BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

KAYNARA

Bed and Wine: Part 3
Wednesday, December 28, 2005

A continuation of the Bedlam series. With Inara back on board, a certain swai ship captain feels like his pants are tighter than ever. Wow, I can't believe I just wrote that last sentence. Hope you all enjoy!


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 3842    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

Bed and Wine: Part 3 By Kaynara

*** Hair still wet from his second cold shower of the day, Mal strolled into the kitchen, took his seat at the head of the table. “Evening folks. Just came from the bridge; should be touching down on Bellerophon come morning. Mayella’s got the cash.” “Oughta go smooth enough, sir,” Zoe commented. “We’ve dealt with her often enough.” “We gonna unload those ship part there, Cap’n?” “That’s the notion, Kaylee.” Mal took a bite of potatoes, though he wasn’t really hungry. Not hungry for potato-flavored protein anyway. Over his water glass, Mal watched Inara stroll into the kitchen. Even wearing one of Zoe’s undershirts, an old skirt of River’s, she looked nothing short of a goddess. Wo de ma, he needed another shower. “Hello, everyone--sorry I’m late.” “No problem.” Jayne raised his mug in greeting. “We didn’t wait or nothin’.” “Inara.” Mal nodded at her. “Was just tellin’ the crew we’re makin’ a quick stop on Bellerophon. Should be back on our way to Shadow ‘fore you can blink.” “Oh.” At the counter, she poured hot water for tea. “Do you mind if I ride into town with you and Jayne? I was hoping to pick up a few things.” Mal glanced up. “Ain’t really got time for sight-seeing.” “I can be quick.” Mal pushed his bao around the plate. He didn’t think his lower body could handle bein’ in her company that long. “Why don’t you just tell me what you’re needin’? I can stop in at the general store if’n there’s time.” “Mal-” “Yeah? What do you need, Inara?” She rolled her eyes, bent down close to his ear. Her breath sent shivers over his skin, triggered a fierce tightening in his trousers. She whispered something, while the others strained to hear. Mal nearly choked on his water. He coughed, cleared his throat. “’Haps its best you pick those up yourself. Mule leaves at eight sharp.” Kaylee was giggling into her napkin. She poked Simon. “I can’t wait till Raven’s old enough to be needin’ that sorta stuff.” “I can wait,” Zoe murmured. “What stuff?” Jayne asked, confused. “Can’t you just picture sweet little Raven askin’ the cap’n to buy her--” “Kaylee.” Mal glared. “You think this conversation’s a fitting one for the dinner table?” “Mal, the female body is nothing to be embarrassed about,” Simon said, perfectly straight-faced. “If you want, I could go over a few things with you...in case Raven ever has questions.” Kaylee and Inara were both laughing now. Jayne rolled his eyes “Aw, you’re all a bunch of sickos.” Mal was shaking his head at the lot of ‘em. Zoe hid a smile, amused. “Don’t worry, sir. I wasn’t plannin’ on you bein’ the one to teach my daughter ’bout the birds and the bees.” “No, no. I got no problem talkin’ to the Little Chick. And I don’t need no refresher courses, Doc.” He leaned over to Zoe, voice low. “That’s all a few years off, right?” “Decade at least, sir.” Mal nodded, more than a little relieved. A decade was a long time. He could be dead in a decade. “Shiny. Pass the salt.” *** Mal fought off his trousers, threw himself back on the bed in just his undershorts. Ship barely had heat and he was sweating to death. The dinner-table dialogue, however unpleasant, had done little to cool the fires raging through him. His body ached for her, throbbed something fierce. It had been over five months. Gorramit, that was a powerful long time to want somebody, to dream about having her every rutting night, to think on it every day. Knowing it was incendiary behavior, Mal pictured her in his bed, imagined tugging her soft, naked body beneath him, burying his lips in her neck and thrusting deep inside her. Oh, sweet Ye su, the release. He visualized himself driving into her again and again, stroking until she was pliant and shivering, bringing her to her own climax and falling after her. Then he’d hold her, slip into satiated sleep with his head between her breasts. Groaning, Mal slid a hand down his shorts. The sound of knocking made him jump. “Cap’n.” In no way did he wanna hear Jayne’s voice right now. Guiltily, he removed his hand. “What is it, Jayne?” “Your sister’s on the cortex. Wants to talk to you and Zoe on the bridge.” Jayne hesitated. “Woman’s not bad lookin’, Mal. For one of your relatives, I mean.” Gritting his teeth, Mal pulled on his trousers and started up the ladder. *** “I’m kinda likin’ this.” Kaylee dabbed the ointment on Simon’s black eye, stood back to admire her work. “It’s shiny, me gettin’ to play doctor while you gotta sit on the table and do whatever I say.” “You are quite skilled with your hands.” He tried to grab her around the waist but she danced out of reach. “Uh uh, not yet.” She stepped up to the exam table, angling between his thighs. “We do wanna be thorough.” “Seems prudent.” Simon touched her lips gently, tried to deepen the kiss. “Tsk, Simon!” She swatted at his thigh. “I told ya, I ain’t done examining you.” “By all means, examine away.” He held up his hands. She moved closer so he could feel her breasts against his chest. She kissed his neck, feather-light lip brushes, just the way he liked. “That shiner’s gotta smart,” she muttered. “Cap’n really got you good.” “I’m fine, Kaylee.” His voice was smooth, reassuring. “Second time this week,” she said as her fingernails raked over his back. “I’m lucky you’re such a good nurse. Or doctor,” he added quickly. She smiled, unoffended, and started unbuttoning his shirt. “No blows to the chest,” she murmured. She pressed her hand flat against the front of his pants. “Seems to be some swelling in the nether-regions.” He burst out laughing. “Kaylee!” “I love that I can still make you blush!” “Well, I love...I love you.” He took in her stricken expression, eyes wide, mouth forming a little o. “You’re not laughing anymore.” “Ain’t so funny.” “I’m sorry. Are we not...are we not at that point yet? I can take it back.” “Do it and I’ll blacken your other eye.” She smiled, put her hands on either side of his face. “No one’s ever said that to me before. Say it again.” “I love you.” She shook her head, eyes glistening. “Boy are you gettin’ lucky tonight.” *** “The underground movement is gathering strength on Shadow. I’m sure Malcom’s explained that we lost nearly an entire generation in that God forsaken war.” Zoe nodded, glancing at the captain beside her. “The Independents had mellowed some in recent years, but your broadcast gave them new hope.” Caroline smiled. “I always knew you’d do great things, Brother.” “Great.” Mal looked away. “Right.” “You don’t know what your work means to people, Malcom.” “Caroline, my work is the business of crime. Thievin’, smugglin’, scavenging. You name it, we’ve likely done it. I’m willing to come down there, see if I can be of service. But I surely ain’t nobody’s hero--best not be mistaking me for one ‘cuz you’ll wind up disappointed.” Caroline smiled. “He’s always been obstinate,” she said for Zoe’s benefit. “Even as a boy. Whatever you’d say, Malcom’d go out of his way to do the opposite.” Zoe raised an eyebrow. “Hard to believe.” “Shiny as it is reminiscing with you, Caroline, best we get down to business.” Caroline nodded. “As you know, Shadow’s never been a wealthy world. But, the last few years, our harvests have been plentiful. The Alliance now sees our little planet as...useful. At least potentially. This past summer, they commandeered a large section of land east of town, built a base there.” “What’s the Alliance want with a plot of land on Shadow?” Caroline smiled. “That’s where you come in, Mal.” “So you want us to steal on base in the middle of the night? A little B and E action to sniff out what they’re up to out there?” “It’s not that simple, Brother. You’d never make it past the guards.” “Sister, stealth’s my middle name.” Zoe snorted a laugh, coughed to disguise it. “Anyway,” Mal said deliberately. “If we ain’t crashing the Alliance party, what’s the intention?” “Actually, Malcom, that’s exactly what you’re doing.” Caroline smiled. “The local government’s sponsoring an event of sorts this coming weekend. A classy affair, designed to drum up regional support, smoke out the troublemakers and recruit potential allies. It’s invitation only, but we’ve managed to secure you a pair of tickets under assumed names.” “What’s the use of me rubbin’ elbows with the feds?” “The event’s to be held at Councilman Blake’s estate. I’m sure a great criminal mind like yours can find a way to access his private files.” “Sounds like something we can handle. Zoe?” “Sure. But I ain’t goin’, sir.” “Shah muh?” “Remember the part where I have a newborn, Captain? Believe you’ve seen her--little person, needs to eat every four hours....” “Oh, jing tsai.” Caroline raised a brow. “Is this going to be a problem?” “Depends. Can I take Jayne?” “A lady would lend a certain air of respectability, Malcom.” “Captain. You know who you can take.” “Uh, Caroline, why don’t I wave you back in a bit?” Mal closed the connection. “I really don’t know what you’re suggestin’, Zoe. And you can just stop suggestin’ it cuz it ain’t happening.” “Sir, Inara would be perfect for this job.” Mal sighed. “Damn it, Zoe.” She cocked her head, rose. “You know, think I hear the baby crying.” “What? I don’t hear nothin’.” “We’ll talk later, sir.” She left him alone in the cockpit, knowing he’d resign himself to his fate.

*** Wishing fervently that he were elsewhere, Mal knocked on Kaylee’s old door--Inara’s now--and pushed in the ladder. It felt strange climbing down here. When the room was Kaylee’s, Mal had little need to visit. Not that Kaylee disliked havin’ guests. In fact, just the opposite. Girl hardly spent any time at all in her bunk, preferring the engine room, the kitchen, really anyplace the others was likely to be. Inara tended to keep to herself more, not antisocial exactly, just private-like. “Mal.” She was dusting the dresser top with a wet rag. He recalled her shuttle, warm and inviting, but orderly, trim, everything in its proper place. “You’re busy here...I can come back?” he offered, hoping for an out. “No, it’s all right. Actually, I wanted to speak with you about something.” “Well, ladies first.” Knowing he was just delaying the inevitable, Mal leaned against the wall, arms crossed. She smiled, gestured to the bed. “Why don’t you sit?” Mal narrowed his eyes suspiciously. “I think I’ll stay standin’.” In Mal’s experience, no one asked you to sit lest they was about to say something you didn’t wanna hear. “Suit yourself.” She faced the shelf, her back to him. “Mal...I can tell you’re in pain, that you’re hurting.” Mal blinked, automatically glanced down at the front of his trousers. “You...you can tell that?” “Everyone can, Mal.” Her tone was soft, gentle. “It’s fairly obvious.” He watched her extend an arm, stand on tip toe to shine the looking glass. He had to clear his throat before he could speak. “I’m...obvious?” “You don’t have to suffer like this,” she said turning back. “I wish you’d let me help.” “You wanna ...ease my suffering?” Mal used one of Kaylee’s throw pillows to fan his face. “Is it hot in here?” “Not particularly. Mal, I understand how you’re feeling. And I know the doctor feels it too.” “What’s the doctor gotta do with...Ohhh. You’re talkin’ ‘bout the lil’ albatross bein’ lost.” “Of course.” Inara frowned. “What did you think I was talking about?” “I--that’s what I thought!” He sat on the bed, considerably calmer. Inara raised a delicate eye brow. “Mal, I understand that you feel...responsible. We all miss River, all worry where she is, if she’s safe, if she’s happy. But you and Simon won’t resolve anything by beating each other to a pulp.” “Now wait just a minute,” Mal said, on his feet again. “You think I like pummeling the doc, that I get some sorta sick pleasure out of it? Well, okay, it ain’t all bad. Still, I’m just doin’ it as a favor to Kaylee. Anyway, Doc’s been on this boat goin’ on two years now. ‘Bout time he learned to be a proper criminal.” “And I’m sure it’s fun for you to have a protégée. But Kaylee’s worried.” Mal shrugged dismissively. “Couple fat lips ain’t gonna kill him. Boy’s stronger than he looks.” He rubbed his jaw, where he’d taken a hit that morning. “I’m not referring to his physical well-being, Mal. Though I can’t imagine its wise for a doctor to sustain multiple blows to the head.” She rested an arm on the bureau, met Mal’s eyes. “He’s different now, ever since River....He’s still Simon, still sweet in his way, and yet...darker. He’s becoming more and more like....” Her voice trailed off at the end. “More like me, you mean to say.” “I know you’re trying to help. I just wonder whether there isn’t another way.” “You know, Inara, ‘haps you should stay out of things that ain’t your...area of expertise. Leave the violence and crime to the professionals.” “That’s a good idea. Why don’t you go upstairs and clean your guns or something?” “Yeah? Maybe I will!” Mal hesitated, hands on the ladder. “’Cept I sorta need your help with somethin’.” She sighed. “Let me guess, violence and crime?” “Not neither, least not technically. Actually, this job’s right up your alley.” “Is that so?” “Yep. Get to wear a shiny dress, drink fine wines, maybe eat a couple meals with real food.” “Sounds too good to be true.” “Well, there is a kinda catch.” She smiled sweetly. “Isn’t there always.” “Ain’t all that bad. Just gotta condescend to bein’ on my arm for a couple days, play it up for the local boys. But, hey, I’ll even wash it this time.” He rolled up his sleeve for her to see. “Mal....” The teasing tone faded. “Are you sure that’s a wise idea?” “We’re both adults, ain’t we? No reason we can’t spend a civilized weekend at the Councilman’s fine manor.” “A civilized weekend in which I’m to be your wife.” Mal was starting to feel hot again. “That’s the notion,” he admitted. “You realize we’ll be put up in the same lodging.” “I got no problem with you sleepin’ on the sofa.” She rolled her eyes. “Ever the gentleman.” “But if it makes you the least bit uncomfortable...well we wouldn’t want that.” He bit down on the inside of his cheek to keep from grinning. “Oh, I’m not uncomfortable,” she said quickly. “I was just thinking of you.” “Were you now? You needn’t be worryin’ for my sake, darlin’.” “Then it’s settled.” She smiled serenely. “I’ll need a dress, of course. Several. I seem to have misplaced all of mine.” “You shouldn’t be so careless with your things.” He grinned, ducked when she swung at him with a pillow. “Sure we can find you somethin’ acceptable on Shadow.” He started up the ladder, looked down to meet her gaze. “I owe you one.” “Don’t worry overmuch.” She smiled. “You’re buying me shoes too.”

*** River was writing a story in her head. Already she was on the third page, nearing the big climax. It was a game she invented on Serenity, amused herself with when the others were too busy to play. She could hold up to five pages in her head at once, transcribe it all after, word for word. But she seldom bothered to put her stories down on paper. By the time she finished them, they’d served their purpose. River bored easily. Even now she was distracted, taking in the vibrations of the ship, the sound of Gideon tinkering in the engine room. She lay back on the floor, her short hair falling through the metal grating. They were all so far away now. Mostly, she couldn’t feel them anymore, only garnering the real highs and lows. Great pleasure, terrible pain. She felt both from her brother, his love for Kaylee, a surprising, sustaining lust unlike any he’d known. His body was alive with it, hard and pulsing. But a part of him was dying, being reborn as something new. This--violence and crime--was his path now, but it shouldn’t be, hadn’t been. She’d waylaid Simon, snatched him off his path and set for him a new one. Sometimes she longed to put him back. River could hear Mal too. Always his voice was the loudest, rising above the cacophony of the others, pouring into her ears, inhabiting her. She knew he’d never be silent. Even when Inara had cooled his raging fires, a part of him still cried out. Poor Captain. He had such a journey ahead. Sighing, River stretched her arms out to her sides, enjoying the feel of the cold metal against her back. So close to the climax of the tale--it would be a pity to abandon the project now. She squeezed her eyes shut, let herself sink back into the dream world. The vision came fast, hard and merciless like a foot stomping down on her forehead. Her eyes flew open and she murmured a single word. “Reavers.” In the engine room, Gideon heard her cry out, dropped his wrench and ran into the hall. He caught up to her on the bridge, held her still by the shoulders. “What is it? What’s wrong?” “We have to turn the ship around.” Brushing past him, she collapsed in the pilot’s seat, fingers furiously working the navigation controls. “They’re in trouble!” “River.” He knelt beside her, pushed damp strands of hair from her eyes. “Who’s in trouble?” She met his eyes, her own wet and frightened. “They’ll die if we don’t go.” She sighed, leaned forward so her head was resting on his shoulder. “They don’t even know.” Gideon stroked her hair, eyes on the nav screen. Bellerophon. Would they find a massacre there? “They never know, and I always do. Sometimes it makes me so tired.” “I know.” Gideon lifted her in his arms, carried her back to her room. “They go about their days, suffering, hurting. Time misspent, frittered away as though there’s an endless supply. Don’t they see? Don’t they understand?” “Shh.” He tucked her under the covers, pushed her shoulders down. “Try to sleep for an hour.” “Will you sleep, Gideon the Warrior?” He paused in the doorway, turned back to the slim, shivering girl on the bed. “That’s what most people do in the middle of the night.” Normal people. The ignorant and still sane. River slid off her bunk, feet hitting the cold floor. She tread slowly, gracefully across the room, stopped when she was beside him. “You’re hurting.” She reached up a hand, stroked her fingers down his cheek. “There’s a fire inside you; I can feel it burn.” “That’s where you’re wrong, genius.” He smiled, tapped her nose. “There’s nothing inside me any more.” *** “Malcom Reynolds.” Mayella smiled, tossed her gold braid over one shoulder and leaned forward to kiss Mal square on the lips. “When you gonna settle down and marry me?” Mal grinned, dried his lips discreet-like with the back of his hand. “Well, Mayella, tempting as that offer is, I’m pledged to that little cherry blossom.” He pointed to Inara, who was climbing down from the mule. “I wouldn’t want to stand in the way of true love.” Inara smiled at Mayella. “You can have him.” “Now, darlin’.” Mal delivered a light slap to her backside, tossed an arm around her shoulders. “That any way to talk about your betrothen? Or is it betrothed?” “It’s neither.” She dug her elbow into his ribs, disentangled herself when he winced. “Mayella, could you be a dear and point a girl in the direction of the nearest boutique?” “Boutique? You mean like formal duds?” Inara nodded. “Well, Thompson’s always carries a few pretties. That white shop next to the sheriff’s office yonder.” “That sounds perfect.” Inara started across the square. “Howdy, Mayella.” Jayne hopped down from the mule, strolled over to join her and Mal. “Where’s my kiss?” “Hey, Jayne?” Mal watched Inara step into the dress shop. “Go over there and make sure she doesn’t buy out the store, will ya?” Muttering, Jayne stromped across the green after her. Mayella was shaking her head, gray eyes shrewd. “I never thought I’d see the day.” “Hmm?” “The great Mal Reynolds: whipped.” “What? Oh, Ella, you know me better than that.” Mal took her arm, led her back to the mule where he’d stored the ship parts. “Need a blushin’ bride for a job we’re pulling back on Shadow. Inara’s a good girl, willin’ to help.” “Well, how do you like that? I could have sworn the pair of you were lovers.” Mayella hoisted one of the bags, tucked a satchel of coins in Mal’s pocket. “I must be slipping.” “Yeah.” Mal helped her carry the parts back to her rider. “Must be.” “You know.” She ran a hand down his shirt, used his belt buckle to tug him close. “You bein’ unattached, and me bein’ unattached...well that just spits opportunity. How long you parked on my little world?” “Not long enough for me to show you the good time you deserve, Mayella.” “That’s why I adore you, Mal.” She settled herself in the driver’s seat. “A gentleman among thieves.” “Not exactly the popular theory,” Mal muttered, making sure the parts were secure in back. “You take care of yourself, hear?” She rode off, leaving Mal with the pleasant and somewhat unfamiliar sensation of a job well done. Satisfied, Mal strolled back to the mule, leaned back to wait for Inara in the balmy summer air. Was a good day. No shoot outs, no Alliance trouble. Just a smooth, easy exchange. Hell, a fellow could get used to this. He felt the shadow cross his face before he saw the man. *** River hovered over the yoke, wanting to take it in her hands, glide them down for a landing. She rocked in the chair, her hair whipping against her cheeks. Gideon slipped on to the bridge, stood behind her. “Are we too late?” River turned, shook her head no. “It hasn’t happened yet.” Her eyes drifted over the nav screen. “Too far to go. We won’t make it in time.” Gideon sighed. By law, he was forbidden from allowing River any contact with Captain Reynolds or the others aboard Firefly ship Serenity. Preventing a Reaver massacre was one thing, but going out of their way to help those people, to save them.... Perhaps it wouldn’t matter. River seemed to believe they’d arrive too late to help. Gideon turned to go, hesitated in the doorway as a face floated before his eyes. Zoe. Funny that he’d think of her now, all these months later. Especially since they’d most likely never meet again. Anyway, it sounded as though she--all of Serenity’s crew--was operating on borrowed time. Still, she was an alluring woman. She’d been expecting a baby when last he saw her. It would have been born by now. He wondered whether it was a boy or a girl. “River.” She looked up, eyes wide with fear. He knelt beside her on the floor of the cockpit, drew a thumb gently across her wrinkled brow. She was the Alliance’s greatest success, a prodigy in every sense of the word. Probably she possessed hidden talents, resources they’d yet to tap. What wonders could be found in the deepest crevices of her marvelous brain? A part of him hoped never to know. But another part.... “Why don’t you try to warn them?” For a moment she looked bewildered. Then awareness dawned. She closed her eyes and lay her head back in the chair.

*** The star gleamed gold in the early morning sun. “Officer.” Mal nodded at the young man. “Nice day, huh?” “Yep.” The sheriff appraised Mal suspiciously, turned his gaze to the mule. “Somethin’ wrong, Officer?” He was starting to get that sinking feeling in his gut. Ai ya. “You can’t park her there.” Mal raised an eyebrow. “What, you mean the mule?” “You’ll have to move her. There’s a lot yonder.” “Yes, sir. I’ll just go ahead and do that.” Relieved, he started to climb aboard. “Just a minute.” The lawman put a hand on Mal’s shoulder. “You here on business, son?” Mal’s patience was rapidly dissipating. Kid probably had that gold star on his vest less than a year. He turned slowly. “Business? No, no, just takin’ my brand-new nubile young bride on a shopping spree.” He lowered his voice to conspiratorial levels. “You know how womenfolk get when you say they can have a new frock. Makes ‘em all sorts of grateful, if you catch my drift.” “Bellerophon’s an unusual honeymoon spot.” Mal smiled. “Just passing through, Officer.” He squinted in the sunlight, spotted Inara lingering near the door of the dress shop. “There she is now. Kitten? Why don’t you come say hello to the nice lawman?” Inara took a step out onto the porch, her expression halfway between vexation and concern. Mal winced when he noted her dress, a long, intricate creation the color of lemons and sure to cost a small fortune. “Officer, let me introduce my-” And then he reeled, had to grasp the side of the mule to stay upright. Reavers. Dear God, they were all around him, killing, feeding. Everywhere he turned he saw rape, pain, death. Women, children. Wo de ma, the blood. Then, just as suddenly as they’d appeared, they were gone. Mal blinked against the bright morning glare. Now his eyes met a quaintly-rustic country scene, the townspeople going about their business, shopping for Sunday dinner, conducting their affairs with no notion of the horrors he’d just witnessed. “Mal?” Inara jogged over, holding the skirts of the lemon dress in one hand. “Miss?” The shopgirl appeared in the doorway, her lips pursed in annoyance. “The dress, Miss?” The sheriff, remembering his role, cleared his throat. “You plannin’ on payin’ for that, honey?” “I--is everything okay, Mal?” “I’m fine, Inara.” “You do like a mite pale,” the sheriff agreed. “Perhaps you’re just overexcited, what with our impending nuptials.” She smiled charmingly at the officer, but Mal could tell she was unconvinced. The sheriff was watching them through narrowed his eyes. “I thought you said you was already hitched....” “Well, I--” Mal blinked, feeling this darkness closing in again. He had to fight off the flashes, battle for control of his own brain. Inara rushed to cover. “Did you say that? I think you’re getting a little ahead of yourself...dear.” “Well, that’s true enough” Mal fought to get control, keep himself here in the present. “See, Nara here don’t consider the vows official until we...until we do the thing.” Tian de ma, he was in no shape to be making up stories for backwoods lawmen. The sheriff was lookin’ at him kinda funny now. “Whoa, now! Not that thing. Course, we’ve already done that thing.” He managed a smile for Inara who shot him her patented get-to-the-point look. “No, I meant the other...thing. Honey pie, don’t you think you oughta go get back in your own clothes? We wouldn’t want the nice sheriff thinkin’ we’re thieves.” “No.” Inara forced a smile. “We wouldn’t want that. I-I’ll be right back, Mal.” “I should be on my way as well. Just make sure to move that mule now.” The sheriff tipped his hat at Inara, who was backing toward the dress shop, eyes on Mal. “Ma’am.” Mal managed to hold on until the sheriff was out of sight. Then he grabbed the side of the mule, felt himself sinking. He could see them again, coming at him from all sides, tearing into him. Then he heard the voice, a sweet, familiar voice, pressing, coaxing. Go, she said. Leave this place now, Captain. “River?” he managed. Mal fought his way back, eyes darting around the square. The sky above was blue and empty. Beneath his feet, even the grass was still. How long? he wondered. He decided he wasn’t gonna hang around to find out. “Jayne!” Mal started the mule, heard the engine roar to life. “Let’s go!” *** Once they broke atmo, Mal moved purposely to the bridge, brushing past the doctor with his little pen light, Inara who followed close on their heels. His eyes raked over the screens. His sky was empty. Not a single ship, Reaver or otherwise, on the maps. “Mal, will you just let Simon examine you?” Inara appeared in the doorway, carrying Raven in her arms. “Not just now, thanks.” He sat in the pilot’s chair, flipping on the cortex. “Keep this tuned to Bellerophon next few hours. I wanna hear any new ‘ports comin’ outta that rock.” “Mal, why don’t you just come to the infirmary? Let me run a few tests....” Mal lay his head back against the chair, closed his eyes. “Ain’t me you should be worried ‘bout, Doc.” “Inara said you nearly fainted. Twice.” Simon leaned against the console. “What happened out there?” Mal met the doctor’s eyes. “ ‘Haps you should ask your sister.” “Mal!” Inara turned the baby in her arms, cuddled Raven against her chest to stop her fretting. “Ask my sister.” Simon shook his head, lost. “What does that mean, Captain? River’s no where near here.” “Yeah? Well, didn’t stop the lil’ albatross from trampin’ about in my brain.” “River...spoke to you?” “More like played a little vid inside my head. The graphic sort.” “Was there anything useful? Any clues as to her whereabouts?” “No, Doctor. I’m startin’ to believe she don’t much wanna be found. She wasn’t lookin’ for a rescue, that’s for certain.” “Then what was she looking to do?” Simon was growing impatient. “Best I can figure, she was tryin’ to save us from the Reaver attack on Bellerophon.” “What Reaver attack?” Inara asked slowly. “That’s my main problem.” Mal tapped the cortex. “This stays on for the next couple days.” “Captain...isn’t it good if there’s no attack? I mean, Reavers are somewhat unpredictable, aren’t they? Perhaps they..changed their minds, decided to hit another planet. I’m sure River didn’t mean to upset you unnecessarily. My sister’s not malicious. She wouldn’t have ‘tramped’ around your brain for no reason.” “Ain’t my brain I’m worried ‘bout, Doctor.” “What do you mean?” Mal met Simon’s eyes. “You ever known your sister to be wrong?” *** Gideon stood not five feet from the spot where Mal had been just hours before. He watched the sun set on Bellerophon, the town common tranquil in the twilight. To his right, a shopkeeper closed up for the night. Across the square two lovers walked arm in arm. “Hey.” He squeezed River’s shoulder reassuringly. “Even a psychic’s entitled to an off day, right?” “I don’t understand,” she said softly. “I saw it happen.” “But this is good news. Isn’t it?” River observed the quiet, at a loss. “It is,” she agreed finally. “Yup.” Gideon started walking back to their shuttle. “Your friends are safe. Today’s a good day.” “No.” River’s voice was barely a whisper on the dark common. “They’ll never be safe.” *** TBC in Part 4. Let me know what you think!

COMMENTS

Wednesday, December 28, 2005 4:36 PM

MANICGIRAFFE


Oh, Mal. Oh, Inara. Can we just lock them in a bunk with a gallon of mudder's milk and let nature take it's course?

Simon's walking a very fine line. Here's hoping he doesn't go wacky.

"Mal nodded, more than a little relieved. A decade was a long time. He could be dead in a decade." That line was so Mal. I busted up laughing.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005 4:47 PM

SYZG


man, you know a chapter is going to be fun when the author writes: "With Inara back on board, a certain swai ship captain feels like his pants are tighter than ever."

and were they ever tight, the poor guy. I like the tension between him and Inara and the cute Simon/Kaylee 'love you' scene *happy sigh*

Wednesday, December 28, 2005 6:17 PM

WEREALLJUSTFLOATING


That was me who just posted above, damn computers!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005 6:25 PM

SHEPARDGHOST


Excellent i thought it was great how river sent the message to mal. Also relly funny when mal was talk to Inara about the problem. I cant wait for the next chapter.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005 7:49 PM

2X2


ahhhh, so good, but I need so much more!! <grin>
Seriously, wonderful as usual.. poor Mal... stubborn fool...

Concerned about River's reaver prediction that ain't.... wonder what that is all about.... trouble I'm thinkin'....

More, please,... your Mal and Inara are soooo good..

Thursday, December 29, 2005 2:19 AM

AGENTROUKA


Not Mal's best day ever. His sister seems determined to spoil all his fun, hehe, even if they luckily don't patch her straight through anymore. Oy!

The vision was most fascinating! I see you're building up to something big here!

Very entertaining part. *g*

Thursday, December 29, 2005 7:27 AM

AMDOBELL


Hmm, I'm a bit concerned here. Absolutely loving the story but River warning Mal and them leaving and her not seeing the Reavers arrive after all makes me wonder if the attack etc is inevitable whether the warning comes or not. In other words, will Mal and co return when there is no attack thinking it's safe only to then be right in the middle of a Reaver attack? I loved the Inara and Mal interaction and Kaylee and Simon. Every part so shiny. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Sunday, January 1, 2006 8:33 PM

SHINYGEEKET


Great chapter! It was nice to come back after four days of being sick and finding a new part to this stort waiting for me. I feel so bad for Mal, the poor guy is going nuts! And you're taking Simon down this whole other path, I can't wait to see what you do with it :)


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Water, Water Everywhere
This is a sort of companion piece to the first section of Two Times They Were Wet and Cold. It's also sort of crack!fic. While Mal and Inara were having a pleasant dialogue in the cargo hold, Kaylee and Simon spent some time getting to know each other in a broom closet. Takes place during the series. PG-13.

Stumbling Along
Post-BDM. Mal makes a delivery on a familiar moon. Inara reflects. M/I. PG-13

Two Times They Were Wet and Cold
Two things that never happened to Mal and Inara. X-posted to LJ for the Truthsome Ficathon.

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Post-BDM. The crew visits a drinking establishment on Beaumonde—no, not that one. Shameless Mal/Inara fluff ensues.

Discomfort
One-shot set after OIS. Kaylee/Simon. Response to the prompt: “Simon bent Kaylee over....”

Past and Present
Fluff-angsty little standalone. Post-BDM. Mal/Inara. PG-13.

Wanderers
This is a standalone set preseries (no Simon, sorry, Leiasky). I have no idea what kind of introduction to slap on this thing, so I'll just say, enjoy! Special thanks to Ann for curtailing the worst of my rambles. NC-17. Comments are love!
~April


Just Another Day
Just another day on Serenity. Preseries. PG-13. Happy September 30th.

Leather
Standalone. Prompt: Leather. Simon, Mal/Inara. PG-13.

Bed and Wine: The Epilogue
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