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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
This takes place just after the events of Heartbroken, which is set between the events of "Objects in Space" and Serenity: The Movie. The intention is to wrap up the current interactions of the Serenity and Zirondelle crews, before careening off with Mal into a patch of darkness not entirely of his own making.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1696 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
Having safely reached Beaumonde, Zirondelle and Serenity both dock at the Trahan Orbiter. While Serenity is engaged in carrying refugees from the town of Sayabec down to the planet's surface, her captain, Malcolm Reynolds, scouts out a new employment opportunity for his ship and crew. He also happens across a pretty ugly remnant of the war that he didn't expect.
Author's Note:For those of you who may have read this before, it has been tweaked. For those of you who haven't, enjoy. Keep in mind that this does follow Heartbroken, so it might help to go back and read what I call "The Original Nine."
Heartbroken - Part 1
This is not meant by any means to infringe on anybody at any time. All Firefly characters belong to Joss Whedon et al. All Zirondelle Crew and Sayabec refugees are the result of my own overactive imagination.
Mei guanxi – It's Okay
da jia huo - Big Guy – Chinese
gan ni niang - motherfucker
Jiu – Let’s Move
shen jing bing - lunatic
CAJUN – Directly from the Cajun dictionary
Ralentir – Slow down
making the misere – being a troublesome nuisance
Vraiment - truly
Je suis une la barbe du bon dieu - I am a good and honest person
Je t'aime gros, boo. Joue - I love you very much, darling. Go Play
Oui, c'est vrai – Yes, it’s true
C'est bien l'enfant. N'ayez pas peur - It's all right child. Don't be afraid
HEARTBROKEN: Meili Long - Part 1
2510 – Serenity Valley, Planet Hera
The night before the battle was quiet, eerily so. In hindsight, some said the Feds liked biding their sweet time, gaining some devious enjoyment out of making the Independents sweat. Others said they needn't have bothered; that considering the odds of the day, there was no way the Independent forces could prevail.
The 57th Overlander Platoon was forced to have its meal cold in order to keep from giving away its position. Nonetheless, their A-grade radio operator still managed to get a secure signal so they could receive the expected Revolution broadcast. Standing close by, Sergeant Malcolm Reynolds watched the younger fella tweak his equipment, listening for Lord only knew what.
"Y'got it yet?" Reynolds asked.
"Not yet, Sarge," Private Green returned, as quickly as he had two minutes ago and without a single sign of tetchiness in his voice. Excellent quality to have in a good radio man--that extreme level of calm patience that made it so they could continue to transmit even when buildings started falling down around their ears--and Green had done that plenty. Reynolds had patience aplenty himself, but wasn't above testing how stalwartly it prevailed in young Donavan Green.
"Anytime, Private," Reynolds said.
"Nagging doesn't make it happen any faster, Sarge."
"No, but it does pass the time."
Green signed and muttered something about having a bone on for The Exile.
"What was that, Private?" Reynolds asked sharply.
"I said there was a cone blip in my secondary signal. Sergeant."
Reynolds suspected that was gibberish and had no real reference to radio jargon at all, but he let it slide. Sensing that he was indeed picking his way through Green's calm veneer, he tapped his foot instead.
Green angled his eyes upward and Reynolds only smiled back. He also got to see Green's eyes light up, indicating that the sounds on his earphones were the ones he'd been waiting for.
"Pipe down, Private."
Reynolds had been about to open his mouth and say the same thing, but naturally she beat him to it. Rising from a crouched position nearby, Zoë Allyene, most formidable corporal in he ‘verse, gave Green her most withering scowl. Reynolds was always expecting the next soldier she used it on to either self-destruct or melt into a pitiful puddle of ooze and was often disappointed when it didn't happen. One day soon, it would.
"Yes, Corporal." Green flipped a switch on his unit that turned on an external speaker, just as the broadcast began. Green himself brought a hand-held codebook next to the speaker, set to record every word, and the subliminal signal woven in underneath it.
"This is a Revolution Broadcast. The Revolution is the voice of the Independent movement and shall not suffer silence..."
Listening to the voice, Reynolds easily pictured the Revolution's Cortex image in his mind. It was always a pair of jade green eyes belonging to an exotic Asian woman. At least everyone assumed she was exotic. It was a favorite pastime of most of the service men to speculate on what The Exile looked like, what she wore, or in some moments of inebriation, theorized on what she would look like wearing nothing but what God gave her and a smile.
The broadcasts were shorter these days than they were in the beginning. Green had said something once about time increments and tech traces that had made Reynolds' brain freeze. That it was in her best interest to keep her time short was all he needed to understand.
"And to the forces currently located on Hera, we wish the best of all luck to you and your commanders," she said. "Your efforts will not go unrewarded."
"Now if she could just personally deliver some of that RE-ward," Bendis said, grinning lasciviously.
Reynolds reached over, removed the private's unsecured helmet and smacked him upside the head. Benidis looked up at him as Reynolds set his helmet back on sideways.
"This concludes the Revolution broadcast. The Revolution continues to be the voice of the Independent movement and shall speak for those trapped in the black by cruelty and oppression."
Green snapped the speaker's off switch almost immediately following the last word and before he activated the codebook transcription.
"Well?" Reynolds asked.
"Two seconds." A final recalibration and Green read the translation that appeared on the unit's tiny screen. "Air support pending. Ground troops to engage as previously ordered."
"Air support pending?" Zoe frowned as she turned to Reynolds. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"Means they're on their way," Mal declared. He unbuttoned the top button of his shirt and took out Adair's cross. "And we take this chunk of rock, same as before."
She continued to scowl even when he returned his own direct look.
"Why're we still talking about this?" Mal asked. Giving the cross a quick kiss for luck, as he always did after a broadcast and before any battle, he tucked it back inside his collar and sniffed the air. "Green, pass that along."
Turning, Reynolds started down the hill. "Alright, somebody down here has a cinnamon bar with my name on it. Fess up!"
NOW – Serenity and Zirondelle – Approaching the Trahan Orbiter of Beaumonde
It seems that I remember...I dreamed a thousand dreams...We'd face the days together...No matter what they'd bring...
She was all things. Love, hope, shelter... home--in ways he'd only dreamed of. For a time he thought he'd found it, but in the end he was left with only a shadow. He thought she was real--or more to the point, he'd let himself believe she could be.
A strength inside like I'd never known...Opened the door to life and let it go...
Friend, confidante, lover, even mother in all ways except the one, most important. He'd wanted to explore that with her too, to have children with her that had her eyes. He'd let himself believe it could happen. Foolish in his desire for happiness, he lost track of reality.
This sun may shine forever...Upon the back of love...A kingdom raised from ashes...And held within your arms...
And now it was over... she was leaving again, but for good this time. He'd never get a chance to fight with her, to tease her until her eyes flashed at him, to seek out that velvety soft spot under the polished veneer and make her painfully aware of it.
And should the rain break through the trees...We'll find a shelter there and never leave...
He wanted her to feel him... all of him. The dream was gone.
Damn her to hell for running away. Damn me... for letting her.
* * *
Malcolm Reynolds opened his eyes and forced himself to take in the vacant space of Shuttle One. Would he ever be able to walk inside it and not think of Inara Serra? Well, not now, and most likely not ever. As they were fast approaching Beaumonde, the cloud of denial he'd existed in for the past few weeks had dissipated entirely. In less than eight hours, Inara was leaving Serenity for good and that was supposed to be the end of it. Only it wasn't that simple--never had been, really, when it came to it.
Thinking on how many times they'd bantered about her leaving, Mal realized it had become one more way to goad her, to make her beautiful eyes spark in defiance. He never truly believed that she would ever make good on her threat. Now he was left with just the memory of her--every moment spent in her presence either pleasantly or otherwise. Mostly it was otherwise, but that was when Mal found himself appreciating her ire all the more.
The shuttle still held her elusive scent and probably would for a good long while before someone else came along to change it. Inara's things had been removed four days ago, just after the wedding, and were currently crammed into unoccupied crew quarters on the Zirondelle. Without the fancy drapery, elegant furnishings and other Companion-required appointments, the shuttle was really no more than a giant and very hollow metal container with a cockpit on one end and an engine on the other. More stricken by the starkness than he expected, Mal was torn between wanting her gone and getting it done, and hauling her back by her hair if he had to, so she could return all her fancy things to where they belonged and put things back to rights. But there was nothing for that now.
Hearing soft footsteps behind him, for an agonizing second Mal thought maybe it might be her. That she was coming in to tell him she'd reconsidered and had decided not to leave after all. Maybe she'd even go ahead and tell him the real reason why she had made the decision in the first place, and what the gorram hell it had to do with her views on leadership and strength.
"Uh... Cap'n? Sorry to interrupt and all..."
He breathed a sigh and looked over his shoulder to verify that it wasn't an exotic brunette in a silk gown standing behind him, but his excessively adorable ship's mechanic in coveralls, a brand new crazy-quilt jacket and Asian-style sandals.
Kaylee Frye gave him an apologetic smile and gestured hesitantly back toward the shuttle's boarding hatch. "I... um, I knocked."
Mal made an attempt at a reassuring smile as he moved toward her. "Mei guanxi. S'pose you're here because Wash just got the approach call from the orbiter?"
She nodded and turned a thumb back toward the hatch. "Cap'n Cariveau's looking for you too. He's waiting down on the deck."
That in itself was some cause for surprise. "Finally found his way out of the bridal suite, did he? About time." He made it to that smile, but only about halfway. Then gave a resigned sigh. "Alright. We might as well get the show on the road."
Kaylee's smile turned nostalgic. She had already taken in the shuttle as well and seemed equally as uncomfortable as Mal. "Hope the next folks have as good a taste as Inara," she commented softly.
Not appreciating the sadness in Kaylee's eyes whatsoever, Mal couldn't help giving comfort. She had a way of pulling out a brotherly aspect of his personality that he hadn't been aware of before, what with being an only child. Without a word, he moved to her as she turned toward the hatchway and put an arm around her slim shoulders to give her a quick hug. He dropped a kiss on top of her head for good measure, and then let her go again so she could go ahead of him through the hatch and out into the cargo bay.
Once they'd gotten within shuttle range of the orbiter two days before, Kaylee and Zirondelle's mechanic, Cezar Garzon, had made a quick hop to pick up the circuit needed to fix Zirondelle's sabotaged nav comm. Once Zirondelle was back online and fully operational, her engines had been put into use to push both ships along, giving Serenity a much-needed rest. It was odd, not hearing Serenity's engine plant working, or being able to feel the usual vibration in the deck as he stepped out, and Mal was resigned to the notion that he wasn't going get used to it anytime soon. On the other hand, seeing Serenity's cargo bay filled with warm little groupings of displaced families from Sayabec was beginning to feel downright normal.
Before Captain and Mrs. Cariveau had sequestered themselves in quarters for a makeshift honeymoon, Mal had offered to keep the two ships synced up until the approach call was received. Neither ship had the personnel capacity to make everyone as comfortable as they should be, so keeping the ships synced had been beneficial for everyone. As a result, there were folk spread out between the ships so that only two thirds remained in Serenity's cargo bay, and thereby turning both ships into a little makeshift space colony. Mal had spent the last few evenings moving through the bay and getting to know the folks from Cariveau's hometown, and he'd seen his crew doing the same. Even Jayne hadn't groused about the number of passengers on board, and that was saying something.
Taking the steps down from the shuttle pad, Mal easily spotted Cariveau at the base of the stairs. Leaning back against the railing, arms folded, Zirondelle's captain looked supremely content as he watched the folks milling about the bay. Cariveau was the kind of fella who would stand out in a crowd with that reddish-blond hair and above-average height that brought him eye-to-eye with Mal. He was also wearing his matched pair of 357s in dual shoulder holsters, just as Mal was wearing his own side arm.
A week ago, if anyone had even suggested that Mal could be at ease with the notion that another captain was carrying firearms on board his boat, Mal would have declared them touched in the head. Considering what had transpired since Serenity answered Zirondelle's distress call, however, Mal was comforted by Cariveau's show of force every bit as much as the Sayabec were likely to be. Thankfully, the days since the wedding had been ten times less eventful than the day or so beforehand, but Mal wasn't about to hold his breath on that score.
"There's a pool running on board concerning you," Mal said loudly.
Casually, Rene Cariveau turned to look up as Mal came down the catwalk steps near the airlock. Freshly bathed and shaved, Cariveau appeared ten times more alert than when he first came on board, indicating that he and his bride had gotten some well-needed sleep at some point during their brief honeymoon.
"Is there?" Cariveau asked. A half-smile curved his mouth. "Concerning what?"
Mal returned that smile and offered a nod that to anyone else looked like a simple greeting. Between captains, however, it meant, all is well, situation normal. "Concerning the time frame that you and Adair would finally come up for air."
Cariveau chuckled, but didn't blush. "And how did you do?"
"The usual," Mal said. "Which is to say, I lost. My crew had their names in on it too, though. One of us is bound to get close."
"Actually, Cap'n, I think I might know who did win."
Looking down, both captains saw Kaylee beaming up at them. Seeing her delight, Mal still couldn't resist the urge to tease.
"I get the feeling she might have had an inside track," Mal said, and sent Cariveau a narrowed-eye look of pure suspicion.
"Now, don't go looking at me that way," Cariveau replied. "If we were anywhere else, I would still be shut up in quarters until we reached Trahan--and long after, in point of fact."
"And that there would be the exact reason why I lost--Adair's stamina being what it is and all," Mal replied. Grinning at Cariveau's half-serious glare, Mal turned to Kaylee again. "I suppose there's going to be another party dress on board sometime in my near future?"
Kaylee all but bounced up three steps to stand just one step below him as she gushed. "Actually, if we can swing it, how shiny would it be if we could get a new coil, just to have on hand? I mean the pot weren’t big or nothing, but it could cover a third of it--Oh! Otherwise, there's a super shiny system upgrade for the computer's security and self-diagnostics. It’s slasher tech, but the ratings on it are out of the ‘verse!"
Mal was grinning, glad that Kaylee's untiring cheerfulness remained rock steady. Out of the corner of his eye, Mal noticed that Cariveau was rubbing one hand his mouth as if checking to see if his beard needed seeing to. As the man was freshly shaven, the act was irrelevant and only nearly concealed the fact that Cariveau was trying to hide a sudden irrepressible urge to snicker.
"I'll leave that to your capable hands," Mal said. Kaylee responded with an immediate squeal of delight, followed by a quick peck on Mal's cheek and even kicked one sandaled foot up in the air. Then she hopped down to dash off in search of the enterprising rig worker who had gotten the pool started in the first place.
"Cezar is absolutely correct, she is truly effervescent," Cariveau said. He gave Mal a perplexed look. "How do you live with such joie de vivre all the time?"
"She saves most of it for the engine room," Mal answered. "And she knows to stay out of my way until I've had coffee in the morning. Beyond that there's really no defensive action worth taking.”
“La force de nature,” Cariveau said.
Mal had to nod, figuring it meant the same in English. “Ain’t no way of fighting it," he said in agreement.
"Remarkable," Cariveau commented. It was at that moment that the same group of boys Jayne had been marshalling came running from the Zirondelle side of the two ships. The leader had Serenity's basketball clutched to his chest and it appeared he was being pursued by his four brothers and three others Mal didn't recognize. Bringing up the rear, screaming like a banshee as he came, was Jordain, Cariveau's own four year-old son.
"On the other hand, seeing you've got that da jia huo to contend with, I reckon we're pretty much even."
"I wondered where he was," Cariveau said, then raised his voice. "Jordain! Ralentir!"
Stopping dead in his tracks, the boy turned, saw his father and squealed, "PAPA!" before he bolted over and plowed into Cariveau's legs. As the boy grinned up at his father, Mal noted his round cheeks were slathered with something brown and sticky looking. Nonetheless, Cariveau picked Jordain up and gave the boy a smacking kiss on the cheek. Carefully tasting the stickiness, he frowned and gave his son an urgent look as he asked, "Cinnamon brownies?"
Jordain nodded vigorously. "Oui! Roux has made ze fresh batch."
"Ah, très bon. Now." He gave his son a serious look. "Have you been making the misere for Roux and Zephi?"
The handsome boy shook his blond head just as vigorously; complete innocence shining in his deep brown eyes. "Non, Papa."
Cariveau raised his eyebrows in askance, not the least bit swayed by his son's appearance. "Vraiment?"
"Oui, Papa. Je suis une la barbe du bon dieu !"
Whatever the boy said with such earnest gave cause to make Cariveau laugh out loud, kiss his son again and set him back on his feet, adding a soft love-pat on the seat of his little brown bib overalls for good measure. "Je t'aime gros, boo. Jouer."
After he ran off, the captains stood together, watching the boys weave their way skillfully around groupings of Sayabec before Cariveau frowned and asked, "Are there rules to this game?"
Mal had been giving that some serious thought himself. "Near as I can tell, one of 'em takes off with the ball and keeps going hell bent with the rest on his heels till he falls down or gets caught. Then the rest just try to sort of smish him solid-like into the deck plates." Mal looked at Cariveau. "I think they call it 'Smear the Fed,' but I ain't entirely certain."
"You may be right. Those five redheads are the Allemand boys," Cariveau said. "Their parents both served in the Independent forces. Etienne was ground troops, Bridget was a pilot. They took turns--first him for a year, then her and so on, only she did not return. Now Etienne is raising that mob on his own."
"Huh." Mal watched them go, figuring that the youngest was about seven or eight, which could mean he only barely got a peek at his mother before the Fall and likely didn't recall the occasion. "All that and they still manage to have five boys?"
"You have heard what they say about absence and the heart, oui? Now, shall we go sample the cinnamon brownies?"
Cariveau started out, turning around to climb up the catwalk steps past Mal before he could say yea or nay and leaving him in the position of having to catch up.
"Hate to confess," Mal said as he matched his strides to Cariveau's. "But I've indulged in the little tasties pretty heavily already. Roux's a damn fine cook."
"The best," Cariveau agreed loudly. Turning around, he let Mal get in close and lowered his voice. "I have a notion though that he could not get the dark rum sauce out for you as he is under orders from his wife to refrain from even making it."
"Rum sauce? That does sound intriguing," Mal admitted.
"Adair did once describe it as better than sex," Cariveau said.
Needless to say, Mal's interest was piqued. "Is that a fact?"
At Cariveau's frank look of confirmation, Mal quickened his steps a bit to accompany him across the catwalks and up again toward the galley.
"And how is it you get such special dispensation?" Mal asked.
"He has no other way to compensate me for transport, and refuses to accept the notion that he does not need to."
"So... he's using you as a means to defy his wife and you're letting him?"
Cariveau nodded once. "Absolument."
"And what is it about the sauce that puts the little woman off?"
"I think it has to do with how much tasting Roux puts the rum through while he's making it. An excellent chef, he may be, but Roux cannot hold his liquor to save his own soul."
Thinking on Roux's wife, Zephryne, who was every bit as formidable as Zoe in a way that was truly frightening, Mal was impressed. "You either have more guts than I thought, or you're just plain crazy."
"When you taste it, you will understand."
When they reached the top of the catwalk and turned to go into the forward hallway that led to the bridge and the galley, Cariveau paused to let Mal proceed him. Mal inclined his head in a gesture of acknowledgement as he went and turned left. Stepping down into the galley, he took in his surroundings.
Serenity's galley had become a public social gathering place for the Sayabec. Coffee was kept on at all times and there had been a bounty of sweets available since Roux invaded Serenity's kitchen. A game of dominos was in progress at one end of the dining table and Ma Jong on the other. The Laurents--Solange, Del and Ben--were in a musicians huddle in the corner lounge with instruments in-hand. Del, Mal noticed, had what looked like a mandolin with him instead of the squeezebox he favored for the Acadian-preferred Zydeco that had been played at Cariveau's wedding.
Seeing them come in, Solange's face lit up and she lifted her violin to play the opening strands of the Wedding March. As everyone else followed her gaze, Cariveau smiled and performed a rather genteel bow, folding one arm across his middle and the other across the small of his back. He stopped at the table to shake hands and accept well wishes from the old timers playing dominos, then moved toward the lounge.
The Zirondelle's first mate, Ellis Rhodes was there with the Laurents and stood up, setting aside a guitar of his own. Seeing them face each other for the first time since the wedding, Mal noticed some tension between the two. He figured they had yet to sit down and talk out the matter of Ellis' desertion from Alliance service and what that would mean to the future of the Zirondelle. For now, the two clasped hands and embraced like brothers. They exchanged a few words in Cajun that likely had to do with Ellis' still-healing knife wound, courtesy of another old family friend. Complicated situations all around, and for the first time since the Tams came on board, Mal was feeling a little less burdened, comparatively speaking.
Cariveau moved back to join Mal. "He's healing well."
"Yeah, Simon does know his business." Mal took a moment to watch the Laurents watch each other's hands work the strings on their instruments; strumming, plunking and pulling notes that sounded random, except that Ellis seemed to be making notes on a sheaf of paper on the table in front of him. His guitar had four heavier strings on it rather than six and had a considerably deeper tone. Mal decided they had to be up to something, a new tune most likely.
"Music's been in nice, long supply," he commented to Cariveau. "They can't seem to stop playing. Don't suppose you'd consider loaning them out to us?"
"That you will need to take up with them," Cariveau advised. "They have been playing professionally in Sayabec and surrounding towns for the past year."
"Yeah?" Mal frowned thoughtfully. He'd noticed an unhappy trend among the Sayabec and decided to garner some confirmation. "With that kind of reputation going, they probably could have made something out of Alliance occupation."
Cariveau shook his head vehemently at the very notion. "They would not stand for it. They lost their father and a brother in the war. Their mother died broken-hearted, leaving the three of them on their own."
Mal's frown deepened as he looked at Cariveau and asked, "Is there anyone in Sayabec who didn't lose someone to the war?"
Thinking on it a bit, Cariveau finally nodded. "Larkin Hague, maybe," he said. "But I don't know that much about him."
Mal's expression darkened. "Only thing that gan ni niang lost with the war is gainful employment."
Cariveau did not argue the point, and moved toward the kitchen area. Following him, Mal decided this was as good a time as any for a captain-like discussion. "I've been talking things over with the mechanics and it occurs to me you'll need assistance getting everyone down-planet. Cezar says the Dragonfly class has issues with planet-side landing. Your cargo-to-ship mass out of whack or some such?"
"Oui, c'est vrai. The engines can handle a landing with the full load of the freight pods, but not the full load plus eighty-seven passengers. We also can't take off at all unless we're empty."
"And you're not delivering your load and these folks to the same place?"
Cariveau shook his head. "No. The load is going to New Dunsmere, the people to Manchec, where Doriane's mother lives." He drew a half-circle in the air to show opposing points. "Opposite sides of the planet. Our shuttle has the same capacity as yours, so that would also take time and more fuel than we can spare." Cariveau breathed a sigh. "And then, of course, there is the matter of obtaining work visas. Hague made certain assurances to that. He was in the process when we had to cancel all communications to save power."
"He's still in the process," Mal said. His expression darkened at the very mention of Larkin Hague, turncoat on both sides of the war who seemed by all appearances to have reformed thanks to his Sayabec-born wife. Mal wasn’t about to believe it knew Cariveau shared the sentiment. "We gave him a spot to get it done and I've had Zoë and Jayne and Ellis all on shifts watch dogging him. Boy's got fairly shady resources, but they're effective. He's tenacious as a terrier to boot, but I ain't trusting him with any bit of my ship. You might do well to do the same."
Cariveau was nodding. "I had Ellis watching him until our power failed." Then he added a slightly rueful shrug. "Beggars cannot be choosers."
Taking down a couple of cups, Mal poured coffee for each of them and handed one to Cariveau. "And I also figure those folks likely can't afford the lodging fees on Trahan."
"You would be correct," Cariveau agreed. Lifting his cup for a sip, he nodded toward Roux while touching his right index finger to the side of his nose. Roux winked back and moved to the stove. Turning on the propane, he lit a burner, then settled a small covered kettle over the flame and adjusted accordingly.
"Puts you in something of a sorry state, doesn't it?"
Cariveau raised a wry eyebrow at Mal. "You have an uncanny knack for stating the obvious."
Mal returned a cocky grin. "So I talked it over with my crew and we decided the folks who are still here can just stay where they are for now. We'll dock next door to you and they can stay on... on board." The aroma drifting immediately up from the kettle snuck up on him. Mal took one breath, then another much deeper one. Frowning with suspicion, he looked to Cariveau in askance, only to see the other man smile as he blew over his cup to cool the rich, hickory laced coffee. Meanwhile, Roux removed the kettle, turned off the flame and set it aside as he finished setting two of the brownies out on plates.
Mal watched Roux drizzle sauce artfully over each brownie while returning to his train of thought. "Then once the visas get done, we'll take those folks down to the surface," he said and turned to smile at Cariveau. "Easy peasy."
"It does sound deceptively simple," Cariveau said. He frowned thoughtfully. "I would think Boss Kang would object to losing his lodging fees."
"I got myself an in with Kang," Mal said. "As it happens, he's got work for me when we dock, so I worked it into the deal. He'll make a good show of fussing about it to save face and all, but that's about it."
"Someday I imagine we will have to discuss your fee schedule for service above and beyond the call."
Mal frowned at him in confusion at first, before he recalled that Cariveau had been incommunicado for nearly four days. "Did you see that stack of crates under the catwalk in the cargo bay? Folks keep telling me they're mine for services... services..." He turned to the cook. "Roux, how's that go again?"
"Yeah, that. There's enough strawberry preserves down there to keep Kaylee happy for an E-ternity."
Cariveau grinned. "I did see them, and I should tell you they would not be at all offended if you sold a case or two, or even the entire lot. In fact, you might make more than you think. Sayabec preserves are well known on Beaumonde, often served in the finest establishments in New Dunsmere."
Roux brought both plates over to the counter and gave each captain a fork. Cariveau took his fork eagerly, carved off a bite and twisted it through the sauce on his plate before popping it in his mouth. He chewed slowly and nodded poignantly to Roux, saying something in French that made Roux grin downright lasciviously.
Watching the two men, Mal wasn't so sure anymore about what he was about to get himself into. Still, it did smell mighty inviting.
Cariveau lifted his eyebrows as he watched Mal carve off his first bite, swirl it in the decoratively drizzled sauce and pop it in his mouth. Mal only got to chew twice before the flavor exploded, completely overwhelming his senses. It was somewhat caramel-like, but beyond that--sweet and sultry all at once, the rich rum flavor was there, taking hold of the chocolate and cinnamon and turning it into something that couldn’t be called anything but sinful. Watching pleasure play across Mal's face, Cariveau grinned before he took a second bite of his own.
Mal chewed carefully, savoring the taste of it as long as possible before he swallowed. He'd been taught to never talk with his mouth full, after all. "Oh... this is not meant for the religiosity at all, is it?"
Cariveau chuckled in agreement. Still grinning enormously, Roux slapped both captains on the back before he headed back into the kitchen. In the corner lounge area, the plunking, fiddling and chitchat started to swing into something a bit more substantial.
"You know"--Mal broke the cardinal rule to speak around his second savory bit of brownie and sauce--"I'm not certain this concoction of his is rightly legal. You might be doing him a favor, helping him hide it like you're doing."
"I consider it my personal duty."
"As well you should."
Ellis and the Laurents finally found the tune they were looking for. Together, Ben and Ellis played a soft harmony that reminded of warm sunrises and crystal clear blue skies as Del put in a soft counterpoint. Then after a couple of measures, Ben started to sing in an easy, smooth tenor
You got to leave now, you got to go alone
You got chase a dream, one that's all your own
Before it slips away
When you're flyin' high, take my heart along
I'll be the harmony to every lonely song
That you learn to play
Ellis and Dell joined him to harmonize.
When you're soarin' through the black
I'll be your solid ground
Take every chance you dare
I'll still be there when you come back home.
When you come back home.
Solange took it from there in a bridge that made her violin sing. She and Ben shared a look and Solange gave him a nod to start the next verse.
I'll keep lookin' out, awaitin' your return
My greatest fear will be that you will crash and burn
And I won't feel your fire.
I'll be on the other hand that always holds the line
Connectin' in between your sweet heart and mine
I'm strung out on that wire
I'll be the other end
To hear you when you call
Angel, you were born to fly
If you get too high I'll catch you when you fall
I'll catch you when you fall.
I'll be the other end
To hear you when you call
Angel, you were born to fly
If you get too high I'll catch you when you fall
I'll catch you when you fall.
As Del took his turn on the second bridge, Mal caught himself thinking of Inara and what she might look like in the golden glow of an autumn sunrise. Seemed he couldn't get through a day--hell, he couldn't get through a whole hour--without something coming along to remind him of her. The tune itself had him thinking of her in happier times, when they used to talk as friends. Mal had to wonder how long the memory of her laughter and her smile would haunt him. He barely heard Ben finish the final verses.
Your memory's the sunshine every new day brings
I know the sky is calling,
Angel let me help your with your wings.
When you're soarin' through the black
I'll be your solid ground
Take every chance you dare
I'll still be there when you come back home.
Take every chance you dare
I'll still be there when you come back home
When you come back home.
"That's a nice tune," Mal commented, trying to sound nonchalant. Everyone in the galley gave the musicians a round of applause. "Right nice. Not the same as they've been playing."
"They have an audition on the Selene. I'm told there is a mid-class lounge on board looking for new talent," Cariveau said. He allowed a significant pause before adding. "Inara arranged it for them."
The chocolate, cinnamon and rum tastiness that had him in thrall just a moment ago was taking on a flavor that more closely resembled sawdust in Mal's mouth. He and Inara had managed to avoid each other as well as possible in such close quarters, which amounted to glimpsing each other from across the cargo bay from time to time and going in opposite directions. She had even changed lodgings, taking up passenger quarters on Zirondelle.
Seeing as how Cariveau and Inara had a friendlier association, Mal had wanted to ask about her, and what reason she might have given for leaving Serenity. More to the point, Cariveau seemed to be fighting a strong impulse of his own to discuss the situation, but Mal definitely wasn't ready to have it in the midst of a bunch of gossip-prone Acadians in the middle of the galley.
Leave it to Zoë to save the day, striding purposefully in from the direction of the engine room. "Captain."
Looking toward the hatchway that led to the bridge, Mal saw his first officer step down into the Galley. Zoë Washburne wasn't the most cheery of women, certainly not compared to Kaylee by any means. Still, she had moods same as anyone else and expressed them pretty plainly, particularly when she was concerned about something.
Mal could recognize what her husband called "Zoë's danger face" from across the room, and as she drew close, Mal asked quietly, "Something amiss?"
Zoë kept her voice low key. "Kaylee called up from the engine room. She asked for you, and you too, Captain."
Cariveau's eyebrows went up when Zoë looked directly at him. "Me?"
"Yes sir; seems that friend of yours, Armand, wandered into our engine room just now." Zoë lifted an eyebrow as her sole show of concern over that turn of events. "She thought you might want to be notified."
Mal and Cariveau shared a look of trepidation and clicked into full-on captain mode simultaneously. Without a word, Cariveau picked up both plates and moved to put them over on the back counter. He spoke to Roux quietly, then patted the master chef on the shoulder as he took a finger full of the sauce from the kettle. He turned back, raising an eyebrow at Mal as he stuck that finger in his mouth.
Like father like son, Mal figured. "You wanna take this?"
Cariveau shook his head as he swallowed. "This is on your ship. Lead and I'll follow."
"Right then. Zoë, you follow us up and stand at the door, keep anyone else from straying in," Mal said.
Zoë nodded smartly. "Yes sir."
Mal looked Cariveau in the eye. "You and me, we go in casual-like. I'll hang back a bit, let you handle him."
"Assuming I can," Cariveau said. "I haven't seen him since before the wedding. We left Jordain with Roux and his wife since we figured Czar and Siobhan would have their hands full already."
"Well, all I can say is he's been quiet," Mal said, and Zoë added a nod of her own in confirmation. "The Doc's keeping him pretty well snowed, but can't spare too much in the way of meds, with our supply being low. Armand's been up and about some, but didn't quite have all the porch lights on, if you get my meaning. Hasn't wandered much past the dormitories before now."
"His folks have been keeping tabs on him, almost constantly," Zoë added. She looked directly at Mal. "But if he's anything like River, he could ghost past them without their even knowing."
Mal nodded. "That he could." Then he noticed Cariveau's scowl. "Shénme?"
"One day, you are going to have to enlighten me as to the nature of River's more challenging qualities," Cariveau said.
Mal traded quick looks with Zoë before he said, "Careful what you ask for." Then he nodded to them both. "Jiu."
They headed out, up the steps and into the passageway to the engine room while Mal wondered if Cariveau was harboring the same sense of déjà vu as he was. This situation was just a little too similar to the last confrontation with Armand in Zirondelle's engine room for Mal's taste. They'd gotten lucky that time, but Mal wasn't feeling particularly overconfident. There were too many variables to consider, and most of them were going on in Armand's head.
Then he heard a soft, soothing voice that made his heart pitch.
"C'est bien l'enfant. N'ayez pas peur."
It was Inara's voice, coming from the direction of the engine room where a known shen jing bing was already in disturbingly close quarters with Kaylee.
Forgetting the previous soft-talk and big stick plan, Mal shouldered his way past Cariveau and drew his gun as he headed for the engine room.
Continued in Part 2
"Gone to Earth" by David Sylvian - I always play David Sylvian when writing Firefly.
"When You Come Back Down" by Nickel Creek; Tim O'Brien & Danny O'Keef (Forerunner Music Group), slightly modified to fit the 'verse. And in case you're wondering - yes, I have "cast" Chris Thile and Sara and Sean Watkins of Nickel Creek as the Laurents.
Wednesday, December 14, 2005 4:07 PM
Thursday, December 15, 2005 8:31 AM
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