BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - ROMANCE

KAYNARA

Bedlam: Part 12A
Saturday, December 17, 2005

There’s Christmas. There’s sex. There’s stuff not nearly as pleasant as Christmas or sex. My attempt at a two-part season finale--this is part 1. R, I suppose. As usual, Serenity *spoilers.*


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 4484    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

Bedlam: Part 12A

By Kaynara

*** It’s Joss’s verse--I just borrow it. Sorry, Joss, know you like to write season finales yourself....

*** Three days. How had three days and--Mal looked at his watch--thirteen hours become his cutoff point? Hell, was a time he’d gone almost three years, not that he liked to admit it in particular. But now, after just three days, he was well on the way to losing his mind. He had a pretty sneaking suspicion this was all her fault. Girl had to bounce around in those little outfits. Breathy baby-doll tops and those pants--oh, wo de ma, those gorram pants. She was killing him with white denim. From his seat at the table, he watched her sidle up to the counter, pour water over ice. She stretched up on tip toes, reached for something on a high shelf. He was staring at her ass. Dammit, Kaylee had seen him starin’. Now she was giggling into her potatoes, and he was on the verge of embarrassing his own self if he tried to stand. Tian de ma, he wasn’t gonna make it through the night. Worst of it was they weren’t even arguin’. Not like he’d asked and she’d refused. Matter of it was, he hadn’t asked, hadn’t even gone to her shuttle. Hell, they were bein’ downright civil, friendly even, jokin’ around, teasin’ each other in that way they had. They just weren’t bein’ friendly in the pelvic sense. Didn’t help him bein’ surrounded by hormones on parade. Just across the table, Kaylee and the doc was practically sittin’ on each other. River wasn’t much better, always tryin’ to be near Jayne when her brother weren’t around. Inara seemed unperturbed, said River was just learnin’. Blossoming, she’d said. That what they call it nowadays? Mal had asked, watching River stick her hand in Jayne’s back pocket, grab his wooly hat and run away giggling. As for Jayne...well, Jayne was always hungry and horny. But he was still a mite scared of the little albatross. That was something. “Well.” Mal pounded a hand on the table. “Gots to check some things with the, uh, engine.” “Nothin’ wrong with the engine, Cap’n. She’s runnin’ shiny.” “Really? Thought I heard a funny noise in there earlier.” “What kinda noises?” Kaylee watched him expectantly over the rim of her glass. “I, uh, well, sort of a chokin’.” “Chokin’, Cap’n?” “Maybe a rumblin’.” He cleared his throat, tried to clear his plate. “I’ll get it; I’m up anyway.” Inara leaned over his shoulder, her hair falling forward against his face. He felt her breasts press into his back, had to work at swallowing. “I, uh, ‘spose I best be checkin’ on that engine growl.” “Let me know how that works out,” Kaylee muttered. “The growl.” “Right. Will do.” Inara fumed silently, scrubbing dishes at the sink. Ren si de fo zu, what was wrong with that man? Hair in the face should have worked. Even if the hair for some reason missed, then the soft press of breasts against his back should have sent the man over the edge. He hadn’t touched her since she’s informed him of the Guild’s decision. For one naive little moment, she’d thought it would make things simpler. Silly, Inara chided herself as the cool water poured over her fingers. Her job had acted as an imposed complication, a convenient blockade stoppering any tricky emotional entanglements. The obvious barriers torn down, they were left with their inner ones. Complicated as things were--and with Mal it was always complicated--she missed him. Not just the sex, but the intimacy. And the sex. Dammit. “Nara? You alright over there?” Inara turned to the others, smile in place. “Of course,” she said brightly. “Well, ‘spose I best go check on the cap’n ‘fore he breaks somethin’.” Kaylee kissed Simon quickly. “I’ll see you later, Mister.” “Mmm.” Simon caught Zoe and Inara watching him with amusement. He blushed, cleared his throat. “Zoe? I thought maybe, if you like, we could do an ultrasound this evening. You’re about four and half months now, right?” Jayne and River had wandered off, so it was just Inara and the doctor at the table. Inara, sensing she was intruding, started to rise. Zoe reached out a hand to touch her arm, halt her there. “That sounds like a good idea, Doctor,” she said, eyes on Inara’s. “Will you come too?” Inara smiled, slid her hand down to clasp Zoe’s. “I’d love to come.” *** Having been unceremoniously kicked out of his own engine room under threat of death, Mal decided to wander about the ship. ‘Haps he’d find Jayne or the doctor, see if they were game for a hand of cards. ‘Course the doctor likely had other means of entertainin’ his self on a lonely December night. Restocking the infirmary. Writing whatever it was he wrote in that gorram journal of his. Bedding Mal’s pretty little mechanic. What in the name of Ye su had happened to his little boat? He could recall a time when things had been simple, sensible. He and Zoe did the jobs, Wash flew ‘em out of harm’s way, and Little Kaylee kept Serenity in the sky. Then he’d stumbled upon Jayne, or Jayne’s gun anyhow, and the big mercenary joined the crew. Even then, life still had a kind of logic. So his best friend started smilin’ and arrivin’ late to breakfast, face all a’flush. So Wash shaved off that gorram bun mustache and tended to hum in the cockpit. Mal was still captain of the ship, life still made a kind of sense to him out there in the Black. And then she showed up. Gorramit, not a day had been simple or sensible since she came to see his shuttle, bringing with her trouble and complications and the scent of lilacs in summer. And now she was leaning against the exam table in the center of his infirmary, chin resting in her hand, eyes fixed on a spot on the wall. She looked up, saw him watching her. “Hi,” she said, surprised. “Didn’t mean to interrupt.” He hesitated, tried to decide whether or not to turn and walk away. Why was it he could never just walk away? “You, uh, waitin’ on the doc? Everythin’ okay?” “Not exactly,” she admitted before she could stop herself. She was too confused to be okay. Once, Inara’s life had been very simple. She lived in a part of Sihnon that was lush and mild. She’d had a beautiful bedroom suite that couldn’t fly away without her. The priestesses praised her strength, her work ethic, her focus and her dedication. They called her a quick study, a fast learner. Clearly, those wise women hadn’t known her as well as they thought. Bright girls didn’t take to bed with embittered old soldiers, no matter how swai. “I, uh.” Mal was fidgeting uncomfortably. “This some sort o’ female troubles?” She blinked at him, wondering whether he’d actually just said that. “Yes, Mal,” she said finally. “Some sort of female trouble. The kind that plagues every silly, idealistic heterosexual woman at one time or another. It’s called man.” She started for the door but he held up an arm, blocked her exit. She sighed, folded her arms over her chest. “I’m too tired to fight tonight.” “Wasn’t really aimin’ to.” “What is it you want from me, Mal?” she burst out. “What do I want? Oh, this is just....Hell, never asked you for nothing you weren’t already lookin’ to give me. Never pushed you for anythin’ more.” “Dammit, Mal! Maybe that’s the problem.” “You...you are makin’ the kinda sense that ain’t, darlin’.” “You wanted me when you couldn’t have me. We--both of us--wanted what we knew was impossible, or at the very least difficult. Complicated. And now...now....” “Dammit, I still want you, Inara.” “You don’t know what you want half the time!” “Ha! Well, okay, may be some truth to that. But I ain’t wrong about this, Inara.” She looked away. “Inara.” He tilted her chin up to meet his eyes. “Why don’t you do somethin’ completely at odds with womanly tradition and tell me what you’re thinkin’.” She felt his hand touch her throat, his eyes get inside her. And suddenly she was just too tired for lies. “I’m afraid you’ll never be able to get past the life I had before, Mal. I’m afraid that you’ll always see me as just a--” “Hey.” He cleared his throat. “Inara, I’m first to admit I ain’t much good at the touchy-feely stuff. But you’ve got a right to know I don’t think of you that way, don’t think you’re just a whore....never did, even when I said otherwise.” “I’m not some innocent, sacrificial virgin either, Mal.” “Thank God for that.” “I’m a big girl, and I don’t want you treating me like something fragile, tip toeing around me.” “ ‘Course not.” He took a step closer, rested his hands on her waist. “Ain’t nothin’ fragile about ya. ‘Cept maybe this part here.” He kissed her just behind the ear, bit lightly at the lobe. “But, maybe you did have a point. Just this once.” His hands glided over her back, began to drift lower He slid his hands into her back pockets, kneading her bottom through the thin layer of fabric. “Remind me what that was?” “I, um.” Inara was having some trouble focusing. “Perhaps I don’t know exactly what I’m doing here. Perhaps this--you and I--is a little unfamiliar to me. I’ve never dealt particularly well with complications, Mal.” “Darlin’, you and me both,” he murmured before he caught her lips with his. He hadn’t kissed her in three days and fifteen hours. He wished he had the patience to do it right now, go slow, but his hands were already cupping her through those incredible, evil pants. He pushed her up against the wall, fumbled with her zipper, unused to her in anything but a dress. She twisted her fingers in his hair, sucked lightly on his full lower lip. She wanted him closer, tighter, pressed against her. She pulled his suspenders off his shoulders, used them to tug him nearer. She’d never, ever admit it, but, ta ma de, she found his suspenders sexy. She reached for his belt, then stopped, suddenly remembering where they were. Reluctantly, she pulled away from his mouth. “Mal, wait.” He sucked in air, trying to catch his breath. “I’m sorry, were we still fightin’?” “No, not fighting.” He lowered his forehead to hers. “Good, you had me worried there a minute.” He lifted her arms and pulled her shirt over her head. Surely the odds of someone walking in on them were slim, she told herself. By now, it was eight o’clock, nine, maybe? Surely, most of the crew was in bed. Uh huh. Mal’s lips moved down her neck, and she decided the odds were very small indeed. He fumbled, somewhat adorably, with the front clasp of her bra. Succeeding at last, his lips found her breast, and he took her nipple in his mouth, sucking gently until she ached. “Mal. Faster,” she murmured, hoping he’d understand. “We really got to talk ‘bout you wearin’ pants.” His hands hurried to drag the soft white material over her hips. “They spawn all manner o’ mayhem.” He hesitated, fingers curling over the waistband of her underwear. Little shorts today in pale floral-print pink. Tian de ma, she’d be the death of him. He took a breath, released her. “You deserve to be had in a bed.” She contemplated throttling him if he persisted with this sweet yet thoroughly disconcerting Mal-the-gentleman routine. Instead she took his hand, led him to the exam table in the center of the room. She hopped up on the bed, lay back. “Oh, the doctor surely wouldn’t be likin’ this,” Mal said with a grin before kicking off his pants and joining her. He moved down her body, kissing her breasts, her flat tummy. Warm open-mouth kisses that left her skin tingling. Lifting her hips, he dragged down her underwear, plunged his tongue into her almost before she could register it. “Ohh.” She made a sound halfway between a sigh and a whimper. “Mal.” Her thighs locked around his head as he used his tongue to tease her, torment. “Inara.” She was shaking, only half present. He slid two fingers inside her, feeling her body contract around him. “I don’t know much. But somethin’s tellin’ me if it weren’t complicated, it couldn’t be like this.” He pushed into her then, and for a moment they just held each other, feeling sweet, gentle relief. Then he lifted her leg up over his shoulder and started to thrust. And nothing was sweet or gentle. They moved in unison, wet and slippery, wild, frenzied. His mouth found hers, his lips taking greedily, hers responding in kind. He lifted her other leg up over his shoulder and began to move faster, harder. She let her head fall back, feeling his teeth bite gently at the soft flesh of her throat. He hadn’t taken her this way before, hadn’t allowed himself to love her so frantically, so desperately. She came, shivering and shaking, before she could decide what that meant. They slept together in his bed after. Later, she’d remember that night as one of the last times and be grateful for it. *** “Oh, she’s awake!” Kaylee knelt by Zoe’s seat, hand plastered to the older woman’s belly beneath her shirt. “Ooh, she’s all jumpy this mornin’.” “Just started the kickin’ thing,” Zoe admitted. Mal raised a brow over his coffee mug. “Ain’t it all manner of disconcertin’ havin’ people feel you up ‘fore noon?” “Somewhat disconcerting, sir,” Zoe acknowledged with a smile, but didn’t stop Kaylee from touching. “Oh, this is too shiny. Cap’n, you gotta feel!” “Uh, no, I’m fairly sure I don’t,” Mal said, holding his hands up in the air as though she were aiming a gun. Way Mal saw it, babies were much more troublin’ than guns. He’d stared down plenty of snub-nosed pistols but a button-nosed little person with round, innocent eyes? Hell, he wouldn’t have a chance. “Cap’n!” Exasperated, Kaylee rose and grabbed Mal by the wrist, tugging him out of his chair. She pulled him over to Zoe, forced his hand over her belly. “Kaylee, this is just plain--whoa!” Mal pulled his hand away, changed his mind and put it back. “Can you believe it? Kid ain’t even out yet and already she hates me. See! She did it again.” “Kicks everyone, sir. Don’t take it personal.” “You best spend the next few months explainin’ to her that I’m cap’n of this boat.” He bent his head, speaking to Zoe’s belly. “Here that, darlin’? We don’t kick the cap’n.” “She’s gonna love her Uncle Mal,” Kaylee said, bouncing back to her chair. “Any particular reason you’re more cheersome than usual today, Kaylee?” “Oh, no, she havin’ a cheersome day, Mal?” Jayne stumbled in sleepily, crashed down in a chair. “Seems that way,” Mal remarked, shoving the coffee pot his way. “Gorramit, I hate when she does that.” “Cap’n, don’t tell me you forgot what tomorrow is.” “ ‘Course not. Tuesday, ain’t it?” he asked Zoe. “Thursday, sir.” “Thursday? Huh.” “Cap’n, tomorrow’s Christmas Eve!” Mal sighed. “We gotta do that every year, Kaylee? Weren’t it just a few months ago you was stringin’ lights all over my boat?” “Twelve to be exact,” Zoe said mildly. “C’mon, Captain. I’ll do all the decoratin’ my own self, won’t bother you none.” “Huh, that’s what I recall you sayin’ last year. Then you had me up on a step ladder, gluing mistletoe to spots I didn’t know existed. Almost had to kiss Jayne.” Mal shuddered. “Anyway you know how I feel ‘bout Christmas.” “Really don’t know why you’re holdin’ such a grudge, Cap’n.” “That man betrayed me Kaylee, and I ain’t one to forgive easy.” “But that was years ago. Don’t you think its time you let go?” “When you really despise a man, you’re a mite hesitant to celebrate his big day.” “Maybe if you just open up a little, he’d make it up to you someways.” “Said it before, and I’ll say it again. I hate Santa Claus and nothin’ gonna change that.” “You hate Santa Claus?” Inara stepped into the kitchen in time for the last comment. “The year I was ten, every kid in my township wanted a Super Turbo Twin-Engine model spaceship for Christmas.” “Oh, hell, not the twin-engine spaceship story again,” Jayne muttered. “It turned into a submarine underwater!” Mal protested. Inara smiled, sat beside him. “And what did Santa bring little Malcom that year?” “Gorram sweater,” Mal muttered. “Maybe you were bad.” She bit her bottom lip to keep from smiling, took a sip of her tea. “Oh ho, girl wants to see bad, does she?” Realizing the others were watching with more ‘n a little interest, Mal cleared his throat, returned his gaze to his breakfast. “We really gotta do this again, Kaylee?” “Cap’n, this year’s gotta be extra special.” She beamed. “It’s Zoe’s baby’s first Christmas.” Mal leaned over to Inara. “I’m sorry, what do you get a fetus for Christmas?” “How ‘bout a little cousin?” Kaylee said dryly, clearly annoyed with the lot of ‘em. She smiled as Mal and Inara blushed in unison. “Kaylee,” he warned. “Aw, hell, I gotta get it somethin’?” Jayne protested, missing the previous comment. “Technically, I think she’s supposed to be on the outside for her first Christmas, Kaylee,” Zoe corrected. “Nope,” Kaylee said loudly. “This is the first. And everyone better show up for the party tomorrow with a big shiny smile, including you, Cap’n. If anyone ruins this, they’s gonna have me to deal with, understand?” She flashed her sunny grin. “I just love Christmas!” *** In a way that had become familiar these past months, Simon woke to find Kaylee’s warm, pajama-clad body curled around him. Her head rested in the hollow of his shoulder, sleep-tousled hair strewn over his bare chest. A single arm snaked tight around his middle, her leg bent up over his. Every morning, he woke grateful, bewildered at his good fortune, not quite believing she was his. She was all that he’d never known he’d been wanting, been needing so terribly. On Osiris, he figured he’d end up with a doctor or a nurse, perhaps a grateful socialite whose ankle he set after a tennis accident. A cool-eyed blonde who’d help his mother shop for the Tam’s annual Christmas party, sip tasteful sips of mulled wine with distinguished dinner guests. But in all his life, he’d yet to know a girl as sweet, as genuine and good as Kaylee. She was strong too, sure of herself and the life she led--she didn’t let him get away with anything. And yet she accepted him as he was, deemed him somehow worthy to share her bed, kiss the soft lips that breathed, slightly parted, against his skin just now. One thing Simon wasn’t accustomed to was waking up aching for her every morning, his body often straining, hard and ready against hers, even before he opened his eyes. Once he’d awoke to find himself already inside her, hazy dream bleeding into sharp, tangible reality with each stroke. After he’d apologized, somewhat embarrassed, guilty at not asking her permission. She’d just smiled, ran his bottom lip through her teeth. “Nothin’ to feel sorry ‘bout, honey.” Her face was flushed, her eyes smoky. “Nothin’ at all.” Now Simon kissed her temple, slipped his hand inside her pajama top. He stroked her with slow, deliberate movements, waking her gradually, still dumbfounded that this was actually allowed. “For a doctor, you’ve got surprisingly warm hands, Doctor,” she murmured sleepily. “Morning, pretty girl.” He slid on top of her, amazed at the way her knees parted, her heels pushing into his backside, drawing him closer. “Mm, let’s see how warm the rest of you is.” Her fingers found the drawstring of his pants, started to tug. Then there was a quick knock, the sound of a door creaking open. Simon rolled off Kaylee quickly as his sister’s ever-bare feet descended into the bunk. “Merry Christmas Eve morning!” River said brightly, hopping up on the foot of the bed. “Merry Christmas, River,” Simon responded, groaning inwardly. Perhaps this was not the kind of scene his impressionable younger sister needed to be witnessing. Kaylee seemed unperturbed by River’s somewhat untimely entrance. “Hell, you’re right! For a moment there, I clear forgot. Your brother’s good at the distracting,” Kaylee added with a wink. She adjusted her pajama shirt and threw off the covers. Simon smiled in spite of himself as she dropped a kiss on River’s head, reached for her coveralls. She tugged them up over the little shorts she’d worn to bed. “Get some clothes on, sweetie,” she said to River. “You’re gonna help me decorate.” *** They all brought baby gifts, even Jayne. Zoe watched, somewhat self-consciously, as they piled them in front of her place at the table. “Just like them people bringin’ gifts to the baby Jesus,” Kaylee said tearily. “No one’s givin’ birth to no messiahs on my ship, and that’s final,” Mal muttered testily but tossed his hastily-wrapped package down with the others. “So, what happens now?” Simon asked cautiously, not exactly sure what Christmas on Serenity entailed. “Do we all start singing carols or something?” “No one’s singin’ on my ship, and that’s final,” Mal interjected. “Thems that got the yearnin’ can croon till their heart’s content out in the airlock.” “Here, Cap’n Scrooge,” Kaylee muttered, sticking a mug in his fist. “Have some nog.” “Zoe, why don’t you open the baby gifts?” Inara suggested, hiding a smile. “If’s mine’s the best, do I get to name it?” Jayne asked. “I already know her name,” River said smugly. “You plannin’ on telling me, sweetie?” Zoe asked, surprised. “It’ll come to you,” River said unconcerned. She stole Jayne’s egg nog when he wasn’t looking, took a long sip that left a coating of white on her upper lip. Zoe unwrapped the gifts, while the others baited one another and polished off Kaylee’s festively-decorated chocolate protein bars. Inara had given her a blanket, an intricate pink and cream weave that felt soft against her cheek. “I do hope River’s right about the baby being a girl,” Inara said a little nervously. She opened the others, touched. Kaylee and Simon’s gift was a tiny shirt with “Ship’s Little Princess” spelled out in rhinestones. “I think I still have glue in my hair,” Simon commented, pulling at a few strands that seemed stuck together. River’s gift was a sketch, colored in with pencils. A girl of seven or eight with waves of glossy black hair and skin the color of honey. The picture stared up at Zoe with her own shrewd brown eyes and Wash’s smile. For several seconds, they all stared. River was, as always, an enigma to behold. Then Jayne gave Zoe his gift, a tiny baby-sized hat knit with alarmingly green wool, and they all laughed. She opened Mal’s gift last. It was a plush, stuffed dinosaur, bigger than the baby would be when she was born. She looked up, met his eyes. He cleared his throat, went to refill his mug. “Saw it on Beaumonde. Figured she’d need somethin’ to keep her quiet nights, way babies tend to holler and such. Surely don’t wanna be the one holdin’ her all the time.” “Hey, Cap’n! You and Nara’s standin’ under the mistletoe,” Kaylee announced, breaking the silence. Mal looked up, saw the fake flowers plastered over the sink. “Oh, don’t that mean they gotta do it?” Jayne teased. “That’s an interesting take on the tradition,” Simon said mildly. Kaylee giggled, swatted them both on the back of the head. “He’s just gotta kiss her, you perverts. Go on, Cap’n, plant one right on her lips.” “It’s okay, Mal,” Inara offered, sensing he was uncomfortable with this. “I know you were never one for tradition. We don’t have to....” “Is that a challenge, Inara?” He grinned, for once not minding the audience. Kaylee’s homemade egg nog must be messin’ with his head, if’n he was actually enjoying hisself. “You all know I ain’t never been one to back down from a challenge.” “Yes, Mal,” Inara said dryly, rolling her eyes theatrically for the benefit of the others. “I dare you to kiss me.” He nudged her up against the wall. “You think I won’t? I think you’re a mite scared, Miz Serra.” “He gonna kiss her already? Or they just gonna stand there talkin’ bout it?” “Think he’s too chicken, Jayne,” Kaylee taunted, loving everything, loving River for gluing plastic mistletoe to every available surface on Serenity. “Hell, I’d o’ kissed her twice by now,” Jayne muttered. “Think the people wanna see kissin’, Nara. ‘Spose we can’t disappoint ‘em.” In all her time on this ship, Inara was fairly certain she’d never seen Mal this way. The man who feared intimacy above all else, the man whose ears turned red when his name and sex came up in the same sentence, was about to kiss her in front of the entire crew. Hell, maybe she was a little scared. “Try not to swoon now, darlin’.” Mal grabbed her shoulders, making her jump, started to dip her down low. Then the whole ship shook. “Ye su,” Simon murmured, grabbing Kaylee’s arm to steady her. “What in the ruttin’ hell was that?” Jayne muttered. “Either I just rocked her world, or we got somethin’ of a situation,” Mal stated, setting Inara on her feet. “Kaylee, engine room. River and Zoe, you’re up to the bridge with me. Let’s move people.” *** Mal threw himself down in the pilot’s chair, began flipping switches. “Dammit, I need visual.” Who the hell was tryin’ to blow them outta the sky? “Uh, sir?” Zoe pointed upward. “I think we got visual.” Mal followed her gaze, as did River, craning her head back to see. “Zang huo,” Mal murmured. “Mal!” Jayne came running up on to the bridge, Simon and Inara close at his heels. “That’s a gorram Alliance Prowler.” “Jayne, think you may be on to something there,” Mal said, watching the military vessel fly overhead. “They’re locked on our trajectory, sir,” Zoe said. “Prolly been following us.” “They’re waving us,” River said. “Least they quit shootin’,” Mal muttered. “Get ‘em up on the screen in a minute. Kaylee?” He spoke into the ‘com. “Everythin’ shiny with you?” “Well, we’re not on fire,” Kaylee said from the engine room. “So that’s somethin’.” “Good. Don’t much like bein’ on fire. Why don’t you come on up to the bridge.” Mal took a breath, leaned back in the chair. “Okay, put ‘em through,” he told River. The vid screen scrambled, went dark. Then the face appeared, a man no more than forty with neatly-trimmed whiskers and a cool gaze. “Captain Reynolds?” “That’s me. Don’t believe we’ve met.” “Forgive me, Captain Reynolds. Rex Gray, Special Agent. I’m heading up the team investigating the Miranda situation.” “That’s quite an assignment, Agent Gray.” “Which brings me to the somewhat unpleasant nature of our encounter today. I’m told you’re the man to speak with regarding this matter.” “Wouldn’t have to be unpleasant,” Mal suggested. “I got no qualms with talkin’. Plenty to say too after my little trip to that poor planet.” “It seems you’ve said quite a bit already, Mr. Reynolds. In a manner of speaking.” “Something in particular I can help you with?” “I always like to talk to a man face to face.” “And if I decide not to let you board?” “Forgive me, Captain, but an antiquated Firefly transport ship is not prepared to do battle with an Alliance Prowler.” “She may be gettin’ up in the years, Agent, but she’s got surprises in her would blow your mind.” “Captain Reynolds, let me make this as clear as I know how. You’ll allow my men and I to board your vessel or we will blow you and your mind out of the sky. Do we understand each other?” Mal leaned forward, his voice low and furious. “You know, Gray, I don’t believe you’d do that.” “You might not want to make the mistake of underestimating me, Captain.” “Oh, I’m sure you’d love to see this heap in a million fiery bits. But you’d be explodin’ Alliance cargo, and I’m guessin’ your superiors would frown on that.” “Mr. Reynolds, you have thirty minutes to make your decision. If you run, know that we will follow, and this will end bloody. I’m only a killer when I have to be, Captain. I’m sure you can appreciate that sentiment.” Mal snapped off the vid screen. For a moment everyone was silent. Then Jayne swore, started for the door. “Jayne? Where you goin’?” “Get Vera. We’ll suit her up, maybe do enough damage to cripple ‘em, buy some time to get away. And if not?” Jayne shrugged. “At least take some of ‘em out with us.” “For once, I agree with Jayne,” Simon stated, his eyes on his sister, curled like a doll in the chair beside Mal’s. “We run, fight if we have to, but run.” “Kaylee?” Mal looked around to see her standing in the doorway. “You got an opinion on this?” “She ain’t ever disappointed us before, Cap’n. I think we should give her a chance.” “No,” River said quietly, her voice almost emotionless. “Wash says she won’t win this time. If we run, fight, Serenity will fall. Says we gotta let ‘em board. Oh! I don’t want them here, two by two, blue hands, steel eyes, eyes poking, prodding. No no no!” “River.” Simon pulled her up into his arms. “Shh, mei mei, it’s okay. Serenity saved us before. Remember Persephone? The Reavers?” “Not this time,” she said tearfully. “Captain?” Zoe asked. Mal shook his head. “River’s a good pilot, damn good for an eighteen year old with no prior training. But she ain’t Wash. And I sure as hell can’t do what he could with this bird.” “So we let ‘em board,” Zoe said. “Seems we got no choice.” “Are you psychotic?” Simon released River in Inara’s care, turned on Mal. “They want her back!” “Could be so,” Mal conceded. “You son of a bitch, if you let them board, I swear I’ll--” Zoe put a hand on Simon’s shoulder to stop him, but Mal shook his head, motioned her to let go. “You wanna hit me, Doctor? First shot’s free. But if we try to run and we fail, and they take us by force, ain’t gonna be no one around to help your sister.” “Wait, so you’re just gonna give up and let ‘em board, Cap’n?” “Ain’t nobody givin’ up, Kaylee,” Mal told her, though his eyes were on Simon. “But if Zoe and I learnt anythin’ at all in the War, its to find someplace you can make a halfway decent stand when you’re gonna do battle. We’re gonna fight this battle aboard Serenity. Every one of you knows this ship like the body of a lover. Every beat-up, beautiful metal inch of her is familiar as the backs of your hands. If we’ve got a half a chance, I do believe she’s it.” “You really believe we got a shot if we let 'em board, Cap’n?” Mal hesitated, eyes on the unending Black before them. Zoe stepped forward, laid a hand on Kaylee’s shoulder. “He does, Kaylee.” Mal met her eyes. “I guess he does. Got a lot to do and a little time for doin’ it. Now, we know all Serenity’s secrets and they don’t. That gives us the upper hand, by my way of seein’. Jayne-you’re in charge of weapons. Think you can stash some away places they might be useful?” “Think I can handle that.” “Good. Doctor, I want you down in the infirmary. Get some supplies--weaves, skin fusers, ‘haps a couple shots of adrenaline. Kaylee, you go help the doctor. You know the cargo holds better, all the places for hidin’ stuff you don’t want found.” “Yes, Cap’n.” He met her eyes, saw the hurt, the hopelessness. She wanted to let Serenity fly, float them all to freedom. Hell, he wanted that too. “Kaylee.” He squeezed her shoulder. “Go on with the doc.” She nodded briskly, allowed Simon to lead her away. “Zoe, you mind readyin’ the connectors?” “Sir.” She left with a nod. Every order he ever gave her in the War, she obeyed with the same brisk nod, no questions, no hesitation. “Albatross--” “I don’t want them here!” she said quickly. “Please, no....” Mal crouched down by her chair, put his hands on her shoulders. “River. I’m not gonna let them hurt you, you hear me? Long as I’m standin’, they won’t lay hands on you.” She looked at him, her eyes so very old in that smooth, unlined face. “Keep flyin’ her steady, I’ll be a minute.” He took Inara’s elbow, led her off to the side. “Don’t ‘spose you got any companiony clout can help us outta this?” he asked, voice low. “Any old favors you can call in? I wouldn’t ask, ‘cept, well, this is feelin’ kinda urgent.” “I still have friends in powerful circles, Mal, but no one willing to stand up to Alliance federals.” “Don’t gotta stand up to ‘em so much as make their presence known. This here’s about secrecy, else they woulda waited till we were in the world. They don’t want this done on Boros ‘cuz they don’t want folk knowing ‘bout it. Out here in the Black...it’ll be like it never happened.” “That’s what frightens me,” she said quietly, her eyes on the small, slender girl curled up in the pilot’s chair. Mal touched her hair, traced a finger down the side of her throat. “Sometimes I wish you hadn’t come back. Sometimes I wish I’d never met you.” “You really know how to make a girl feel special.” “Guess I’m just gifted like that. I need you to do somethin’ for me. In the drawer by my bed’s a list of contacts, anyone we’ve dealt with the past couple years. Need you to burn it.” She nodded. “Good girl.” “Mal?” “Hmm?” “I love...her. Serenity.” She ran her fingers over the wall. “Yeah.” He met her eyes. “I love her, too.” *** Inara climbed down Mal’s ladder, using one hand to hold her skirt. She sat on his bed and smoothed the sheet, still rumpled from earlier that afternoon when they’d made out like teenagers in the hour before the party. She found the list with little trouble, printed in Mal’s big, childlike handwriting. She tore the pages from the notebook and burned them all with a flamer in Mal’s sink. When she was returning the empty pad to the drawer, she found the hologram, face down in a dusty back corner. She turned it over to see her own image beaming up at her, an unnatural close-up captured by Kaylee just before Inara had left Serenity. She sat there for a long time, watching herself laugh. *** “She’s sad. Thinks you should have trusted her, let her soar.” “Serenity thinkin’ that?” Mal asked, half believing her. River smiled the sad smile she reserved for times when she thought the lot of them were actin’ crazier than she. “Kaylee....” “Right. Kaylee. She’s a strong one. She’ll hold.” He patted the console. “They both will. Listen, little one. You and me gots some talkin’ to do ‘fore this gets all manner of excitin’.” He knelt by her chair again, tilted her chin so she was looking right at him. “Now, seems to me there’s times you know a good bit more than’s perfectly natural. Normally, I ain’t one to pry, but today I’m gonna need you to tell me everything you see in that pretty little geniusy head of yours.” He watched her eyes drift closed, her hair fall forward to curtain her face. “We got about fifteen minutes. What’s written on the walls of your eyelids, Little Albatross?” *** He had them all assemble in the cargo bay, everyone in plain sight, weapons stowed away in Serenity’s secret cavities. “Open the doors, Jayne.” “God help us,” Zoe murmured and Mal met her eyes. The airlock opened and eight Alliance troops rushed in, guns in hand. Mal felt himself shoved against the wall, patted down and then cuffed. From the corner of his eyes, he saw Kaylee, eyes wide with fear as one of the young Federals ran his hands down the sides of her body, over her legs. Mal looked away. “Okay, we’re clear in here, Agent,” one of the troops announced over a ‘com. Gray entered then, wearing a suit without a tie, carrying nothing in his hands save a styrofoam cup of coffee. “Captain Reynolds. It might not seem it, but you decided wisely.” “Guess time’ll be the judge on that one,” Mal said, meeting the older man’s eyes. Gray nodded, his eyes betraying his distaste at the situation. Mal wondered whether or not that fact, the man’s humanity, would work in his favor. In his experience, the self-righteous bastards tended to be the most dangerous. “So you wantin’ the grand tour?” Mal asked. “Woulda cleaned up some but you kinda caught us with our trousers down, showin’ up all manner of uninvited.” “I would like to see the ship, Captain Reynolds, but I’ll find my own way.” Gray snapped his fingers, and two more men appeared at his side. “Make the crew comfortable in the passenger quarters. Leave the girl,” he added, pointing to River. “River-” Simon started, struggling to break free from the soldier clasping his arm. “Doctor.” Mal shook his head firmly, motioned for Simon to go. This ain’t the time, son, his eyes said. Mal watched, helplessly, as the others were taken up the stairs, Inara going last, shooting him a single reassuring glance before she too disappeared from sight. Finally, he was alone in the cargo bay with River, Gray and the two troops who’d remained behind. “Okay,” Gray spoke into his handheld ‘com. “Bring it in.” If possible, Mal was starting to feel even worse about this situation. He shot a glance at River, but she seemed in a trance. The one time he actually wanted her playin’ around in people’s brains, and she decided to go all silent! What the hell were these pieces of luh suh up to? He knew when he saw the crate wheeled in, the blanket doing little to hide the sickening sounds coming from within. “Dear God in Heaven,” Mal murmured. “We have to be sure, Captain,” Gray said softly. He looked at River, shaking now, building herself up to a state of hysteria without uttering a sound. “So many goddamn lives depend on us being sure.” The crate shook fiercely now. Guttural growls and low, pleading moans. “River!” Mal tried to get to her, but one of the soldiers was pushing her forward. Another dragged him along behind at a reasonable distance. She was shrieking now, shaking. “River, you can do this now. Ain’t no different at all from the last time, you hear me? River?” They’d reached the door to one of the storage closets. Gray tugged it open, tested the knob. “Is this lock secure, Captain?” “Ain’t nothin’ secure ‘gainst one of those, Agent Gray,” Mal said, meeting the man’s cool blue gaze. Gray hesitated a moment. “Ready your weapons,” he said to his troops. “Put her in the room.” One of the men aimed his gun, motioned River into the closet. “It’s nothin’ but an animal, River,” Mal said loudly. “Would be a mercy to put him down.” “Old wounds, stinging scabs. Gotta rip the bandage off fast, all in one tear,” she said, smiling slightly. “That’s right, little one,” he said, holding her eyes. He maintained eye-contact as she backed into the closet, disappeared into the dark shadows. “Take it out of the cage,” Gray said. The snarling was worse now. Teeth gnashing, breath thick and heavy. Mal wanted more than anything to cover his ears and turn away but he forced himself to look, to watch it happen. They wheeled the crate up to the open closet door, removed the sheet. It was a female, best Mal could make out. The hair was long and tangled, the flesh desecrated as was their way. Her lip was red where she’d bit through it in her lust for blood, for meat. “Do it,” Gray ordered. One of the troops approached the cage tentatively, flung open the lock and jerked back. The reaver flew into the closet, and he slammed the door behind it. Mal heard River scream, primal shrieks and the sound of a body hitting the floor. Then he didn’t hear anything at all. *** TBC in 12B. I need feedback!

COMMENTS

Saturday, December 17, 2005 6:29 PM

SYZG


They just weren’t bein’ friendly in the pelvic sense.

ha, poor Mal.

oh, poor Inara, the seduction thing isnt working...wait...now it is.

lmao at them doin' it on Simon's exam table. If only the good doc knew ;)
I like the christmas scene of giving gifts to Zoe, very touching. Ah, damned stubborn inara and mal!!! GAH they frustrate me...and i love it ;)

and the tension builds ;)

Saturday, December 17, 2005 7:27 PM

LIBRARYGIRL


<q> TBC in 12B. I need feedback! /q>

It's awesome! We need 12B!

Saturday, December 17, 2005 8:08 PM

RIVERGODDESS


Ahhhh! You have quite a way with cliffhangers! I am sooo scared! Poor River! Your style of storytelling and voice is pure genius. Seriously, I look up to you! Must...read...part2...now!!!

Sunday, December 18, 2005 1:24 AM

AMDOBELL


I can't believe you would do that to River! Arrrggghhh, I want them awful Alliance *tamade hundan* to come to a very stick and VERY painful end and please let River be okay. Just when things were looking so shiny too, guess that should have been a clue that the other shoe had yet to fall. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Sunday, December 18, 2005 6:47 AM

AGENTROUKA


Can this get any better? Mal is turning into a lecherous hump (a cute one, it's only natural, after all!) and of course everything goes to hell now! Joy!

I love-love-loved the following lines:

--Not just the sex, but the intimacy. And the sex. Dammit.
--"I'm not some innocent, sacrificial virgin either, Mal." "Thank God for that."
--"We really got to talk 'bout you wearin' pants." His hands hurried to drag the soft white material over her hips. "They spawn all manner o' mayhem."
-- "No one's givin' birth to no messiahs on my ship, and that's final,"


Excellent dialogue all around and you made me adore Kaylee so much!

And then.. oy, badness. Mal and River's interactions were spot-on, him acting as a mentor for her, caring and gentle. And Inara finding that capture... that was heartbreaking.


You put in some very ominous lines here. Part 12B is going to end in some terribly painful cliffhanger, isn't it?

Oh dear. I can't wait!!!

Sunday, December 18, 2005 8:08 AM

BELLONA


"They slept together in his bed after. Later, she’d remember that night as one of the last times and be grateful for it."
wait, what?
and the reaver...no!!!!

b

Sunday, December 18, 2005 11:10 AM

CCKE


Loving it.

I’m sorry, what do you get a fetus for Christmas? : brilliant line!

Can't wait to read part B :)

Sunday, December 18, 2005 6:29 PM

JOY


Readerus interuptus! argh heartwrenching cliff-hangers! How will it all end? Though I don't know how you're going to end this beautifully delicious story you've created in one more installment . . . unless the reaver. . .NO! not going there. Just post soon please!


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