, “Let’s get this to yer engine room so we can eat. I don’t usually take to soup’n stew, but the preacher made it, so it’s got to be good.” “I can do the plate passing myself, Jayne,” she said cheerfully, “I do it all the time anyways,” she folded up her box, “I don’t need any help…” “Ain’t listenin’ Kaylee,” the brute looked around suspiciously, “Zoe says we do it together,” he glanced down at her, “We do it together.” “What…” then Kaylee understood, “Oh. You haven’t found River yet.” After she had left Inara’s shuttle, Kaylee had run into Book minutes ago, poking around where he usually didn’t. Kaylee didn’t mind, but the preacher had caught the question in her look. He explained that River had gone missing after an episode in the crew’s mess. Kaylee offered to help but Zoe and Wash caught her on their way to the bridge before the preacher could explain further. They had already done a quick search of Serenity, but even though it was small, it was a smuggler’s ship and River had a way with it that rivaled the knowledge the captain had. Zoe told her to pick up her stuff in the bay and not to worry about it. Jayne shook his head, “I ain’t been lookin’.” “What were you doin’, then?” “Lockin’ and checkin’ the lockup and doc’s office,” He said, “Didn’t want to make it too easy on crazy girl if she decides to get…”A grimace, “Artsy.” “Jayne,” Kaylee objected, “River ain’t been trouble lately. She’s been doin’ real good…” “She whatn’t exactly yellin’ and screamin’ when she ruined my shirt, was she?” Jayne replied. “Well…” Kaylee faltered, “No.” “Uh-huh,” he squinted meaningfully, “S’what I’m sayin’, girly girl. So we get you all put away and we set up for dinner. Simple.”



River heard the polite knock on the door of the shuttle. Inara took a shawl from its hanging and answered the door. The door rolled back to reveal a politely nodding Book. “Inara.” “Shepherd.” The girl saw the hesitant distance between their separate choices in life yawn open. But the moment was bridged as Book offered a gentlemanly arm, “I trust Zoe gave you ample warning…” Inara took the arm flawlessly, “Zoe and Wash, yes,” she stepped over the division between the shuttle and the ship, “Shouldn’t we all be looking for her?” she asked, “Surely between all of us…” “The captain is of a conservative mindset right now,” Book told her. It took only a moment for Inara to transition the term captain to Zoe. While recently distracted, River could see that Inara believed Zoe more than capable to guide the crew through whatever troubles or inconveniences happened along. “Conservative?” Inara asked. Book would have continued to guide her neatly down the ship, but the narrow catwalks broke the chivalrous gesture, “Whatever River’s abilities, she is still very capable of… unpredictable acts…” Book continued to walk forward, glancing about, “As Jayne can attest to…” “Still…” Inara began… Silently, River dropped behind them, “Spiders…” she whispered as she continued to follow, “Quietly, silently, spinning, spinning, spinning…”



“There’s going to be emotional distress,” the doctor had explained in his dry tone, “There’s nothing to be done about it. The tumors are not affecting your mind nor are they in areas that would…” It was months ago… Ariel. With Serenity waiting for her on this Core planet, she hoped that Mal would stay out of trouble and keep the crew from doing the same. Things were different with the presence of Simon and River Tam on board. Harboring Alliance fugitives was different from the few other violations Mal was guilty of. She sat now in Elias Stanton’s office, thankfully free of the hospital guise that she had donned shortly before for another round of testing. She found that the gown leeched the warmth from her body in a way that her own bare skin could not. There was something entirely unwholesome about it, not unclean, but something else entirely… At any rate, the testing was done and her clothes were returned to her. For that, she was grateful. Inara had seen several doctors after the preliminary diagnosis. Stanton had encouraged it, in fact. He sent her away with a list of specialists that were both professional and discreet. In the following months she went to every one of them. Each of them had found the same evidence of the cancer. Not a single one deviated. What put Stanton aside had been his candor. None of them suggested what he did. To enjoy what time she had left without treatments or gurneys that would without a doubt lengthen her life, but make it worth less living. She pressed the doctors about the truth for treatment. Was it survivable? Or was it stalling an inevitable end? Inara saw through all their reassurances immediately. That pity that she saw first in Stanton, Inara saw in each and every one of them. There was no hope. Not even a manageable chance of recovery. Inara returned to Elias Stanton because of his initial honesty with her. That if she was to make any new decision or if there was some progression of medical science that could be explored, she held no reservations that he would prove instrumental in guiding her. He was also the go between to keep this from anyone else. None in the Guild ever knew why Inara left Sihnon, and as far as she was concerned it would be something that would stay that way until nothing could be done about it. “Then what… would be…” Inara asked him, “I’m sorry, Elias, what was that?” Stanton leaned against his solid desk behind him, “I am not a doctor of the mind, Inara,” Stanton explained folding away his half lens glasses, “Only that of the body.” “I am fine,” Inara said staring at the results of the latest tests that clearly showed that she was not. They were the images of the cancerous growths throughout her brain. As with every year passing, there were more. Never growing perceivably themselves, only in frequency. All of the growths were connected throughout; malign gossamer threads… “Are you?” “As you said yourself,” Inara said, sharper than she intended, “You are not a doctor of the mind…” If he took offense, it didn’t show, “Inara…” “My apologies, Elias…” she recanted, “That was short of me…” “I can’t deny that you have a strength in you, Inara. Without it, I doubt we would be even having this conversation,” Stanton stood up, “I’m sure that you understand. Sometimes when a patient receives a prognosis such as yours, they just give up…” “What are you saying, Doctor?” “I’m not sure,” he held up his finger, “Just a moment…” Inara waited politely for him to sort it out. But she knew what he was going to say, “I can’t do this alone.” “Yes,” he said, “Yes, that’s it exactly.” She gave him a coy smile, “I’m not.” He knew what she meant immediately, “I am not in this with you. I am the only one that knows about it, true. If anything, I’m afraid I’ve become a face for this illness of yours…” Inara crossed the room, laying a comforting hand on his graying beard, “You are nothing of the sort, Elias…” “The inescapable fact is that you are dying, Inara. Dying. You’ve run out of time, and this isn’t the time to be alone. You need to share this with someone other than a doctor,” he picked up the clipboard, “You need a friend more than you need any of these…” he waved the offending paperwork at her, “Percentages and findings…” “Elias, we have been through this. I’m surprised that we are even speaking of it, now…I’m not going to do this to anyone,” Inara told him, “I’m not going to inflict my illness on anyone else…” “It wouldn’t be an affliction to a good friend, Inara…” “This is my life, Elias. This is how I intend to live it…” “Hiding from the end won’t make it better…” “Despairing of it won’t either.” Stanton shook his head, “Damn it all,” he set down the findings on his desk and leaned over them, “You have got to be the most stubborn woman I’ve ever met.” “I’m not hiding from it, Elias,” Inara told him gently, “If I was, I wouldn’t be here. I’m not going to have this… affliction… consume my life. Not when there are still precious moments to live left…” “I can’t do anything for you, Inara. Anything that looks promising is quickly outstripped by your progress,” his eyes flickered down, “Its progress, I mean.” “You told me I would have years, Elias,” Inara continued, “And I have had them. This was not a mistake,” she said, “It was a choice. A singular option that you gave me when no one else would even think of giving me the same. And you were right to offer it to me. They have been rich years…” “But, Inara… If…” She smiled, “Elias. Don’t.” Inara said, “I place no fault on you, because there is none to place. I could have spent the last years suffering underneath treatment after treatment in the vain hope that somehow I would be cured…” Stanton nodded silently. “Or I could live it out,” she reached out and touched a smile to his face, “It was not a mistake,” she told him, “It was not. I do not think I could have envisioned meeting the people I’ve found in the last few years had this not happened…” There was a bit of uncomfortable silence. “It’s odd to have my patients reassure me,” the doctor told her, breaking the quiet, “I’m not sure I’m that comfortable with it.” “I have no doubt that you have done your best,” Inara replied, “None at all. It has been difficult to come to grips with. I would be lying to you if I myself didn’t have my own doubts darken the occasional day…” But Inara began to understand his concerns. He believed that this would be the last time that they would have together. The last time that they would converse as patient and caretaker… “Elias…” Inara looked at him, “Is this…” she picked up the findings, “What can you tell me about…” He looked at her, “I still don’t know, my dear. Your case is very unique…” he took the findings from her, “That’s the most frustrating part about it. Even last year’s biopsy gave so few answers…” For a moment, Inara felt incredibly transparent, “Of course…” “Inara,” he led her to her chair, “I have a small confession to make…” he sat in the chair beside her, “It’s one I’m sure you’ve heard a hundred times over…” Inara closed her eyes, “Elias, no.” “I love you.” “It would be…” Inara grasped for words. Stanton was a happily married man with children; an eldest with a child of his own, “Inappropriate…” “I agree,” He took her hand, “But that is not my meaning…” Confused, “I’m sorry…” “You’ve taken me for a lecherous old man, my dear. That wasn’t my intent,” he turned her hand over in his, “I care for you dearly.” She met his eyes and found a glow of truth in them. “Believe me, Rosanna,” he spoke of his wife, “Already knows. Believe you me, I’ve already told her about you,” he looked down, “As much as I could have. As much as my profession would allow,” He looked into her perfectly fractured features, “When you came into my office many years ago, it might have been what you think now. Captured this old man’s heart you did. But when you came back…” he looked away, “It changed to something different.” Inara was still speechless. “I admired your grace and strength to shoulder this burden,” He said, “Your wisdom and audacity to change your life so completely to make it more vibrant…”His eyes smiled, “and a little adventurous. Tell me; is such an admiration wrong to have?” She felt warm, “Of course not.” “This crew of yours…” Stanton continued over her. Inara laughed out loud, “They’re not my crew, Doctor.” “You have grown attached to them haven’t you?” “No, no, Inara. Let me finish,” Stanton placed her hand back onto her lap, “Given my feelings for you in the rather short time I’ve had to get to know you, I can’t believe that you don’t have anyone that you love and trust to help you through this…” “No one needs to know,” Inara whispered to him, “No one can know…” “So you trust no one.” Elias shook his head and stood up. “I…” “I’ve thought about… the end…” Stanton put his hands on the desk facing the opposite wall, “Your end, Inara. I want it to be mercifully quick, but above all,” their eyes met, “I want you to have some peace.”



Zoe had captured his hand. While she wasn’t inclined to respond to her husband, there were the nods and semi-answers that he needed to continue the general conversation. She stared out the front of the ship, leaning against the piloting console that Wash sat at. “Do you think Mal’ll actually let us go?” Wash asked her. He had asked this several times already, but the excitement hadn’t worn off yet, “Food. Dancing….” He looked up to her, “Did I mention the food part, yet?” “Might have,” Zoe said. But no other answer seemed forthcoming. “So…” he pulled on her gently, “So you think Mal’s going to let a little stabbing get in the way of real food?” “I don’t think that real food is going to be the issue,” Zoe said, “While remembering that might make him a little cranky, Mal’s got a soft spot for a certain engineer.” Wash looked up at her, “Kaylee’s going to make it happen, isn’t she?” “He may kick a merc or two in draft of an engine, but he’s a big softie when it comes our lil’ Kaylee.” “Only when she’s not hitting him up for money for parts,” Wash amended. “Thought the girl was goin’ to burst into a billion happy pieces earlier,” Zoe said, remembering, “Bouncing in the way she did with that invitation.” “I can’t believe they invited the whole crew,” Wash said, “Every one of our names were on that thing. Every one. And our whole names too.” “’Cept the Tams and Book,” Wash said, “They must have pressed Badger for ‘em.” “Badger isn’t hard to press,” she said, “Especially if you have money.” Surprised you haven’t said the word ambush while we’ve talking about it,” An exaggerated smile, “I’m so proud of you, honey…” “What about thinking it?” Zoe asked guiltily. “Oh, that? That’s fine,” Wash waved it off with his hand, “If you weren’t thinking it, someone’s been passing out Zoe suits to perfect strangers…” “Zoe suits?” There was a seductive bob of an eyebrow, “Going to be a guilty pleasure finding the zipper…” The smile landed on Zoe’s face again, “Sounds like a horrible job,” she said, “How very generous of you to volunteer…” “Generous and self sacrificing,” Wash gave her a conspiring look, “Could be dangerous…” A laugh, “Of course.” Wash smiled himself. “Which shirt should I wear?” Wash asked, “I’m kind of partial to this one…” Wash indicated his very loud floral print that he was sloppily wearing over a t-shirt. The first officer blinked. “No stains, all the buttons…” Wash continued, “Has all the makings of a dinner shirt. How about that pink tie?” “No.” “No? No what?” Wash smiled wider, “But honey,” Wash patted his stomach, “I’m going to have to lose some weight if I have to wear the slinky dress too…” “If we are going to this ball,” Zoe pulled at his arm, both reeling and leaning him in closer, “My man is going to be dressed proper so I can show him off.” “No loud shirts?” Wash asked. “Nope.” Wash was trying to put on a look of disappointment, but for once, it didn’t quite go through, “I don’t know. You might have to put your foot down to convince me…” “My foot down?” Zoe asked, a little playfulness had entered her features. Wash’s features went mock serious, “Or else I don’t know you mean it…” “Well…” Zoe said, “If that’s the way it has to be…” “I’m afraid so.” Zoe lifted a booted heel up… “But honey…” Wash objected, “It’s flowery…” And put it back down. Wash flailed back in his chair, “Noooo….” And back, “…oooooo….” And back, “ooooOuch!” Until to the surprise of both and the pain of Wash, the pilot’s chair decided that it had had enough of him. It maliciously dumped him over. There was a grunt with a mess of legs and arms sprawled up and reaching. Concern and laughter hand in hand, Zoe pulled the chair forward and grabbed for one of Wash’s flailing arms across it, “Wash!?!” There was a second of on the spot tumbling as Wash tried to put his feet under him from above him… Afterwards, he popped up, his face red from either exertion or embarrassment, “I planned that…” There was an embrace, “Of course, you did.” “Hugging… good…” Wash gasped, “But head… soft…”



There was the clanking of plates as Kaylee walked around the table with a pile of them in her hand. She set them down one by one, humming to herself delightfully as she did it. Jayne tried not to look at her as he brought out the silverware. “Damn doc is a gorram idiot,” Jayne had decided. Kaylee glowed like this when he was around, Jayne had noticed. Not quite this happy like as now, but similar. Kaylee continued to spin and introduce a little dance to her step, obviously not paying attention to him. “Doc don’t deserve you,” Jayne grumbled to her as she put a place in front of him. “What’s that Jayne?” Kaylee asked. She had been humming a tune as she happily laid down the plates. “He ain’t deservin’ of you, lil’ Kaylee,” Jayne accused her with a spoon, “Doc don’t notice nothin’ about you.” “Jayne, that ain’t true.” Her smile dimmed a little. “Then how come he always makes you mad, then?” Jayne asked her, “Hell, I don’t even make you that mad…” “He’s just busy, Jayne,” Kaylee set the last of the plates down at the end of the table and walked over to him, “He ain’t happy out here like the rest of us. He’s not used to it…” “Damn stupidest genius I know, Kaylee,” Jayne gave her some of the silverware, “He’s got you and you’re the shiniest thing on this ship.” Kaylee stopped in mid-step as she was about to turn. The surprise was written into every line in her face. Oblivious, the mercenary made around the table himself, “Yeah, he got that crazy sister of his and the cap’n don’t make his life no easier, but the doc ain’t lookin’ at what he’s got…” Jayne fumbled around with the placings on the table, “Kaylee he’s…” He met her gaze then, “What?” “Jayne Cobb,” her hands on her hips, “Are you sweeten’n on me?” “No,” The mercenary crinkled his nose, “No, I was bad talkin’ the doc… Where’ve you been?” “So…” She walked up to him slowly coming around the table, “You think I’m shiny?” “Huh? Kaylee, what’re you talkin’ ‘bout?” Jayne went around the other side and picked up the cups, placing his first, “I’m talkin’ ‘bout how the doc ne’er really looks at you the way you want him to. That you’re wasting your time with ‘im, is all.” Kaylee continued to walk behind him as he set the cups down. Jayne suddenly stopped, realizing that she was so close, “Yeah? You mad at me, now?” For a second, Kaylee didn’t say anything. She just stared at him. “Why ain’t you sayin’ nothin’?” Jayne leaned back from her, “You are mad, aren’t ya?” “You’re jealous.” Kaylee finally said, “You’re jealous of Simon, aren’t you?” “Oh.” Jayne said mischievously, “Yeah. So what?” Kaylee’s inspection forgotten, she exploded in laughter, “Jayne!!! You’re funnin’ on me,” she hit him in the shoulder. There was a sly smile, “Uh-huh.” Jayne took a half hearted swipe at her, which she adroitly avoided. There was a playful shriek from the mechanic as Jayne pushed the chairs in underneath the table and tried to catch her in two of his tall strides… He missed. There was a short chase around the table. If she hadn’t been laughing so hard, Kaylee might have made it challenging, but Jayne caught her from behind, wrapping his arms around hers and her shoulders tight enough to keep her from escaping. “Gotcha,” he gasped in her ear, “I gotcha now…” “Jayne!” she yelled as he lifted her from the ground. More laughter. Her arm slipped out and the elbow caught him just below the ribs, startling him. In the close quarters of the mess hall, his foot caught on the leg of the captain’s chair at the head of the table and he stumbled. With his arms ‘round Kaylee and hoisting her, the big man’s balance was easily lost and Jayne fell backwards. Kaylee let out a startled shriek as Jayne hit the deck with her on top. There was a deep clang as the deck plate jumped with impact. Jayne’s head bounced off it. For a minute there was no movement from either of them. And then they started to move at the same time. On the floor, the merc let go of Kaylee, his left drifting up to the back of his head, “Ow,” his other arm was still tangled in a giggling Kaylee, “You okay?” She turned around, sitting now on his legs, “I win,” she clapped.



The crash and Kaylee’s raised voice galvanized Book. He hurried across the hall. For the first few steps, Inara was right behind him. But then she stopped suddenly and inexplicably. Book continued without her. “River?” Inara asked, unsure of the direction. And sure enough, River’s slim form was only just behind her, “They’re just playing,” she explained. “Who’s just playing?” Inara went to her, “Are you alright?” “Brother and sister chasing each other around the table,” she giggled in Inara’s outstretched hands, “She’ll win. She always does…” Inara’s bent down inspecting River’s feet, bare and dirty with the grime of Serenity’s deck plating, “River, aren’t you cold?” “They all love her…” There was Jayne’s grunt and a bit more of Kaylee’s laughter that echoed throughout the ship. “The spiders are always spinning,” River said, “Always spinning their webs and laying their eggs.” “River,” she went to the girl, “Are you alright? Zoe just told me…” River’s eyes went to the top of Inara’s head, “Same as last year.” There was a passing moment where Inara imagined cool steel tables and features obscured by masks and smocks. Inara’s hands dropped away as did the smile on River’s face. “River?” “Can’t cure…” the girl told the companion, “Must… endure.” There was a somber sing-song quality to her words. The young girl’s fingers joined her gaze, gently probing the companion’s scalp. Inara didn’t understand, but she saw no harm in the gesture, “We’ll need to hurry, River,” But there was a chill in the girl’s touch that was troubling to abide, “Dinner’s going to be ready soon.” The young girl withdrew her hands, “Simon knows. Simon is helping...” “He should know what, River?” “You should talk to him. You should tell him.” “Tell him what?” “Tell him about the spiders.”

COMMENTS

Thursday, May 5, 2005 9:04 PM

CASTIRONJACK


Apologies all...

I try to do a month to month thing, but it didn't pan out this time.

Computer problems. There was ill money spent and much manly crying...

Wisdom may have been gained, but coming back a step behind where you were hardware wise(power supply, HD, cd/dvd rom, RAM...) is still hard to take.

Anyway, I've been slaving over this since. Hope you enjoy.

Suggestion box below(and I love to get 'em...)

Footnote: When I started this, I had no idea that Jayne would get as much word time as he has, but here it is...

Keep flyin'

And again,

Apologies.

Thursday, May 5, 2005 11:36 PM

MISSJASADIN


OMG. Inara *stunned*

woah.

Friday, May 6, 2005 2:34 AM

AMDOBELL


I really like how this story is developing and especially loved the bit at the end with River trying to tell Inara she needed to confide in Simon. That gave me a real glimmer of hope that her brother could save Inara, him being Top Three Per Cent and all. Very fine fic, hope the next chapter is not so long coming. Shiny, Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Friday, May 6, 2005 6:26 AM

RIVERNOT


Worth the wait.

Poses several questions, doesn't it? The one at the front of my mind: Is River (consciously or subconsciously) tweaking our favorite merc, or can the crew still count on him to shoot first and not ask questions later? Hmmm.

Friday, May 6, 2005 6:30 AM

INDIGO


This is... Terrific! The dialogue is spot on, and I love the attention you are paying to some of the crew that we just don't get enough of. Thanks a bunch, ya made my day.

Friday, May 6, 2005 12:38 PM

JEBBYPAL


Great, really love to see the development of what is going on in the ship...though i think I missed an episode. Not that I won't enjoy rereading the entire thing.

Sunday, May 8, 2005 6:38 PM

MAI


Beautiful. Absolutely great writing. Just one tiny suggestion. Don't Kill Simon! OR Inara! Oh, right your ideas your plot, please write more soon. Really, really soon. Like now.

Monday, June 6, 2005 12:42 PM

NUTLUCK


very good series, hope to see more soon.


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