BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

KAYNARA

Bed and Wine: Part 4
Sunday, January 1, 2006

Mal goes home to Shadow. A continuation of the Bedlam/Bedfellows series. Serenity *spoilers.*


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Bed and Wine: Part 4 By Kaynara

Mal goes home to Shadow. A continuation of the Bedlam/Bedfellows series. Serenity *spoilers.*

It’s Joss’s verse--I just borrow it. *** If there was one thing Mal Reynolds missed out here in the Black, it was waking up with the sunshine. Tomorrow, the bright rays would sneak through his sister’s lace curtains, spreading over the bedcloths till they reached his face, warming and wheedling, coaxing him into opening his eyes. Tomorrow, he’d see daylight when he blinked. Today he dressed in the dark, ran a comb through his hair and strolled down to his kitchen for coffee. He came up short at the doorway, leaned against the frame watching her. Inara wore one of Kaylee’s old sweatshirts, a soft worn gray with the sleeves cut out, and blue silk pajama pants that musta belonged to the doc. Her hair was long and loose, dark, riotous curls pouring down her back. She was feeding Raven from a bottle. Mal posed in the doorjamb, careful not to make a sound. She was talking in poetry, softly spoken words designed to soothe the fretting baby. “Deep into the darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortals ever dared to dream before” Inara adjusted the bottle so the little chick could get a better grip. Mal watched the baby’s tiny fingers curl around Inara’s hand as her little lips sucked keenly at the milk. “Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling, By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore” Mal could see the child’s eyes, wide and blue--would they stay that shade or turn dark like Zoe’s?--so solemn and earnest, staring gratefully at the source of the nourishment. “Lovely.” Inara smoothed the jet hair, soft as down. “You make him smile, you know. You give smiles to everyone on this ship.” “Ahem.” Mal stepped into the kitchen. Inara jumped, startling the baby who whimpered once, found a more secure mouth-hold on the bottle and settled. “Mornin’.” “Good morning,” Inara said after a moment. “I thought I’d let Zoe sleep in for once.” “Uh huh.” He poured coffee for them both, carried the steaming mugs to the table. “You and Kaylee ain’t foolin’ nobody with this ‘let Zoe sleep’ business. Pair of you’s gone baby-crazy.” “For this baby, at least,” Inara admitted. “She’s a sweetheart.” “Yeah, she’s okay.” Mal leaned over to stroke a finger down the baby’s socks-clad foot. “Jayne and I got a pool goin’. If her first word’s ‘Mal’ I win twenty platinum.” “Captain, are you actually placing bets on my sweet niece?” “Why, you want in?” Inara rolled her eyes. “I think I’ll pass.” Mal raked a weary hand through his hair, thinkin’ on all the stuff he had to get done ‘fore they landed on Shadow that evening. Caroline pasted blueprints of the Councilman’s estate over the cortex. He should look over them with Kaylee, see if the girl had any brilliant notions for sneakin’ around the manor. Gorramit, he was eager for this job to be over and done. Shadow was a ghostland to him, death under every fern and bush, and mostly his own. Last night he had a dream about his mother’s graveyard. Beside her stone was another one, a new black rock etched with ivy. He’d read his own name there in the granite. “Hey.” He watched Inara curl the baby against her chest, patting her gently between the shoulder blades. “You ever think on havin’ one of those?” Inara raised a brow, surprised. “You mean to say-” “A tiny squirmin’ thing of your own, I mean to say.” “I--I’ve thought about it.” “And?” “And the opportunity never really arose. It does take two, Mal.” And she’d mostly just been the one. “I do know how it works, Inara.” “Why?” “Why do I know so much ‘bout makin’ babies?” “Why do you ask, Mal?” she said dryly. “Do...do you ever...?” He shrugged, lifted Raven from Inara’s arms. “Don’t know. Month ago I’d have thought I wasn’t fit to be nobody’s daddy. But seein’ Zoe’s little chick....” His voice trailed off. “She is a little darlin’.” The little darling took the opportunity to spit up milk on his shirt. “Nope.” Mal handed the baby back to Inara and reached for a towel. “Ain’t given it a thought.” *** They left Serenity in a secure spot and walked the mile and a half to Caroline’s. Kaylee stopped short at the edge of the property. Mal crashed into her, had to grab her shoulders to keep them both from toppling. “Ai ya!” Kaylee shaded her eyes against the sun, gaping up at the rambling three-story farmhouse, shiny white with blue trim. “Wo de ma, Cap’n.” “It’s lovely, Mal,” Inara admitted, taking in the manicured lawn, the porch planters, overflowing with green, the sturdy gray-brick chimney. “Yes, Caroline has quite the talent for homemaking. Are you sure you’re related?” “Always thought Serenity had a very feng shui feel to her, Doc,” Mal muttered, pushing Simon out of his way. He knocked on the door, nudged it open. “Carly? The prodigal brother has returned to the heartland.” “Don’t seem to be home, sir,” Zoe commented, following him inside. “No, guess she had business in town. Go on and make yourselves cozy,” Mal invited. “Try not to touch nothin’ looks expensive-like.” “Oh, hell.” Jayne stood in the parlor doorway. “Is that a genu-ine reclining chair? Leather?” He looked ready to cry. Mal shrugged. “Knock yourself out.” Jayne plucked Raven out of Zoe’s carrying harness, ignoring the mother’s raised eyebrows. He settled himself and the little babe in the recliner, shutting his eyes with a satisfied groan. “Cap’n.” Kaylee followed him into the kitchen, punched him lightly on the arm. “I never knew you come from money.” Mal laughed shortly and took a seat at his sister’s table, amused when the others followed suit. “Don’t. Carly picked up this property after the War, used her husband’s army pension to fix it up some.” “I didn’t think the Browncoats gave out pensions to their soldiers,” Inara said curiously. “I assumed the war drained Independent resources rather soundly.” “Oh, it surely did. Caroline’s husband fought with the Alliance.” For several moment no one spoke. Then the kitchen door swung open with a warm, antiquated creak. A smallish brunette with Mal’s eyes beamed at them over her shopping bags. “Okay,” she said. “Who’s the big fella sleeping in my living room? And when do I get to hold that swai little child?” *** Caroline fed them first, garden-grown vegetables, real honest-to-goodness fried chicken and wine, lots and lots of wine. “I have my own vineyard, albeit a small one. Still, the grapes are very fine. The Lord blessed this land, made the earth rich and fertile. Ain’t hardly any plant we can’t grow.” “This is excellent,” Inara agreed, eyeing Caroline’s gold cross over the wide rim of her wine glass. She saw that Mal noticed it too. “Think she’s got your engine brew beat, Lil’ Kaylee.” Jayne swigged a deep red with one hand, held Raven with the other. Mal watched Zoe wince as the big man juggled her daughter, though the baby didn’t stir in her sleep. How do you like that? Raven was turning her badass mama from warrior to worrier. He downed his own glass of white, reached over and took the Little Chick, settling her against his chest. He told himself it was just to be sure Jayne didn’t drop her. Hadn’t nothin’ to do with him wantin’ to hold her his own self. “Enough talk about our fine land,” Caroline was saying. “You can see it all for yourselves in the morning. I want to hear about my brother the ship’s captain.” The others exchanged glances, but no one spoke. “Oh, come now. Ain’t anybody feeling truthsome?” She giggled, looking a good deal younger than her forty some-odd years. “Who wants to share?” Mal shrugged, absently rubbing Raven’s tiny back. “They ain’t much for talkin’. Real shy crew I got myself.” Jayne snorted, and Caroline laughed. “Is that so?” She took a sip of her wine. “What if I were to offer a slice of homemade coconut cream pie to anyone bold enough to speak?” Mal sighed, knowing he was humped. “Coconut cream pie,” Kaylee repeated. “You mean to say, ma’am--real whipped cream?” “Unless you’d prefer strawberry shortcake?” “Kaylee.” Mal knew he was sunk but tried to save himself anyhow. “You ain’t so big as to prevent me lockin’ you in the cargo hold for a day or two.” “Hush, Malcom.” Caroline reached over and tousled his hair. “So, Kaylee? What’s my brother really like? I suspect you know him better than I now.” Mal met his sister’s eyes for a moment before looking away. Kaylee was beaming, prolly thinkin’ on naught but those berries now. “Well, let me think a minute. Oooh, once, when we was set down on Triumph, the Captain was so drunk he got hitched and didn’t even realize. Was so funny, Caroline.” “Gorramit, Kaylee.” Jayne looked put out. “That was gonna be mine.” “It wasn’t all that funny,” Mal muttered, glaring at her. “Oh? Ohhh.” Surprised, Caroline paused in collecting the dinner plates. “I didn’t realize you were....” She shook her head, set a smile on her lips. “Then is that how the two of you got together?” The wine must’ve gone to Mal’s head because it took him more ‘n a second to work out what his sister was thinkin’. “Oh, she and I, we ain’t--” Inara spoke at the same time. “Oh no, we’re not--” “Oh, gosh!” Kaylee had the grace to look guilty. “I didn’t mean he married Nara. I think the Cap’n woulda remembered that!” She hesitated, realizing both Mal and Inara were glaring at her now. “He married Saffron,” she said carefully, more quite-like. “And Saffron is...?” “Prettiest little psychopath in the ‘verse,” Jayne explained, ignoring the rising tension in the room. “Got all naked and played the Cap’n but good.” “Not to worry, Sis.” Mal dug into Kaylee’s slice of pie. “Don’t think the marriage is legal on account of the bigamy laws. How many husbands you reckon our Saffron’s racked up by now?” “So...Malcom and Inara got together after?” Caroline was addressing Kaylee now, quickly realizing she’d be the most accommodating of the crew. “I--well.” Kaylee looked at Inara for assistance. “Mal and I are just friends,” Inara explained. “Well, some of the time we’re friends.” “Yeah, when they ain’t fightin’ or screwin’,” Jayne added helpfully. For a moment everyone was silent. Even the forks stopped clinking against the dessert plates. “Jayne-” Mal began, employing his deadly voice. “Hey,” Simon said, trying to ease the tension. “Who wants to hear a funny story about sick people?” The door burst open before anyone could reply. “Malcom Reynolds!” Two sturdy, strapping young men stepped into Caroline’s kitchen. “You sick son of a bitch, I can’t believe you’re back.” Inara glanced nervously at Mal, forgetting she’d been ready to slide under the table in embarrassment just moments before. “What the guay you sittin’ round here for? Mal Reynolds back on Shadow? That’s cause for a gorram party!” “Jim and Jem, I can’t believe you boys are still hangin’ around this place.” Mal passed the baby to Zoe, stood to shake their hands. “Much as I do enjoy your parties--my stomach’s nearly recovered from the last one--my crew and I are here for some clandestine dealings. Got a preference not to make our arrival front page news, if you catch my drift.” “Not a problem, Mal.” Either Jim or Jem--Inara wasn’t sure which--slapped him boisterously on the back. “We’ll just bring the party to you. Carly don’t mind, do you sweetheart?” “I--well, no.” She shrugged. “Long as the partygoers stay out back. And out of my house.” “I ain’t one to discourage rowdy drinkin’, but let’s keep this small, Jem. Wouldn’t want to draw a crowd.” “Sure, Mal, sure. Just a few close friends and a few handles of our finest rum.” Jim hesitated in the doorway, grinned. “Congrats on the little one, Reynolds. I got me three at home.” *** There was drinking. The drinkin’ led to dancin’. Well, Mal appraised, as he, Jem and Jim did another shot of rum. Wasn’t so much dancin’ as horny drunk folk rubbing up against one another. He grinned, settled himself a little unsteady-like on the top of his sister’s picnic table. Kaylee had wheedled Inara into teachin’ her some fancy dance. But either Inara was too tipsy to instruct properly or Kaylee was too gone to listen. Likely it was a mixture of the two. Mal watched the doctor weave through a sea of bodies, stumbling towards Kaylee. “Not a bright move, Top Three Percent,” Mal muttered, watching the girls tug Simon between them. He managed to spin them both equally, if somewhat awkwardly. Always a happy drunk, Kaylee kissed the both of them, before cutting through the throng to where Mal sat on the table. “Hey, Cap’n.” She dropped down on the seat between his legs, resting her head on his knee. “You havin’ a good time?” “Fun fit to burstin’,” Mal assured, patting the top of her head. She smiled, pleased, and snagged the mostly-drained bottle of liquor from beside him. “Do a shot with me, Cap’n?” “Okay, but I ain’t carryin’ your sloppy self upstairs when you pass out.” They downed the last of the potent liquid and Kaylee tucked the bottle under her arm. She stood shakily and extended a hand. “Ready to play?” Mal raised a brow. “Don’t think the doctor would much like you and me playin’, Lil Kaylee.” Not to mention that Kaylee was as much a sister to him as the woman who owned this farmhouse. “Cap’n!” she hooted a laugh, tugged him over to join the others. “We’re playin’ Spin the Bottle.” *** Mal kissed a pretty redhead, then watched Inara kiss the same girl, albeit more skillfully, moments later. Through a white wine haze, he saw Jayne land on Kaylee, kiss her long enough to have the doctor squirmin’ in his britches. “Jayne!” Kaylee laughed, swatted him upside the head. “I said no tongue!” She spun herself and managed to get the doctor. Mal saw Simon’s hand creep up to cover her breast as they kissed. Quickly, he averted his eyes, still not quite comfy with his Little Kaylee being all grown. Simon went next, got Inara, who laughed and brushed his lips lightly as Kaylee made smooching sounds. “This game’s gettin’ all sorts of incestuous, and I ain’t kissin’ Mal again,” Jayne muttered. He glanced around the yard drunkenly for possible recruits. “Hey, Caroline, you wanna play?” “No, she don’t,” Mal said quickly. “You’re playing Spin the Bottle?” She looked surprised, then amused. “Malcom, remember when Mama caught you playin’ in the barn. I think he was eleven,” she added for the others. “Just myself and the Rutherford twins.” He grinned, recalling the little blond girls with matching smiles. “Hell, Mama whooped me but good for that one.” “Just for playing Spin the Bottle?” Inara asked. “The ranch hand that found them said one of the twins was missing her blouse,” Caroline explained. “Hey, that was all her idea!” Mal insisted. “But I’ll bet you didn’t protest overmuch,” Inara teased. “Hey, it’s Nara’s turn!” Kaylee insisted, cuddling under Simon’s arm. “I was hoping you’d forgotten that,” Inara laughed but crawled over to where the bottle lay in the center of the circle, gave it a good spin. They all watched the nose come to a stop, pointing straight at Mal. “Ohh,” Kaylee said softly, some part of her brain recalling why she’d started up the game in the first place. The others watched expectantly. Even Jayne stopped trying to lure scantily clad women, his eyes on the captain. “Good spin,” Mal said dryly. “You comin’ over here or do I have to get myself up?” “Oh, I’m bettin’ she can get you up, Mal.” Jayne grinned, then winced when Simon hit him. “Inara spun so she goes to you,” Kaylee supplied helpfully. Inara sighed, tried to crawl gracefully across the circle in one of River’s flowing skirts. She hesitated in front of him, kneeling on the grass. Tian de ma, she was like a vision, a religious offering with her blouse slipping off her shoulder, her cheeks pink from the wine and the cold. Mal rose to his knees, reached out a hand to brush glossy black curls from her face. “Well?” Grateful he couldn’t think too clearly, he clasped his hand around the back of her neck, tilted her head. “You gonna kiss me or just sit there holdin’ up the game?” She smiled and removed his hand from her head, returned it to his lap. Carefully, she threaded her fingers through his suspenders, tugged him to within an inch of her lips. Only then did she kiss him, her lips gentle at first, teasing his, coaxing them apart. She let him graze her tongue for a second before pulling away. “Your spin,” she said, enjoying the way he stared, open-mouthed, before she returned to her spot on the lawn. *** After that last round, Mal escaped to the hammock. Caroline had strung one up out front betwixt a couple o’ old pine trees, and Mal figured he was safer by his lonesome nowabouts. If he had to kiss her again, he was sure to embarrass himself. Mal swung easily on the bed of mesh, staring up at the sky, the stars. They were familiar and reassuring, if not quite as bright as they appeared on Serenity. His eyes drifted closed as the cool night breeze played through his hair. “Sir.” When next he opened his eyes, the sky was just beginning to turn pink in the east. Zoe was watching him with amusement. “Hey, there.” He tried to move, realized it’d be better on his head and his stomach if he didn’t. “Thought you and the Little Chick were gone to bed.” “It’s near morning, sir.” “So it is.” He glanced around the yard. “Where’d everybody go?” “Oh, I reckon most of ‘em stumbled home.” “Huh.” Mal let his lashes flutter shut, hoped she’s take the hint and let him sleep awhile longer. “You know, Wash talked on gettin’ a farm, sir.” “Did he?” Mal opened one eye. “Funny, but I can’t imagine that man grounded. Thought, next to me, he liked flyin’ more ‘n anyone.” “Loved the ship, sir. Still, he wanted more someday. Wanted a home.” “And what about you?” Mal asked, fully awake now and realizing he wasn’t gettin’ back to sleep any time soon. “You thinkin’ on takin’ my niece and fulfilling that dream for him?” “I’ll let you know as soon as I figure that out, sir.” She folded her arms across her chest. “We ain’t talkin’ ‘bout me though.” “No. Somehow I didn’t think we were.” Mal rolled to a sitting position, tried not to fall out of the hammock as his head spun. “Quit swaying, Zoe, it’s makin’ me all sorts of sick.” “Sir?” She shook her head, unwilling to be drawn into a drunken debate. “I figured it’s time someone talks to you. Most o’ the others is too afraid, Jayne’s mostly useless, and Inara would rather take a bullet. Figured that left me. Stand up.” “Excuse me?” Mal raised a brow. “Less I’m mistaken, I still outrank you, Zoe.” “On your feet, soldier,” she said loudly. He stood, deciding it was in his best interest to cooperate at this juncture. He put a hand to his head, hoping to keep the contents in place. “Well. Where do you want it, sir?” “Want what?” He didn’t even see it coming. She drew back and hit him, square in the jaw. "Shun-SHENG duh gao-WAHN!” Mal bent forward, clutching the side of his face. “Gorramit, what the hell’s the matter with you?” “Someone has to knock some sense into you. Pretty talk’s never had much of an effect on you; I decided to go a different way.” “You gonna tell me what’s goin’ on in that ruttin’ head, Zoe?” “I respect your authority, sir. I think you’re a good man, a good captain to everyone on that boat.” She shook her head, took a tissue from her pocket and pressed it to his lip. “I just can’t watch you self-destruct no more. Been goin’ on far too long.” “I don’t got a notion of where this is comin’ from, Zoe. Thought you of all people knew better than to meddle in business ain’t yourn.” “Sir, you were happy with her. May not have been simple--don’t reckon either of you is capable of simple. But you were happy.” He looked away, his eyes scanning the low, rolling farmland. “Captain.” She put her hands on his shoulders, forcing him to meet her gaze. “Nothing is forever, sir. Not life, not love, not even that gorram war we fought.” “You think I don’t know that?” “I don’t know, sir. Alls I know is there’s things I would have said to him. Things I woulda done different if I’d known.” Zoe let her hands fall to her sides, leaned back against the tree, staring out over the farm. “I woulda used that time better if I’d known how little there’d be.” “Zoe.” Mal wanted done with this discussion, was sick to death of this particular topic. “Inara and I ain’t you and Wash. Don’t push your regrets off on me. Wasn’t me told you to let him into your bed or your....” “That ain’t the part I regret, sir. Don’t regret letting Wash inside me; don’t regret the physical and sure as hell don’t regret the emotional. Part I regret’s keepin’ him out so long.” “Let her back on the ship, didn’t I?” “Sir, you kidnapped her. And now you can’t hardly walk straight, you want her so. She hides it better, but I know she’s missing you.” “I’m sorry, when did I start payin’ you to matchmake? And whaddaya mean she hides it better?” “Sir, you didn’t die at Serenity Valley. I’m tired of you actin’ like you did.” Zoe stepped in front of him, hands at her back. “’Haps it ain’t my place to say it, but I reckon it needed to be said.” Mal met her eyes a moment, turned and started walking away. “Leave me alone awhile, Zoe.” “Sir? Why didn’t you return that punch, Captain?” she called after his retreating figure. “Figure it ain’t right hittin’ somebody’s mama,” he said without turning. He continued on toward the pond, leaving Zoe alone with the sunrise. *** Jayne felt like his head was bleeding. He pulled the covers up over his head, burrowing down into the soft silken sheets. Gorramit, this was a nice bed, a hundred times softer than his bunk. It smelled pretty too, like females and vanilla. When had he gone to bed last night? That part was awful fuzzy. Groaning, Jayne reached down in search of his pocket watch. Huh. No pockets on account of the no pants. What had he done with his pants? That part was awful fuzzy too. After a few more minutes of lyin’ there like a lump, Jayne resigned himself to raising his head. Sun might burn his eyes out but Mal’d do worse than that if he didn’t get a move on, start prepping for the job tomorrow. Tentatively, Jayne picked his head up off the pillow, squinted one eye open. Big brass bed posts, lavender paint on the walls. How had he wound up in the girlie room? He looked to his left, and suddenly it all made sense, a horrible, stomach-twisting type of sense. Mal’s sister slept curled fetal beside him. And she was all sorts of naked. ***

The day wasn’t especially warm, but Mal figured he needed to cool off some. He stripped down to his skivvies, left his clothes on a rock and waded into the chill water. He let his legs go numb with cold, then dunked his head under. Not the most orthodox hangover-healer perhaps. Still, he felt better drying off in the grass, the sun baking away both physical aches and frustration. He was half asleep when he heard the crunching sound of footsteps. Shading his eyes against the brightness, he watched her approach, her shiny appearance belying the amount of alcohol she’d consumed the night before. How the hell did women do that, he wondered drowsily. Inara raked her eyes over him, taking in his wet hair, his undershorts. “I know you’ve been off world awhile, Mal. But houses have these amazing rooms with baths now.” She hesitated, wrinkled her nose. “Did something happen to your face?” Mal raised an eyebrow. “You askin’ me into the shower, Nara? Need someone to lather those hard to reach spots?” “Mm, don’t you wish.” “Not especially. If I had you alone in the bath, I doubt either of us would be gettin’ any cleaner.” Inara felt her breath hitch, turned her eyes over the water. “You’re in a strange mood this morning.” “Well, crime does tend to give me a happy.” He rose to a sitting position, tugged his shirt over his head. “Smile, darlin’. Today you get your fancy lady attire.” “Oh, but I’m not a ‘fancy lady’ any longer. Now I’m an accomplice to crime.” “Inara.” Mal buckled his pants, tugged up the zipper. “Don’t think you could stop bein’ a fancy lady if you tried.” She opened her mouth to protest then closed it. He reached out a hand, tugging her to her feet. “Well, come on, cupcake. Those dresses ain’t gonna try themselves on.” “Can you not call me cupcake?” *** When Mal wandered into the kitchen, he found Jayne already washed and dressed, his eyes pouring over a map of the councilman’s estate. Mal nodded at him, went to pour coffee. “Jayne.” “What? I mean, mornin’. Captain.” He stood quickly. “Want my seat?” “There’s like five others empty, Jayne,” Mal said slowly, as though speaking to a dimwitted child. He sipped his coffee, cut into a slice of his sister’s homemade banana bread. “Now that is one talented woman,” he said after the first bite. “You sample a taste, Jayne?” “What? I didn’t taste nothin’, Mal.” “Uh huh.” He shook his head, polished off the slice. “Kaylee. Doctor.” “Morning!” Kaylee said sunnily. She and Simon were holding hands. “You’re in a cheersome mood,” Mal observed. “More than usual, even.” “That’s ‘cuz last night was extra shiny. Can I tell them?” Simon shrugged. “I don’t suppose a power in the verse could stop you.” But his smile was indulgent. “Last night--well it was Simon’s and my first time in a real bed. You know, like a bed meant for two with real sheets and fluffy pillows.” “I’m real happy for you both,” Mal said dryly. “Ain’t you happy, Jayne?” “Huh? Oh yeah, thrilled. Glad someone got sexed last night. ‘Cuz I surely didn’t!” His voice rose slightly at the end. “How’d I get me a boatload of crazies?” Mal inquired of no one in particular. “Good morning, everyone.” Inara came in with the baby cuddled to her chest, went to fetch a bottle from the cooler. “Morning, Nara. Where’s Zoe?” Kayle asked. “She said she had errands, asked me to look after Raven awhile.” “You don’t have time for babysittin’. You gotta go spend all my money.” “I have to make you appear respectable, Mal. A task that formidable requires more than a few coins platinum.” “Suppose that ain’t but the truth. Still, ‘haps the happy couple could watch Little Chick a few hours.” “Sure, Mal,” Simon agreed. Kaylee was beaming. “Nara, guess what me and Simon got up to last night.” Mal just groaned. *** “Ching jin. Oh, hello.” Inara smiled, motioned for Caroline to sit beside her on the bed. “I have to thank you for the room. Truly, its beautiful.” “I’m glad you’re enjoying it.” She smoothed a hand over the rose-print paper on the walls. “Did you find everything you needed in town?” “Yes, the shop had many lovely dresses; I appreciate the recommendation.” Caroline glanced at the pile on the bed. “May I?” “Of course.” She peeled back layers of tissue to reveal an off-the-shoulder cocktail dress in inky black. “Ravishing. I fear I put you in an awkward position when I asked Malcom to take this job.” Inara smiled, not bothering to pretend she misunderstood. “You needn’t feel guilty. I put myself in that position when I chose to ship out with Serenity.” “You knew you loved him that early?” “I knew I couldn’t stand him,” Inara said laughing. “Mal and I--we have a complicated relationship.” “My brother is nothing if not complicated. You do love him though, don’t you? Forgive me for prying. I know it’s none of my business, only...I’d feel better when he’s gone if I knew you did. I realized a long time ago I’d never get Malcom back the way he was before the war. He came back so empty, so altered. But I want him to be happy, Inara. As happy as he’s capable of being. I’d feel better if I knew he had someone, that he wasn’t alone on the ship with his pain for company.” “Caroline.” Inara folded the black dress, set it with the others in the bag. “What Mal and I have...what we had, I mean to say....” “Please, Inara. Woman to woman.” She hesitated, studying her brother’s lover. “I was almost eleven when Malcom was born. I can remember holding him as a baby.” Inara sighed. “I love him. Half the time I don’t like him. More than occasionally I feel like slapping him. But, no matter how far I try to run, somehow I keep finding my way back to him. Or perhaps it’s he who finds me.” “Thank you.” Caroline kissed the younger woman’s cheek. “That’s all I needed to hear.” “Don’t worry about Mal. He has a loyal crew. Well, mostly loyal.” “Mm.” Caroline’s ears glowed red in the lamplight. “A good crew. How long have you known this Jayne fellow?”

*** Mal lay in the hammock, the baby sleeping on his chest. She fisted her tiny fingers in his shirt, her little legs stretching as she dreamed, her small body warm against his. Rutting hell, this one would be a heartbreaker. Kid wasn’t two months in the world, and already he couldn’t imagine his ship without her. He supposed it’d only get worse as she grew. By the time she was five, she’d probably be flying the damn boat, Uncle Mal helpless to refuse her. If she was anything like her daddy, she’d have the skill. He was particularly eager for the little chick to start talking. Something told him she’d have lots to say. “Captain.” Mal glanced over to see Simon approaching. The doc had forgone his usual shirt and vest, trading them for a faded gray t-shirt and some funny-looking sandals. “Doctor. I can see this casual country living’s gone to your head.” “Oh, yes. I’m liable to start milking cows any minute now.” “You just keep up that sarcastic thing, Doc. Where’s your girlfriend?” “Kaylee? She went back to Serenity to look for gadgets. You know, for the crime.” “Good girl,” Mal said approvingly. “Still not sure how we’re gonna access this guy’s files, even if we are guests in his home.” “I’m sure you’ll come up with a plan. Not necessarily a good plan, but....” “Did you want something, Doc? Besides pesterin’ me and the little chick here?” “I want to talk about River, Mal.” “What about her?” “It’s not that I resent being here--your sister seems like a lovely person, and I’m sure this job is important to the people of Shadow.” “You approachin’ a point, son?” “The point is I’m not overly interested in doing battle with the Alliance at this juncture. My main goal is finding and rescuing my sister.” “I’m aware of that, Doc. And you know I have the same aim in mind.” “I don’t think my sister’s hiding out in some swai little farming community.” “No, don’t reckon she is. But ain’t like we can hop in Serenity and set a course for her. Otherwise, we’d have the little albatross back on board.” “Captain. Not to be insolent, but I highly doubt a local councilor will possess the knowledge of my sister’s whereabouts.” “No, I don’t ‘spect he will. But one secret has a way of outting the next. Lies tend to come in layers, Doctor.” “I just...I’m tired of waiting, Mal. I feel like I’ll go insane if I don’t do something soon.” “Yeah. Yeah, I know the feeling.” ***

TBC in Part 5. Will Mal be able to resist Inara’s feminine wiles for an entire weekend? I need feedback, people!

COMMENTS

Sunday, January 1, 2006 6:43 PM

SYZG


*lmao* ah the fic has turned into jayne/mal!
just kidding ;) loved the spin the bottle.

“Oh, I’m bettin’ she can get you up, Mal.”

God, I can hear Jayne saying that *lol*

Whoo! Go Zoe! Kick that captain's ass!

Still love Baby Raven, so very cute :-P

looking forward, as always to more

Sunday, January 1, 2006 7:01 PM

2X2


Oh, hooray for Zoe tryin' to knock some sense into that gorram Captain... Loved spin the bottle! I played Truth or Dare this New Year's Eve <g> so I have no problem believing this group could get up to Spin the Bottle... tee hee!! I like Mal's sis... askn' all sorts of uncomfortable questions, and offerin' up Pie in exchange for answers!!! Brilliant girl, but then, she's related to Mal, probably instrumental in much of his makeup bein' 11 years older'n him and all..
So happy to see this part posted,.. what better way to start the new year!!!
Will Mal resist Inara's wiles??? Can't wait to find out!!!!

Sunday, January 1, 2006 9:16 PM

SHINYGEEKET


Again, great chapter! I love the fact that Mal and Jayne were actually drunk enough to consent to a kiss! You had me dying laughing with that one. Also, loved guiilty Jayne, and how Zoe intiated her little "chat" with Mal :) Please keep up the good work :)

Sunday, January 1, 2006 11:06 PM

OLDSOUL1987


YES! I LOVE IT! THANK YOU! PLEASE WRITE MORE!... thank you again!

Monday, January 2, 2006 12:49 AM

AMDOBELL


Very fine story, so much to love in it and so much to cherish. I'm hoping that Mal's sister is as wonderful as she comes across, slightly worried with her having been married to an Alliance man. Wonder if that will come back to haunt them. It was shiny having Jim and Jem pop by and bring the party to Caroline's house and everything that followed was great. Loved Zoe doing her *tough love* bit with Mal, now wish she'd have a straight word or two with Inara. Like Inara said it takes two, let's get the two of them together! And Kaylee announcing to one and all that she and Simon had finally had sex in a real bed, I laughed so much I almost spilt my coffee. I also loved Mal with the baby and can't help wondering if it won't be giving Inara the hint she needs. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Monday, January 2, 2006 5:04 AM

AGENTROUKA


What with everyone holding a tiny squirming thing all over the place I had to go get my plushy guineacat that I got for Christmas, just to soothe the pet cravings.
The baby is entirely too compelling, hehe.

This was a really light-hearted part, complete with sophomoric party games, whee!

And Jayne! Lol! That man is so unsubtle, it's subtle again...


It looks like Simon is starting to pick up the rimworld slang! Maybe all these fighting lessons with Mal rubbed off in more ways than one. But he's still beautifully snarky. It makes me cheerful everytime.

Also: I love Zoe.

Mal in a "strange mood" is much fun to watch.

Now I'm looking forward to more of your lovely plot!

Monday, January 2, 2006 4:38 PM

LEIGHKOHL


I also loved the who wants to hear a funny story about sick people line, that really got me! Can't wait for your next post!:)

Monday, January 2, 2006 8:57 PM

JOY


yay! more! please!
i'd hate to see Zoe go soft, i bet she's going nuts on the ship just waiting during a job.

Wednesday, January 4, 2006 1:51 PM

BELLONA


ooh!!! jayne/mal kiss!!! *happy thoughts*

b


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