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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Pillow Talk and Pancakes.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 3315 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
“Wash, you awake?”
“Wash, are you awake?”
“Are you awake?”
“Uh. Oh. Yeah.” A yawn. “Is it my watch already?”
“No, I just wanted to know if you were awake.”
“Uh, yeah. Yeah. Was I snoring again?”
“You’re alive, aren’t you? Did I wake you?”
“’Sokay, had to get up and talk to my wife anyway. What’s wrong?”
“Oh, good, hate to get woke up for somethin’. What is it? The . . . that gorram dream again?”
“The valley? No. Not this time. Or, not exactly.”
“Then what is it?”
“I can’t sleep.”
“Me, either. My wife is keeping me awake.”
“Funny. I can’t sleep. I don’t know if I can do this.”
“Do this? Do this what? The marriage? A little late for that now, y’ask me. You’ve already stolen my virtue and—”
“No, you idiot, not the marriage. Marriage is doin’ fine.” Pause. “Ain’t it?”
“Hell, I dunno. I’m merely male. As long as the intimate humpiness holds out, the marriage is shiny. We’re lucky that way. Low standards. Keeps us from thinkin’.”
“No, I was talkin’ ‘bout this job.”
“Whaddyamean? What’s wrong with it?”
“Well, when I was in costume, talkin’ to Wendell today, makin’ the pick-up confirmation and stuff. . .”
“Yeah . . .”
“Well . . . I’m supposed to be a Captain, right?”
“That’s the plan, yeah. What’s wrong with it?”
“I don’t know if I can act like a Captain.”
“Honey, if there is any woman in the Black who could, it’s you.”
“That’s a very sweet, husbandly thing to say.”
“Thanks, I put a lot of thought into it.”
“But it ain’t what I was lookin’ for.”
“Sorry, didn’t read the script. What did you want me to say?”
“I want the truth. Could I be a good Captain? Mal is a great Captain. Would have made a great officer back in the War, too. He says somethin’, people jump. But could I do it. Do it well?”
“You certainly do. And you make me jump, too. So I guess what I’m sayin’ can be best summarized as ‘Yeah, so?’”
“How does he do that? Is it a captain thing, or is it just Mal?”
“How should I know?”
“Uh, you’re the one that’s been on other boats, Mr. Spaceman.”
“I guess. You really worried ‘bout that, sugar tush?”
“Well . . . yeah.”
“Don’t be. Most of the commercial captains in the Black? They’re idiots. Bought their position, or kissed so much brass ass at the company that they ring when they pucker. Real idiots.”
“What about Mal? Your professional opinion.”
“My professional opinion. Well, he’s . . . he’s not bad. Pretty good.”
“Just pretty good ?”
“Whose professional opinion is this? Yeah, just pretty good. Look, a ‘normal’ captain – an owner-aboard, not just a company employee – that’s a man who has mortgaged his soul. All he has and all he can borrow goes to pay for his boat. He has to make payments every month. Regular crew salaries – not somethin’ Mal is familiar with. The bank makes him hold insurance, get bonded, pay taxes, and deal with ten thousand other issues of Alliance bureaucracy. He’s got health inspections, safety regulations, hazmat notifications, wage scale posters, union dues, vermin eradication certificates of compliance – everything. So they tend to be a little more . . . efficient than Mal.”
“As in ‘not sloppy’. Mal ain’t up to Core world captaining standards. But for a man who owns his own boat, workin’ the Rim, he ain’t too bad. He’s . . . pretty good. He’s stern, but he lets an awful lot slide. He’s kinda sloppy. Which is good for me, ‘cause you might not have noticed but I’m not really a ‘tidiness freak’. Does stuff a real commercial captain wouldn’t – couldn’t do. But that’s OK, considering what he does. What we do.”
“But that stuff about people jumping . . .”
“Yeah? What of it? Didn’t you have all those privates jumping back during the War?”
“Leave my privates out of it!”
“Funny. But not. You gave orders during the War. People jumped. There was jumping.”
“But I never . . . I never originated the orders. I was just tellin’ ‘em what Mal told me to say. And mostly he was tellin’ me what the lieutenant said, when he wasn’t cowering and soiling himself. But I did what they told me to. And busted a few heads when I needed to make an object lesson.”
“What’s the difference? You don’t think you can give good orders? Go ahead. Order me to do something. Just watch. I’ll jump.”
“But that doesn’t count, ‘cause if you don’t jump, I cut you off.”
“Oh, I see how it is. I don’t do what you say, no more sex?”
“Okay, I can live with that.”
“Good. But that wasn’t what I wanted – at the moment – anyway. What I meant was, I’m not sure I can pull off being the Captain, for real.”
“But you won’t be for real, ‘cause Mal’s gonna be right there.”
“What if he wasn’t there? Could I do it?”
“Honey, you’ve already done it! Mal’s left you in charge plenty of times. Remember Niska? If not, let me reprise the screaming and begging for mercy for you. Consider it foreplay.”
“Yes, I remember Niska. And all the other times he left me in charge. That was different.”
“I knew he was coming back.”
“He ain’t goin’ anywhere, y’know. He’ll just be covered in grime, stink, and . . . oh, some other word for grime.”
“But could I do it? Can I do it? Be the Captain. Be the Boss. ‘Cause you wanna know a secret?”
“Does it involve more sleeping?”
“At Niska’s, when you were so fired up to go back in to get Mal?”
“At the risk of reliving a painful memory: yeah?”
“I was relieved. Not just that you were okay, but that you wanted to go get him. Because I wanted to go get him. And not just ‘cause he’s Mal and I’m Zoe, and that’s what I do. I wanted to get him because . . . I don’t know if I could be the Boss by myself.”
“What, are you crazy? You’d be a great boss!”
“What’s all this self doubt and insecurity? From my wife, the Amazon Princess? Honey, I can’t believe that. You are the strongest person I know!”
“Ain’t about strength. Althea MacKinock, you know she’s second in command of the Sky Hawk, not Devon?”
“I didn’t. I can’t say it surprises me.”
“Me either . . . and that’s what I’m asking, I guess. She’s the second, but she ain’t what a traditionalist would call a ‘strong’ woman. She can’t do the things I can do, y’know, the random scary violence?”
“If you’re somewhere in the neighborhood of a point, might be nice to stop by.”
“My point is, I asked Duncan about it. He said he never had a doubt ‘bout makin’ her his second over Devon. ‘Cause the first time he realized what a good mother she was, he knew she’d be a good Captain.”
“I think I’m seeing past your immediate doubts and straight into your deep-seated insecurities. So this all comes back to the mommy thing? ‘Can I be a good Captain?’ really means ‘Can I be a good mother?’”
“Well . . . let’s just say it was one of the many notions that floated into my mind, but, yeah. It was there.”
“Honey, you’d be an outstanding mother. And a phenomenal captain, on the off chance you are able to overcome this inexplicable bout of insecurity. Most captains are idiots, I told you. You aren’t an idiot on your worst day – and I know idiots. I go to the meetings. But that’s not the problem, I think. You aren’t worried about whether or not people will jump when you say so, you’re worried about whether or not you’ll make decent command decisions.”
“You’re just saying that to get out of talking about babies!”
“That’s just a beneficial side effect. Look, we can talk babies later – plenty of time for baby talk. Let’s deal with your command insecurities, first, OK? That’s the most pressing problem.”
“Oh, you know I love it when you’re terse! The issue is that you have doubts about whether or not you’ll make decent command decisions, correct?”
“Well . . . I guess that’s one way to put it. I was swaggerin’ around in front of that pick-up today, and it hit me: this is all very cute, but what kinds of decisions would Regina make? Good ones? Bad ones? And then I started to wonder the same thing about . . . me.”
“Let me tell you what they told me in an ugly little required class in second-year flight school they call ‘Theories of Astronautic Command Structure’ or, as the students liked to call it, ‘How to be a Space Lawyer’. It was all about the whole idea of command, and fitness for command, and responsibilities of command – it was a very commanding class. It commanded a lot of our attention. It—”
“Terse, I love it! The point, my dainty flower of a wife, is that in one of the very few classes I didn’t skip, I remember hearing the instructor talk about how it didn’t really matter, in most situations, whether or not the captain’s decisions were good. It mattered more that he give them without hesitation, and he stick to them. There was a lot of other crap about proper advice, and responsibilities for data collection, but about that time I fell asleep. But that’s always stuck with me. Even good captains make mistakes, and even bad captains make good decisions. The important thing is that the captain act decisively, give an order, then shut up and let the crew execute it.”
“And you went to school for this?”
“On a government-financed loan, no less. Funny, ain’t it? Honey, relax! If the time ever comes when you’re the boss of me, I’ll jump like a good little slave boy. So will everyone else.”
“And if what I tell you to do gets us all killed?”
“Sweetie, let me let you in on a little secret: every time we hit atmo, if I don’t do my job adequately, we all die. Horrible, violent painful deaths, with explosions, and screaming, and blood, and explosive decompression, and fire—”
“And . . . ?”
“And it doesn’t matter who’s captain, or how good they are. We’re dead if I have a bad day. That’s my point. Try to banish this mystical bullshit about the importance of command. Bein’ captain? That’s just another job. One with perks, sure, sometimes you even get to wear a hat. But it’s just another job. Do it adequately, no one much will complain except for Jayne, and that’s just who he is. Settin’ policy and givin’ orders, that’s not really any more or less important than what I do. Or what Kaylee does. It’s necessary. But don’t let the job be anything bigger than it is.”
“You know what?”
“You just made me feel better. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome. That’s what I’m here for. I love you, Zoe. And that’s not just the sex talking. You’re the strongest person I know, Cap included. I loved you from the moment I realized you and Mal weren’t together. I would swim through space for you. I’d eat a thousand bugs, just to make you smile. You are the most important gorram thing in the whole gorram ‘verse to me. Bad dreams, bad breath, bad temper, I can handle all of that. More. Double amputation? Brain dead in a coma? Persistent nymphomania? Bring it on. I have no idea why you decided to shack up with me, much less be my bride, but I count it as the luckiest day in my miserable life.”
“Oh, I like this. More.”
“Seriously. I don’t think you really know how much you mean to me. And I can’t really get why, with all the guys in the ‘verse to chose from, you picked me. But I’ll do whatever I can to live up to that.”
“God, you give such good bullshit!”
“As long as the pokey-pokey holds out, I’ll follow you from Core to Rim.”
“Okay, you had to ruin it with sex, didn’t you?”
“Well, yeah! That’s what we menfolk do!”
“Well, it was nice while it lasted. And don’t think I don’t know you meant every gorram word.”
“Well, I can’t be held responsible for that.”
“We should really get some sleep.”
“Yeah we should. I mean, if we’re going to be awake at this hour, there should be some sex involved.”
“You are so . . .pathetically . . . male. Go to sleep.”
“I’ve been thinkin’ about babies.”
“Calm down, relax, let me revel in my sudden vulnerability for a moment, okay? Otherwise I might just clam up in a fit of testosterone. I will in a minute anyway, so take advantage of the moment. If we’re doing the midnight confessions thing, I just thought, in the interest of fairness, that I let you know I’ve been thinking about babies.”
“Just what are you thinking about babies?”
“I’m just thinking about them. That’s all. Haven’t changed my mind, haven’t come around to your ideas, I just saw how you were with the McKlintock’s little one.”
“And I saw, with utter clarity of vision, just what a wonderful, beautiful mother you will be.”
“Look, isn’t that enough for now? Just drop it. I’ll let you think about it . . . and I know I’ll regret it later . . . but for now, drop it. I just thought it was fair to let you know I was really considering the matter and not just being . . . well, pathetically male. Now go to sleep. Big day tomorrow.”
“What are you doing?”
“What does it look like I’m doing?”
“The lights are off. I can’t see what you’re doing.”
“What does it feel like I’m doing?”
“That’s what I’m doing. Why, is it bothering you?”
“Is sex all you think about? Honestly?”
“You can’t say all that and not expect a reaction. Besides,” Zoe said, “I think that if we’re going to be awake at this hour, there should be some sex involved.”
“So . . . I talk about babies, you think about sex?”
“Well . . . yeah.”
“Well . . . that just ain’t right.”
“That’s just . . . evil.”
“It’s wrong, wrong I tell you!”
“That has got to be purely the most evil, ironical thing in the gorram ‘verse.”
He said ‘will be’, Zoe thought, smiling in the dark.
“Boy, what in Heaven’s name do you think you’re doin’?” asked Book, incredulous.
“What does it look like I’m doin’? I’m getting’ my game face on,” said Jayne, continuing what he was doing.
“By clippin’ your toenails at the kitchen table?”
“Some folks pray, some folks talk t’themselves, I clip my toenails.”
“At the kitchen table? That’s disgusting!”
“Look, I’m done, OK? Just got to be somethin’ I do. Usually do it in m’bunk, but it don’t even look like m’bunk no more. Don’t look like Serenity no more. Whole place gives me the creepies.” He slid his socks on and started to lace up his boots. “There! Nice ‘n’ trim. Man can’t help but feel big and powerful when his feet are right.”
“That’s an . . . interesting perspective.”
“Only one I got,” Jayne said. Book poured himself a cup of coffee. He preferred tea, but he had to admit, for bein’ seven years out and surviving reentry and the old of Set’s winds, this Xiao coffee wasn’t half bad – which made it a dramatic improvement over the usual brew. “How bout you, preacher? What do you do to get ready?”
“Ready for what?”
“Thrilling adventure. Action. Heroics. Feats of derring-do.”
“A Shepherd rarely has occasion for feats of derring-do.”
“C’mon, Shepherd, you must do somethin’ afore you used to . . . get ready to, uh, preach, uh, real violently, like.” Book had to smile at that. He knew Jayne’s adherence to the unwritten code of criminal culture prohibited him from coming out and just asking about his past. Out on the Rim, a man’s past was his private business. Too many folks trying to escape it and were powerful sincere in their desire not to discus it. But Jayne’s attempts to allude to what he suspected about Book, without actually coming out and asking, well, they were downright humorous sometimes.
“Would it surprise you terribly that I pray?”
Jayne thought a moment. “Yeah, guess that would make some kinda sense.”
“You might try it sometime,” Book offered. “First one’s free.”
“Don’t reckon it’s my time, yet.”
“How you reckon?” Book asked.
“Well, you ain’t the first Shepherd I come across. Used t’know one – don’t matter where – who told me once that God is always open to receive sinners.”
“Yes, that’s pretty standard Shepherd stuff. The Book tells us that no matter how far from grace we stand, there is always salvation available for them that seeks it.”
“Yeah, that’s what he said. Said that it don’t matter none how big the sinner. That the bigger the sinner, the greater the glory o’ God for his redemption.”
“Well, yes, that is one interpretation,” admitted Book reluctantly.
“I can’t turn to God just yet, Book. I just can’t. Wouldn’t be a ‘propriate amount o’ glory, would it? I still got things to ‘complish afore I kick.”
Book considered. It was not the type of theological argument he was used to – his recent struggles with River had exercised his intellectual muscles around some of the more obtuse points of cosmology. This was a more . . . personal and unusual perspective on salvation. But it was not unheard of.
“Well, there is precedent for that argument,” he conceded. “A holy man in Europe – that’s on Earth That Was – named Martin Luther is supposed to have said, ‘Sin boldly. But love God.’ I’d say that your case might just fit that model of belief.”
“ ‘Sin boldly,’ I like that. ‘Sin boldly.’” He got up and grabbed his duffel, swung it over his shoulder.
“ ‘But love God.’ I’d say the emphasis should be on the second part.”
“Well you gotta say that. You’re a Shepherd.”
“I guess I do.”
“That Luther fellow – he ain’t French is he?”
“Oh. I’m gonna go put my stuff in Inara’s shuttle, then wake up moon-head girl. Our team should be ready to bolt on time. Yours?”
“All packed up. As soon as Simon is up, we can leave.”
“Shiny. ‘Sin boldly,’” he said to himself, shaking his head and grinning as he went out the hatch.
“‘But love God!’” Book reminded him as he left.
Book busied himself with making breakfast – the leftovers from the McKlintocks long gone, they were back to a diet of mostly protein. This morning he had disguised it as “oatmeal”, and even added some cinnamon and brown sugar from his private stash of spices. He considered throwing in a handful of raisins, then decided that he would wait until the crew was more like to appreciate it. Today, they were bound to be nervous.
He was just turning the “oatmeal” pot down to a simmer when both Tams wandered up from their quarters. “Good morning, heathens!” he called out warmly. “Ready to break your fast?”
“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day,” Simon grumbled, laying his red medical kit on the table and grabbing a bowl. “I don’t know if it actually counts as breakfast if you haven’t been to sleep.”
“Me? Nervous? A tad. Just a tiny little bit. I almost broke down and took a sleep aid, but I didn’t want to be grumpy this morning.”
“Yes,” Book said, dryly. “Wouldn’t want to have that.”
“Pancakes,” said River.
“Sorry, sweetie, no pancakes this morning. Oatmeal.”
“Pancakes,” said River again. Picking up a bowl and filling it with “oatmeal”.
“Just let her go, Book. She’s been a little whacky all night.”
“ ‘Little whacky,’ that’d be a medical term?”
“I can say it Latin if you like.”
“Pancakes,” said River again as she sat down and began to eat.
“You gonna be okay, boy? We got a fourteen hour trip ahead of us, just you and me. I’ll take it as a kindness if you would do your best to put on your happy face just for me.”
“ ‘Happy face?’” Simon asked, mystified.
“Religious term,” Book explained. “I can say it in Latin, if you like.”
“ ‘Happy face.’ I’m going to have a hard time with that today. Everyone is going into harm’s way, and it’s all because of my plan.”
“It’s a good plan. And it ain’t necessarily in harm’s way. They’re making a simple cargo pick-up. Not like holdin’ up a bank.”
“Good morning, felons!” Mal said cheerfully as he bounded into the kitchen. “Everybody ready to do some crime today?”
“I’m nauseated,” Simon complained.
“Couple of butterflies always aflutter before a big job,” Mal soothed.
“No, I feel physically ill. I know it’s psychosomatic, but that doesn’t help.” Simon sniffed. “The unbathed crew doesn’t help, either.”
“You’re the one who told us not to bathe. It’s necessary, you said,” Mal said with a smile. “Havin’ regrets?”
“How ‘bout you, little girl? Ready for your part?”
“Pancakes,” River replied.
“I’ll take that as a yes,” Mal said. “She gonna be a problem?”
“I don’t think so,” Simon said gloomily. “I gave Inara the pre-dosed meds she’ll need – a couple of days worth, just in case something goes—”
“Don’t even entertain that prospect, son,” Mal said. “Positive thinking. Always.”
“Then I positively hope that nothing goes wrong,” Simon said, glumly.
“Shouldn’t be no call for it,” Mal said. “It’s simple. You and Book go one way, sit down outside of the system for a while, maybe play some cards. Inara, she and Jayne are our backup. Somethin’ does go wrong, well, there she is.”
“A prostitute and a thug and my crazy sister. I feel so much better now.”
“I’m sitting right here, you know,” River said, accusingly.
Mal looked right at her. “Pancakes,” he said, plaintively.
“Pancakes,” River repeated.
“What the hell are you talking about?” Simon asked, exasperated.
Book chuckled and sat down next to River. “You just relax, child, and play your part. Shouldn’t even have to come out of the shuttle, everything goes well. And if it doesn’t, well, your brother and I will be right behind you.”
“Yes, an old priest and a small-framed physician. Four fists of flaming justice.”
“Don’t sell yourself short, Doc. I ‘spect anything goes wrong, you’ll bail us out.”
“Care to explain the logic underlying that conclusion?”
“’Cause it’s your plan. It goes wrong, you got a bona fide responsibility to come and get us. Anyway you can.” He looked at River. “That’s Latin.”
Simon just sighed, closed his eyes, and put his forehead on the table.
“Deep breaths, son, deep breaths,” Book encouraged.
“Pancakes,” River added sympathetically.
“Will. You. Stop. Saying That!” he said, opening his eyes, but not moving his face from the table. “I don’t care if you are brain damaged; you’ve been doing that same annoying stunt since we were kids! And you’re doing it just to aggravate me.”
“Pancakes,” River admitted. Simon sighed, then his breath caught.
“What,” he asked, face still on the table, “are those?”
Book leaned over. They were right between Simon’s face and his “oatmeal”.
“Oh, those,” he said, suspecting what was coming. “Those are Jayne’s toenail clippings.” Simon’s eyes opened wide.
“I’m gonna be ill,” he said, bolting from the table.
They had the decency to wait until he was out of earshot before they started laughing.
“You really doin’ that to annoy him?” Book asked River, when she calmed down.
“Oh, yes. He’s very easy to irk.”
“Noticed that myself,” Mal added.
“Still, kind of cruel to be settin’ on him, this being a big day and all,” Book said.
“He did this all the time . . . in the other life. He always got torqued up about something. Tests. Girls. Our parents. He’s like a koto string that’s wound too tight. If you don’t release some tension . . .”
“I’m just happy you ‘released it’ before he got into a shuttle with me,” Book said. “Don’t relish the notion of cleanin’ up sick, if I can avoid it.”
“Oh, he’ll be fine,” Mal said. “Just the jitters. He get’s out of line, you just knock him unconscious, Shepherd.”
“Don’t think I won’t,” Book warned.
“Too bad he didn’t finish his breakfast,” Mal commented. “Most important meal o’ the day.”
“Pancakes,” River agreed happily, finishing her oatmeal.
Somethin’ ‘bout that girl, Book thought philosophically as she loaded her dishes in the rack.
She just ain’t right.
On another spaceship, very far away, a short and grungy man wordlessly showed a tall and scruffy man a piece of print-out.
“Well ain’ tha’ . . . innerethtin’,” he remarked. “How far?”
“We push it, maybe ten hours. Fourteen, we go this speed.”
“We gonna lose our bonus if we’re late,” the short man warned.
“Puth it. Don’ nee no bonuth, thi be druthful.” His eye gleamed. “Gonna get all th’ bonuth we nee.”
Wednesday, August 17, 2005 7:25 AM
Wednesday, August 17, 2005 7:43 AM
Wednesday, August 17, 2005 8:06 AM
Wednesday, August 17, 2005 9:48 AM
Wednesday, August 17, 2005 11:27 AM
Wednesday, August 17, 2005 11:44 AM
Wednesday, August 17, 2005 12:43 PM
Wednesday, August 17, 2005 12:52 PM
Wednesday, August 17, 2005 3:40 PM
Wednesday, August 17, 2005 3:50 PM
Thursday, August 18, 2005 1:40 AM
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