Sign Up | Log In
BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
All my fanfics tidied up and gathered together into 4 neat little parcels. Come! Witness the amazing genesis from the caterpillar of crapness to the cocoon of "hmm! that's OK" culminating in the butterfly of "woa! Similes" ... Oh, and it's what would have happened if Mal had only hired that cook (Out of Gas)...
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 2090 RATING: 10 SERIES: FIREFLY
CHAPTER 3 - BIRTHS, MARRIAGES & DEATHS
It had been four months since the eventful scenes surrounding Kaylee's twentieth birthday party. By mutual, unspoken consent, Hat and Mal had kept silent as to their budding relationship and assumed that no one else was aware of it. Hat felt generally embarrassed; despite having got what she now acknowledged to herself she had hankered for all along. She had the feeling that she would be teased mercilessly if it was common knowledge that the man she was supposed to hate (or at least spar with incessantly) was actually her lover. Mal, for his part, just couldn't bear the volley of "I told you so"s he knew he'd be on the receiving end of, especially from Inara, the instigator of the union. If there was one thing he hated, it was a Companion in the right!
It wasn't as if their behaviour had changed. Neither of them was of the demonstrative affection sort and they rowed just as much as they ever had, both in public and in private. It just so happened that making up was a whole 'Verse of fun more than it used to be. The only irritating grit in the oyster was having to sneak back to a cold bed early each morning; something that palled very quickly and made even the very enjoyable element of secrecy that little bit less pleasurable.
Hat's alarm clock, lodged under her pillow where she knew she'd hear it, went off and she pulled herself out of a wonderful dream where she was wrapped warmly in a bed with Mal, snoring, next to her. Only to discover, it wasn't a dream at all. This scenario was still exotic enough to thrill her each morning, but it was gorram hard to be in any way thrilled at 4.45 a.m.
"Mal!" she nudged him gently, "Mal!" He made an unidentifiable sound and tightened his grip round her waist, nuzzling at the back of her neck. "*Wei* MAL!" her voice became insistent.
"Wha'?" he mumbled groggily.
"Time to go back to your own bed, *bao bay*."
"*Tzao gao*! You know yer killing me, don't you?"
"So you wanna tell everyone what we're up to then, do ya? You really want that humiliation?"
"Not really, but ... Hey!" Mal raised his head blearily and squeezed open his eyes. "You really think it'd be humiliating for the crew to know you're sleeping with me?" He sounded hurt.
"Being honest? A mite!" said Hat. "I mean, come on, Mal! We're supposed to hate each other or at least irritate the *guay* out of one another. I've jacked in all my principles to get me some Captain!"
"For the record, you're irritating the hell outta me right now!" Mal griped. "And 'your principles'! Hah!" Mal was out of bed, pulling on his trousers. "What about mine? No shipboard romances, remember? 'They complicate things!' Remember?"
"They surely do seem to, don't they?" Hat was laughing, as Mal got lost in his shirt. "Just go do yer captainy things, will ya?"
"Now I'm up and had my first spat of the mornin', I think I will!" The Captain lent over the bed, gathered up his lover in his arms and kissed her soundly. "Go back to sleep, I'll see you later!"
Mal leant against the woolly headrest of the cockpit seat and rested his eyes for a few minutes. A resting which inevitably led to visions of a scantily clad Hat, or better still, a naked Hat, cavorting through his skull. He was woken much later by Wash, wandering, yawning, onto the bridge and slumping down next to him in the co-pilot's chair.
"Please don't tell me you slept here again last night, Mal. This is becoming a worrying habit!"
"Nah, just got up early is all and clearly fell asleep." Mal looked round in some surprise, "What the hell time is it, anyhow?"
"Almost 9 in the a.m."
"*Gou shi*! I really weren't plannin' to fall asleep! I'm an idiot. How long till we reach Demeter?"
Zoë walked on to the bridge looking fresh as a daisy. "Morning all!"
"About 18 hours, I should say," said Wash.
"Shiny. Zoë and me, we go in, find the bar, get the lead and get out. Don't want to stay there any longer than necessary. I hate that gorram moon!"
"Only 'cos last time we were there you had one of the worst hangovers I've ever seen a person survive, Sir." said Zoë, managing to make the "Sir" sound antsy.
"Weren't the hangover so much as the two back eyes, if I remember rightly," grinned Wash.
"Well, whatever it was," said Mal, "I ain't fixing on reliving it, if it's all the same to you two!"
"You go ahead, Sir," said Zoë soothingly, "just remember not to drink the poocheen this time, is all. Just came to tell my husband, and I'll tell you too, Hat's cooking up some chow in the galley, I'd move it if you wanna get some."
"Already gone," said Wash, heading out the door. "Is it pancakes? Hope it's pancakes!"
"So what's Demeter like?" Simon asked, leaning across the table to reach a rice cake.
"Oh, it's shiny!" Smiled Kaylee. "Has a great bazaar and loads a those low down, dirty bars. Cap hates it though, don't figure on why."
"Perhaps 'cos last time he was there he got sloshed and started a fight with the biggest Alliance goons I ever seen," put in Jayne. "If it weren't for Zoë we'd still be lookin' for bits a him!"
"Ah, wacky fun!" sighed Wash, wandering in and sticking his nose into the pan Hat was heating on the stove. "So there is pancakes! Just as I thought. Can I get eggs with mine?"
"Yup!" smiled Hat. "But you'll need to pass 'em to me from the basket."
"You look a bit peaky this morning, Hat, you don't mind my sayin'," said Zoë, coming in behind her husband. "You ok?"
"Yeah, I'm fine, Just a bit tired, is all," said Hat and then completely disproved her statement by looking a the egg she'd just cracked into a bowl, tuning green, swallowing heavily and running from the room, pushing past Mal as she ran. Mal watched her go with some confusion.
"Never figured I had quite that effect on women," he shrugged and pulling up a chair, helped himself to a pancake.
"I think I'll go check she's all right," said Zoë.
"Hey, you ok?" Mal had the grace to look a little more concerned, when Hat returned shakily, accompanied by Zoë, some 10 minutes later. She nodded and sank into a chair, reaching for some coffee.
Zoë wrinkled her nose. "Let's just say Hat's eaten something that mightily disagrees with her!" She said.
"Knew my cookin'd be the death of me," smiled Hat ruefully. "Must have been dinner last night. Anyone else feelin' queasy?"
Simon scanned the room. "It doesn't appear so, but if anyone does start to feel off colour, let me know. Hat, if you stop by the infirmary later, I can give you something that'll take the edge off the nausea. Plus, we can run some tests, see if we can pinpoint what's causing it."
He looked so enthusiastic Hat scowled. "You been a bit bored lately, Doc? I ain't fixin' to be no lab bunny!"
"It'll just be a couple of tests," said Simon hastily. "But it'll be good to know what you did wrong for next time!"
"Yeah," Mal was serious. "We really ain't needin' a whole heap a sick people, worst thing that can happen way out in the Black. So, you two, sort it out."
Hat stuck her head around the infirmary door. "Simon, you said if I came round later, you'd give me something? I'm still feeling pretty queasy."
Simon turned and smiled. "'Course, come in, Hat. Sit up on the bed and let's have a look at you."
Hat stepped into the infirmary and closed the door behind her. "Actually, Doc," began Hat, looking Simon squarely in the face, "I don't think a whole heap of tests is gonna be necessary. I think I know what's wrong with me."
"Yup," said Simon, turning back round to face Hat, "you're definitely pregnant. Er, congratulations, I guess!"
"Thanks!" said Harriet dryly.
"Is it congratulations?" he asked curiously.
"I think so, well, I s'pose so," said Hat slowly. "It's just, well, this is gonna be a little awkward, is all."
"I take it the father doesn't know yet?" said Simon. Hat shook her head.
"Speaking of which," he went on, "we've been in the Black for a few weeks now and I don't remember you leaving the ship last time we docked, so..." he paused, looking at Hat, who had the decency to blush. "We have a few candidates. One's a married man, one's a Shepherd - and I'm pretty sure he doesn't indulge - then, don't get me wrong, I would be flattered, but I'm sure I would have noticed if we were having sex, so that leaves Jayne and..."
"Give me a little credit!" snapped Harriet. "I'd hardly mate with a half-man half-baboon! That'd be inter-species ruttin'!"
"So we're talking..." Simon paused and looked at her questioningly.
"Yes, go on," sighed Hat, restlessly, "you can say it! We're talking the Captain. We're talking Malcolm surprisingly gorram fertile Reynolds!"
"Ah," Simon was sententious. "And how long.?"
"Four months, not that it's any of your business, Doctor." Said Hat reprovingly.
"Yes, but I can see why you're a little nervous, any idea how he'd take the advent of a, of a." Simon didn't seem to be able to bring himself to acknowledge the idea of Mal's child.
"A mini-Mal?" Harriet finished for him. "No, I've no idea and you know him, he doesn't really talk that much about... and he's so pessimistic! I mean, maybe he'd think it was great. To be honest, I think it's pretty shiny," she smiled wistfully. "A little Mal runnin' around'd be kinda cute! But what if he thinks it's the worse news in the 'Verse? What if he hates the idea? I mean, we ain't been together long, we've no idea where it's goin' and we ain't even told anyone."
"Well," said Simon, "practically speaking, you know where it's going to go in about 6 and a half months and you're going to have to tell him soonish. There comes a point when these things become pretty obvious."
"*Lao tyen*! I know," sighed Hat, her head in her hands. "But until I do," she looked up, "this conversation is strictly between ourselves, if you want to keep yer own baby makin' equipment!"
"Hey," Simon was hurt, "I'd never breach patient confidentiality, anyhow."
"So, let's get to the practicalities. Give me something to stop the whole throwing up when I look at eggs routine and I'll leave you to enjoy what's left of your day!"
"So you're ok then?" Asked Mal, leaning over Hat's shoulder to poke at the stir-fry she was preparing.
"Yup," Hat nodded. "Simon gave me a clean bill of health, so you can all stop goin' on about it!"
"Hey! We're just concerned, is all!"
"Well, no need to be, As previously stated, I'm fine. I just got a lot to learn about cookin' week-old chicken. Now you think you could round up the gang for supper?"
Mal saluted, but behind her back where there was no risk of being seen and headed for the com.
"So," said Wash, looking up from his plate, "I'm thinkin' we should actually all accompany you on this tricky "getting drunk and getting a job" mission!"
Zoë glared at him and then shot a look at Mal. "Wrong order, Husband, it's job first, drink after and I'm sure me, Jayne and the Cap can manage, thank you!"
"Nah, I think it's a shiny idea!" said Kaylee. "We hardly ever get to go out together and Demeter is such a nice place! Please, Cap'n, can we all come?"
Mal scowled. "This is business, Kaylee, we don't muck about with business."
"But you did say you were just going to a bar," pointed out Simon.
"Sounds to me," put in Inara, as she helped herself to more rice, "like more of a crowd would give you more cover, you know, more of a back story, help you blend in?"
"Oh, 'cos a companion, a preacher and a lunatic, no offence," Mal smiled at River, "are really gonna help me blend in!"
"None taken," said River sweetly, and reached a roll off Mal's plate with a cheeky grin.
"I'll keep a close hand on River, Captain," Simon assured him. "I think it would be good for her to get out and see something other than Serenity, provided it's safe, of course. It is safe, isn't it?"
Mal nodded. "One thing you can say about Demeter - ain't got much of an official Alliance presence. That moon's a bit too wild for them!"
"Well then," said Jayne, "I can't figure we got much of a problem takin' them along."
Mal glared at him. "Jayne, you ain't helpin' and why are you so keen for a mass outin' all of a sudden?"
Hat sniggered, handing round the rice. "Perhaps it's got somethin' to do with who's gonna pay for drinks?"
Jayne glowered at her. "Hey, I buy my own when it's called for! I ain't tight!"
"'Course you ain't, Jayne," said Hat sarcastically, still laughing.
The following evening, the crew headed for the bar. They found it as advertised, sleazy, dirty and dark. What little light there was, was coming from low-slung red lamps. These gave the tables, glasses and the drinkers a faintly roseate glow. It was cosy and meant that you couldn't really see the cockroaches, which was an added blessing. The music was provided by an odd band in one corner, but was low enough to give atmosphere yet not drown out conversation. The crew were ensconced in a corner table, with seats running along the two walls. Jayne, Zoë and Wash sat on stools, their backs to the rest of the bar. Jayne and Wash were hunched over the table, reducing the necessity to shout, but Zoë sat back and half turned, with a weather-eye to the rest of the clientele.
Mal wandered up and pulled out a stool. "Well, looks like we got ourselves a job," he remarked casually, nodding to a couple of rugged looking men at a distant table. "We're to meet at a rendezvous spot, day after tomorrow for further details, but it's lookin' like yer basic smuggling caper."
"Congratulations, Captain!" Inara raised her tiny glass of gloopy pink liquor to him. "And what exciting cargo have you got lined up this time?"
Mal tapped the side of his nose. "Aha! That's for me to know, thank you! But, I'll tell yer for nothin', ain't no wobbly-headed dolls!"
Inara laughed and sipped her drink. The laughter became general as everyone joked and threw ribald stories back and forth. Everyone, bar Mal who'd been forced to drink hard to clinch the deal, seemed pleasantly merry. Even Jayne was drunk enough to volunteer to get the next round. Once the chorus of amused shock and fake fainting fits had subsided, Jayne began taking orders.
"Wash," Zoë was firm, "no more poocheen. If yer gonna drink more, will you please stick to sake? I ain't gonna carry you back to the ship!"
"You are so mean!" said Kaylee, unaware that she was incurring the wrath of a warrior woman. "I've had as much as Wash an' I ain't the least bit drunk."
"Well, you hold it better'n my husband!" laughed Zoë.
"Ow! That hurts!" wined Wash, followed by a quick "I'll have a sake," directed at Jayne.
"The poocheen is pretty gorram weak, as I recall!" said Mal happily. "Same again for me!"
Hat exchanged a look with Simon. "I'll just have a Blue Sun I reckon, thanks Jayne. What with feelin' rough yesterday, don't fancy alcohol!"
Jayne didn't argue, happy that his round was going to come in cheap and headed for the bar. Zoë, however, hadn't missed Hat's glance at Simon nor her order and now she was both curious and not stupid.
"Hang on a sec... Just hang on..." she began. "You were feelin' sick yesterday and now you ain't drinkin' alcohol and you been lookin' a bit different recently, one might almost say, bloomin'... Hat you ain't.?"
Wash looked at his wife bemusedly and then, understanding, grinned. "There maybe somethin' you wanna tell us, Hat?" he asked mischievously.
Hat glared at them both, willing them to shut the hell up, but now the whole table was looking curious and light was clearly beginning to dawn on several faces. Inara smiled smugly. "I wondered how long it would take..." she began.
Zoë cut in with "and what's he think, then?" nodding at Mal.
Hat glared again as strongly as she could. Mal was looking on in downright confusion. A mixture of alcohol and disbelief was clearly slowing his synapses. "I haven't told him yet," snapped Hat, tetchily. "And this is really not the way I wanted to do it. So, thanks, Zoë, everyone, thanks a bundle!" She swallowed hard and turned to face Mal, who, in the face of all evidence as to his usual swift comprehensive skills, was still looking thoroughly bewildered. "Mal, you're gonna be a father," she said.
There was a pause. "Mal, say something," Inara prompted. "Hat's going to have a baby!"
Jayne chose that moment to stagger back to the corner, carrying a tray full of drinks, which he set down, mouth agape. "*Wuo duh ma*! Yer what?" He stared open mouthed at Harriet. "Who's is it?" followed swiftly and defensively by "t'ain't mine!"
"Well, no," smiled Hat. "I think I would have noticed!"
"It's the Cap's, of course," pointed out Kaylee. "Come on, Jayne, don't tell us you ain't noticed! Hat and Mal?" she prompted. "Ever since my birthday? Oh please!"
"*Ai ya*! Gorramit!" swore Hat. "You ain't tellin' me you all knew and we've been sneakin' round like a coupla *yu bun duh* kids?"
"To be honest it was fairly obvious, even to me," pointed out Book, "and I'm none too observant where this kind of thing's concerned!"
"We thought the skulkin' bit was kinda cute, so we didn't mention it," explained Wash.
"After all, you did seem to want it that way," put in Kaylee.
"I didn't know!" growled Jayne. "Why'd no one tell me?"
"Oh this is all just shiny!" sighed Hat, her glance drawn back to Mal who was still pop-eyed.
"I'm gonna be a father?" said Mal suddenly. "I'm gonna be a father!" He looked up, shiny eyed and silly smiled at Hat, who put her head in her hands.
"Oh, this is so much worse than I feared. Mal, that's exactly what we don't need, you gettin' soft!"
"Well, I think it's sweet," put in Inara.
"Ain't that," said Mal, "It's jus', well, it's not like I was expecitn' it, but, to tell the truth, I'm pretty pleased! I mean, I ain't sure what kinda father I'll make, I ain't had much to learn from, but at least the critter'll have you, Hat!" He stood up, leant over the table to where Hat was sitting by the wall and picked her up bodily, lifting her over the table to hug her to him. "Our kid's gonna be so shiny, I swear it!"
Then he seemed to think. He paused. "Hang on a minute, this bar ain't safe. Fights start all the time! I was about to start one my own self! You should get back to the ship right now, this ain't right, not in your condition!"
Hat pushed herself out of the circle of his arms and looked at him warningly. "Don't make me hurt you, Malcolm Reynolds!" she said.
"No way! We ain't jumpin' on this band-wagon! *Dong ma*?" Wash clicked the controls, taking the ship back in to the Black, away from Demeter and heading for the rendezvous point. "A baby ain't a fashion statement. We ain't doin' the whole 'well, they got one so we should' thing! It's *kwong-chee duh*!"
Zoë sighed heavily and stared earnestly at her husband. "That ain't what I'm saying. You just keep on as how it ain't ever a perfect time but this could be." She was pleading. "Just think about it! We'd only need one person to look after both babies, I could still work."
"And we'd also have two pregnant women on the ship at once, a wash with hormones and trouble," put in Wash. "Real tweaked fun!"
"Will you just think about it?" asked Zoë softly. "I really want this, Wash, and I ain't gonna stop wanting it, and when it happens it might not be such a good time!" she warned.
Wash looked at her lovingly. "I really want it to, you know I do. All I'm saying is, it doesn't have to be right now, just 'cos Hat's pregnant!"
Mal hopped through the open door. "Hat's pregnant? Oh yeah, so she is!" He was sickeningly cheerful. "Sorry," he apologised, "just like sayin' it, is all. Did ya know, Zo, I'm gonna be a dad?"
"Yes, Sir, I had heard something to that effect."
"And I'd just like to take this opportunity to thank you, Mal," Wash glared, "on behalf of the other men on this ship! Thank you from the bottom of my heart for makin' all the women broody as hell!"
Mal looked surprised. "Hey? You thinkin' a havin' one yerself, Zoë? You go for it! The more the merrier, I say! We all set for the rendezvous?"
Wash nodded, open mouthed as Mal grinned and ran back down the steps.
"*Tyen shiao duh*! There is something really wrong with him!" said Wash. "The Captain positively cheery, it just ain't natural!"
Zoë, who'd watched Mal's jaunty exit in some astonishment, nodded. "Believe me, husband, I'm right there with you!"
The pick-up had been made on a lonely little, dusty and deserted moon and the crew were sitting, in soft light around the table eating supper and gently digesting both it and the revelations of the previous few days. Hat was running mighty low on food stocks, so the meal consisted of rice and protein, but everyone seemed to be tucking in anyhow.
Inara was looking down at something round and shiny in her hands. She looked up. "Snow globes, we're smuggling snow globes!" She sounded pretty amused.
Mal glanced up; chopsticks laden with rice half way to his mouth. "That we are, but not just any snow globes, mind you. These are the crème de la snow globe crème, the King of snow globes. Each one contains a replica of one of the seven wonders of the 'Verse being, you know, snowed on." Inara smirked.
"Well, I like 'em!" Jayne looked up. He had somehow managed to ferret out from among the cargo one of each kind of globe and had lined them up in front of him, where he was now studying them intently. "'Ticularly like the one with those bioluminescent lake thingys off of Ariel - it glows in the dark!"
"But that would never happen! Snow on Ariel!" put in Wash. "It's unnatural - like a ruttin' nuclear winter! It's scary! Plus when you turn them upside down the fake snow sticks to the glass! How tacky is that?"
Zoë screwed round in her chair to eye him warily. "You're very "up" tonight, Husband!" she said dryly.
"I think they're shiny!" put in Kaylee. "I love the hanging gardens of Shinon, they've got those gardens to really. um. hang!" Simon smiled over at her enthusiasm.
"Can I keep one?" asked River.
"Nope." Mal was adamant. River stuck out her tongue at him. "Well, maybe. but only one. and the rest of you, you all gonna put them right back, you hear?"
"Where exactly are we deliverin' these pretties?" asked Hat, gathering up plates.
"Shiny! We really are down to brass tacks food wise. It'll give me a chance to stock up on some provisions."
"Uh-uh!" Mal shook his head, "not after last time. You're staying on Serenity. It's too dangerous!"
Hat laughed. "Mal, don't be so ridiculous!"
Mal shook his head more emphatically. "Nope, you ain't goin'. I ain't putting my wife and unborn child in the way of harm! You can give me a list."
"Mal yer bein' stu." Hat paused and stared. "Whoa there, mister, your wha'??"
Mal looked up unconcernedly, "I jus' thought as how we'd be gettin' married. After all, you are carrying my child!"
"Ever the traditionalist!" sniggered Wash.
"*Jien tah duh guay*! Mal," Hat's astonishment made her unsubtle. "I ain't marryin' you!"
"And why not?" Mal was incredulous.
"Do you really want to discuss this in front of the entire crew?" hissed Hat snippily.
"Why not? They seem to know pretty much all our business 'fore we do ourselves anyhow!"
"Right well, I ain't marryin' you 'cos. you didn't ask properly. um. I like my independence and oh, oh!" Hat smiled as she delivered what she clearly considered to be the clincher, "yer already married, Malcolm Reynolds!"
Book looked up. "I believe the young lady's got a point there, Captain."
"Yeah," said Hat, "you wouldn't be so much a husband as a bigamist!"
"Ohh! That's bad, bigamy!" grinned Wash, who was loving this just a little bit too much. His amusement earned him a glare form his wife.
Mal stood up and shrugged, collecting in the snow globes. "Ain't a problem. So we just go find Yo-Saf-Bridge and get a divorce - at gun point, if needs be." He smiled a tight "I win" smile at Hat and headed from the room.
Hat sank down on a chair and gazed after him mournfully. "Well, looks like I'm just gonna have to kill him," she sighed.
After supper Harriet traced her errant paramour to the cargo bay, where he was crouched above the crates of cargo, gently re-stowing each snow globe in its bed of soft wadding with a tenderness that belied his rough exterior. She leant against the stair rail and folded her arms, speaking to his back.
"So let me see if I've understood you and your downright cunning plan, possibly to get us all killed, correctly. You're suggesting that, of our own volition, we go seek out the treacherous little snake who often times has, as I recall, tried to kill us and incidentally, whatever her devious little brain comes up with, she's got the drop on us every time." As she spoke Mal, sighing heavily, stood up, dusting off his trousers and turned to face her, looking implacable. "Anyhow, be that as it may, we're gonna actively go lookin' for her and then we're, stop me if I've misunderstood, gonna demand a divorce with menaces?"
Mal nodded. "That's about the size of it."
"And you think, in yer somewhat addle-minded brain pan that this is gonna work?"
"Malcolm Reynolds, has the idea of impending fatherhood driven you entirely round the galaxy? You've gone *fong luh*, ain't no more to be said." Mal just smiled annoyingly and swung past her to head up the stairs, ruffling her hair as he did so.
"Look Hat, yer need to calm down, can't be good for the critter, you gettin' all worked up!" Hat visibly ground her teeth, frothing at the mouth was clearly about to commence. "We just gotta come up with a natty little plan, is all. This time she ain't gonna pull the wool over our eyes. If we're sufficiently prepared and we all work together we can swindle her. And won't that be all kinds a fun?"
"Oh ho! *Nah may gwon-shee*!" said Hat wryly. "That's all we have to do, is it?" She followed him up the stairs. "And just what is this incredibly clever plan you've been harbourin'?"
"Dunno, I ain't thought of it yet and I ain't gonna if you don't stop with the jabberin' and let me think."
"Oh great! Don't I feel cherished!" said Hat sarcastically. Mal turned on the catwalk and gathered her into his arms, kissing her gently. Hat thought she really ought to protest, but, somehow, just couldn't be bothered. She snuggled into him.
"You just gotta stop frettin' and trust me. This plan's gonna be *jing-tsai*. You and the Littlest Reynolds ain't got nothing to worry about."
Hat nestled up against Mal's comforting chest, and when she spoke, her voice, in consequence, was rather muffled. "I guess I ain't got no quarrel with you goin' after Saffron, except to say this: Mal, I've been thinking, I'd rather marry a widower than a divorcee..."
Mal held her from him, looking slightly shocked. "What? Yer wantin' me to shoot Saffron now?"
"Well, it'd make a nice wedding present, I'm thinkin'!" She grinned at him mischievously, but with an edge of sincerity. "You know as well as I do that woman is down right dangerous. Now I ain't overly keen on goin' to find her at all, but since yer so set on it, I reckon you should kill her first and then get the divorce. Yup, that does sound mighty appealin'!"
Mal looked wistful. "I ain't sayin' I haven't hankered after puttin' a bullet in her brain pan my own self, but I ain't so sure that's a terribly fittin' way to start a marriage!"
"Who you plannin' on ending now, sir?" asked Zoë wandering along the catwalk from the galley, "as if I couldn't guess! Here, you missed one!"
She threw a snow globe towards Mal. The globe spun in the air and Mal, still with one arm round Hat, reached to catch it. His fingertips grazed the edges of the globe as it fell, tipping it slightly, pushing it away from him. It smashed against the rail of the catwalk and a thousand little flakes of fake snow ricochet up into the air.
"Damn me if that ain't prettier than the mended version," grinned Zoë, "and more'n a little like confetti, I might add."
She looked over at Hat and Mal who were covered with a light dusting, Hat blowing a flake from her nose and raised her eyebrows suggestively.
"Great!" Hat said in mock consternation. "The whole 'Verse seems to be conspirin' against me!"
Mal smirked at her. "Well, Mrs Reynolds-to-be, mayhaps now our secrets out, you won't be adverse to accompanying me to my bunk, once we've got this mess squared away a'course, and I'll give you a very good reason to marry me!"
"Only the one?" Hat asked archly. Zoë, putting her hands to her ears, leant against the stair rail and made a face. "Oh, you two are gonna get old way quickly!" she remarked.
"Sooo," Wash leaned back in his chair and put up his hand for emphasis, "is anyone else a little worried by the Cap's descent into insanity, or is it just me on this one?"
"Nuh-uh," said Hat, "I'm right there with you. We ain't got no call to go stirring up trouble for ourselves by hookin' up with that pile a trouble, don't see the percentage in it!"
"I ain't bothered," Jayne looked up from cleaning one of his smaller guns, pulling a rag about its barrel. "Way I see it, we ain't like to find the gorram *jien hwo* no how. Can't figure on her just turnin' up ready to play. But then can't say as I'll be happy traipsin' all round the damn galaxy lookin' for them as don't want to be found!"
Wash made a face. "I ain't so worried on the lookin' for her as the actual findin' her thing. 'Sides, I ain't sure Serenity could take another run in with that *boo hway-hun duh puo-foo*. So far she's had her innards ripped out twice by the back-stabbing stool pigeon!"
"She's a fink and a sneak, no doubt about it," agreed Hat. "Plus she seems to have an unhealthy effect on my husband to be. Seems to me he's just a mite too eager to go find that harridan!"
"Hmm," Book was thoughtful. "Be that as it may, and I do agree," he nodded at Hat, "the Captain's interest does seem to verge on the unwholesome, but Jayne's right, we could expend a great deal of money and time searching for this dratted woman and still be no nearer finding her."
"You ain't wrong, Shepherd," Mal spoke from the doorway, as he entered followed by Zoë, "which is why we're gonna get her come to us!"
"I have a plan," announced the Captain with an air of calm authority. The whole crew were seated round the big galley table, gathered together for the official unveiling of the Big Damn Plan. Everyone looked serious, except River who seemed to be paying little attention and was instead doing something complex with a book and three different coloured markers. Hat was listening with half an ear while peeling mushrooms. While she appreciated that the matter concerned her deeply, she was not over anxious for any kind of real plan to be worked out.
"You have a plan!" repeated Wash, somewhat mockingly. "Does it involve allowing Saffron back on Serenity? 'Cos if it does, I gotta say: bad plan, Mal, bad, BAD plan!"
"Yeah, very bad plan, Mal, shame on you!" muttered Hat without looking up.
"Hey!" Mal looked hurt. "I'd take kindly to a little bit a support from my nearest and dearest, thank you very much. We're doin' this for you, ya know!"
"No, you ain't. Your doin' this for yerself," Hat glared. "'Cos you want our son to be officially yours and out of some antique and chivalrous honour that makes you think a lady ain't a lady if she has a critter outa wedlock. Well, you wanna do it, that's yer choice, but don't expect me to enjoy the ride."
"Ok. One, we're having a girl, and two, I ain't told you my very fine plan yet. Ain't gonna need no exertion on your part whatsoever, so you mind piping down a little?"
Hat glared, muttering "gonna be a boy" under her breath and Zoë thought it high time to intervene. "Sir, this plan would be?"
"Ok, as Book said earlier," Mal continued, with a final angry glower at Hat, "could take a helluva lot of time and money to locate Saffron. What we need is for her to come find us. Now for that we need two things: the bait and the way in. Now, I know we've had a few problems disposin' of the Lassiter, but I reckon this could be an opportunity to kill two," he momentarily lost his train of thought as River looked up at him suddenly with her sharp eyes, he fumbled, "whatever-it-is you kill with stones. anyhow, to solve two problems at once. Ok so." He paused, still looking at River curiously.
"The bait," prompted Inara. She was looking slightly more interested than the others. Not only was she less scared of Saffron, being an acknowledged equal in "the skill" of deception, but she was also more eager than most for a little spot of revenge.
"Yes," Mal took up the thread, "we head for where we last saw Saffron."
"Bellerophon," prompted Kaylee.
"Yeah, Bellerophon, and we pay a visit on Durran Haymer. This gotta be done by someone respectable, someone he'd agree to see." His eyes travelled to Inara, who nodded. "We let him know we still got the Lassiter and might be willin' to sell it back, for the right price. Cheeky, I agree," he said to the open mouths of Zoë and Wash who seemed both about to speak. "At the same time we try to find out where Saffron is. Seems Mr Haymer keeps a weather eye on her. Seems to me we might strike a deal, we could always agree to hand her over when our little piece of business is complete."
"Then what?" Jayne was looking a bit confused, obviously not yet being able to see the pay off. "Can't see no killing of birds in bushes yet."
"Aha! That's where you come in." Mal said enthusiastically. "We head for the region we know Saffron to be in and we start putting it about as how we still got the Lassiter and are having trouble fencing it. This we do none too subtly, well, when I say "we", I mean you, Jayne."
"Ah!" Book nodded knowingly, "the way in?"
"Exactly, well done that preacher!" Mal obviously felt this was the crux of the plan. "Jayne, and trust me yer gonna be very happy with yer part, Jayne, goes to lots of seedy, some might even say, low-down bars and puts it about considerable, together with a mighty amount of alcohol."
"And whores?" asked Jayne, "gotta look convincing."
"A whore or two," said Mal sententiously. "Jayne puts it about as how he and me've had one helluva fallin' out over what to do with said piece of pretty. I haven't worked out the finer details yet, but I'm guessin' as how we had a buyer all ready to purchase, but I din't like his face and the deal went south. Much to our Mr Cobb's chagrin."
"I am likin' this plan!" said Jayne earnestly.
"So," said Hat, "I take it yer bankin' on little miss Saffron bein' unable to resist and makin' contact with Jayne with an offer of assistin' him in gettin' his own back on you?" Mal nodded. "And what if it don't work? What if Saffron don't bite?"
"Then no harm done," said Mal. "We just carry on and see if we can sell the Lassiter back to Durran Haymer anyhow. Way I sees it, either way, we win something. Zoë, time to weigh in, what d'you say?"
Zoë nodded thoughtfully. "Seems like a sound enough plan. We work it right we could be the winners all ways. But it's Saffron, Sir, we can't be sure of anything. We got to be prepared for all kinds a shenanigans! And what if Durran Haymer just calls the feds on our arses?"
"We make damn sure the meet is on neutral territory with a good escape route, is what!" smiled Mal. "I ain't fixin' on sacrificing Inara for the good of the plan!"
"Well, thank you, Mal!" Inara smiled.
Just then River looked up and directly at Mal. "She's a liar and a thief and no good will come of her!"
"Yes, we know that now, honey," smiled Kaylee. "The Cap'll take extra care, won't you Captain?" Mal nodded and smiled at River.
River shook her head angrily, "no, you don't. Steals things, not just objects, steals people." She got up from the table, heading towards the passenger rooms. "She steals and she steals and no one sees." As she left she looked back at Hat and lowered her voice to a whisper. No one heard. They had all turned back to discussing the caper. "She steals people," River insisted softly, before heading from the room.
Hat leant over the stove. Zoë and Inara both lounged on the more comfortable seating in the "soft" area of the galley. "So," Inara caught Zoë's eye and smiled conspiratorially, "are you going to tell us why you don't want to marry the Captain?"
Hat swore gently and withdrew her hand quickly form a saucepan on the stove. "Inara, I'm making fudge: it's tricky, please don't be asking awkward questions!"
"Fudge?" Zoë was intrigued. "What in the 'Verse?."
Hat looked up, frowning slightly. "It's a pretty old recipe back on Earth-that-was. It's candy: you heat up sugar really gorram hot and then add water and butter and cream and the like. Getting the consistency right is pretty tough, especially as I ain't all that sure what it's supposed to be! And if the hot sugar splashes you, it ruttin' burns for hours!" She held up the back of one hand stippled with little red burns.
Inara smiled wistfully. "I had fudge once, back on Shinon - I can tell you if you've got it right. It tastes like cream and butter and toffee all rolled into one. It's heaven!"
They laughed at her serene face, transfixed by the memory. "Well, I hope my version lives up to your recollection!" smiled Hat.
"So speakin' of marriage," said Zoë.
"Which we weren't!" Hat felt obliged to point out.
"I can tell you from experience it ain't all that bad. Has its ups and downs, I grant you, but on the whole it's pretty choice."
"Might I point out though," smiled Hat, "that you're married to Wash. I'm thinking marriage to Malcolm Reynolds might be an altogether more challenging affair!"
"You sayin' Wash ain't a challenge? 'Cos let me tell you right here and now, he is. Every day's a gorram challenge, but that's what so fun!" smiled Zoë. "The arguments, the makin' up and the knowing that, however mean you are to someone, they'll always stick around. Plus there's the whole legally sanctioned ruttin' thing..."
"Hey!" said Inara, in hurt tones, "there are other kinds of sex which are legally sanctioned too, you know!"
"And we all keep to that one, don't we?" asked Hat, "no illegal ruttin' goin' on here on Serenity, oh no! You noticed how close Kaylee and the Doc are gettin', have you?" She sighed. "To tell you truly, it ain't bein' married to Mal that's got me worried, after all the man's pretty *shwai*, it's the whole gettin' divorced bit I can't stomach! If our encounter with Saffron runs to form, we're gonna be in serious trouble!"
Zoë smiled. "Yeah, I heard as how you hate Saffron enough to want her dead..."
"*Ai ya*! Do I hate her!" Hat grinned ruefully. "I mean, think about it, leaving aside the fact that I generally do tend to dislike folks as have kissed my 'fiancée'." She smiled at the word and Inara turned an intriguing shade of pink, recovering herself quickly. "But let's not forget she's tried to kill him at least once and drawn a gun on him no few times. She gets the drop on us every time! She's a lyin' weasel as don't do no one any good and to cap it all, she's got incredible natural sex appeal, gets all the men we know hot under the collar. You figure on any reason why she shouldn't be dropped soon as look at her?"
Zoë considered, remembering Wash's head and the strange look in his eye following his first encounter with Saffron. There was no denying he'd been sorely tempted. "Come to think on, no I ain't. And there ain't no reason to put our men folk in the way of a peril they can't handle. That woman's a walking temptation. If we're going lookin' for Saffron, I think we women should take the matter into our own hands. Reckon we need a plan to deal with her, always supposin' we find her."
"Perhaps you're right," said Inara thoughtfully. "It certainly bears considering."
Hat poured the bubbling fudge onto a try to set. She looked up. "Well, let's us three give it some thought, see if we can't outwit the double crossin' little ratfink this time!"
Simon was having a difficult time with River. She hadn't been this bad in a while, throwing things and swearing. It was tough to get near her to give her the shot. Once he had though, she calmed down.
Kaylee watched from the doorway of the infirmary as the young man sat quietly with his sister. She noticed he was looking terribly tired. The months of caring for his sister were beginning to take their toll. He looked up, saw her and smiled into her eyes.
"Hey yerself. You ok?"
He rubbed a hand tiredly over his eyes. "Not really. River's not too good today, as you can see," he waived a hand at his now prostrate sister. "I'm gonna carry her to her room."
"I brought you some wine. It's pretty cheap, but I thought you could do with something to relax you." She waived two mugs in the air so they clinked lightly.
He lifted River up and smiled softly, "thanks." His eyes wrinkled and his smile was wholehearted. "I'll tuck River in and then come and have it. Where will you be?"
"I'll be right here," said Kaylee gently, ducking into Simon's room as they passed it. "Right here, waitin' for you." Her smile was slightly timid and wholly wistful as he passed her. He looked back at her, suddenly serious, his eyes big and dark.
"Well then," he said so quietly she almost didn't hear him, "I'll know where to find you."
Hat climbed down the ladder into her bunk and shut the door. All she wanted now was to relax and forget the long and eventful day had ever happened. She pulled out her washbasin and scrubbed off the day's grime and changed into her cosiest flannel pyjamas. The she curled up on her bed, taking up her favourite possession. Just looking at it composed her. Her mother, might she rest in peace, had bought it for her for a pretty penny many years ago in an antique bookstore back home. It was hard to make out the cover design, which had been removed and repasted onto thick cardboard. If you looked carefully you could make out the title and the author. It was a cookbook by a once famous French chef from Earth-That-Was many centuries ago and Hat treasured it. She loved the glossy pictures of the dishes and the delicate instructions for preparation. No sooner had she turned to the appetisers and started to read the instructions for making sweet pepper mouse that she felt better.
Her relaxation was short lived though, for a few minutes later the door hatch to her bunk flipped open and she could see Mal's boots descending the stairs. As she watched him enter her room, she couldn't help but notice he looked slightly wary.
"Hey," she greeted him non-committally.
"Hey. You're reading." He stated flatly. Then, "what are you reading?" as his curiosity got the better of him and he walked towards the bed, his head tilted to one side as he read the title of the book she held up. "That again! Don'tcha ever read anything else?"
"When I've had a hard day, I find it a comfort." She said somewhat defensively. "Look!" She held up one of the glossy pictures for him to see and he squinted at it.
"*Wei*! Would ya look at that?" He whistled. "Are those potatoes? How d'they get the cheese to go like that? That is cheese, ain't it?" Hat smiled and nodded. "*Wuh de ma*! That looks real shiny. Here, shove up!" Hat scooted across the bed so he could stretch out next to her and look at the pictures. "How come you don't make nothing like this?" he asked somewhat accusingly whilst kicking off his boots.
"Because I ain't got the ingredients!" Hat shrugged. "I have to make do with what I got... In more ways that one!" She eyed him beadily.
"Hey!" He sounded hurt. "You sayin' bein' with me is make do and mend?"
Hat smiled at his disgruntled face. "Maybe a little!" She leaned up and kissed the side of his mouth. Then she went on hurriedly, before he could get really sore, "but really, no! As She-Who-Shall-Remain-Nameless once said, so I understand and I may be paraphrasing a little, if I could choose from all the men in 'Verse right now, I'd still choose you every single time, Malcolm-I-ain't-the-sharpest-tack-so-I-don't-know-when-a-woman-likes-me Reynolds!"
"See that sounds like a compliment, but it's actually more of an insult!" He beamed and pulled her closer.
"What I'm sayin'," she went on, leaning in to pull off his suspenders and begin to unbutton his shirt, "is sometimes, in any relationship, a little compromise is called for."
"So you're wantin' me to stop with the whole She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named caper?" he asked, raising an annoyed eyebrow. "And yer usin' yer wiles to get it?"
"Wrong yet again!" Hat positively shone as she moved to unbutton his trousers, looking up at him slyly. "I'm saying as it's time for me to compromise a little bit, I'm thinkin'. You want to go find Saffron, it's time for me to suck it up and stop with the grouchin'."
"Hunh!" Mal was incredulous. "In that case why don't we see about gettin' you into a compromisin' situation?" he grinned wickedly.
Inara smiled happily as her shuttle touched down on Proetus, the next moon across from Bellerophon. It was good to be back on the Core. Not that she would want to live on the Core all the time, but a return visit of limited duration could be lovely. Like Bellerophon, Proetus was predominantly given over to one type of nature, but where Bellerophon was water, Proetus was rolling meadowland, no trees distracted from the glorious sight of the spring meadows, covered with the stars of a multitude of flowers. As she stepped from the shuttle at the arranged meeting place, the Fortunate Buddha Tea House, the scent of a thousand blooms touched her like a kiss. The Tea House, a stately pagoda style pavilion, rose out of the surrounding flowerbeds like a single, towering tree.
Having announced herself to the Tea House matron, she was shown to a delicately furnished tearoom to await her guest. Right on time, the paper screen door slid open to admit Durran Haymer, wearing a kimono. Punctual and stylish! Inara thought she might enjoy this meeting.
"Mr Haymer," she smiled her beautiful, elusive smile. "How good of you to agree to meet me. Some tea?" She turned the cup three quarters of a turn in the accepted manner and began the tea making ceremony.
Durran couldn't remember the last time he had seen a thing as beautiful as the young Companion before him. With her huge eyes and slender neck she didn't look out of place among the flowers of Proetus. He was charmed, but wary.
"Ms Serra, you out bloom the other Companions here as a rare orchid out blooms daisies. I am honoured to meet you." He bowed lightly as he knelt at the low table and took the proffered tea. "However, I'm not stupid. Perhaps we could dispense with the business straight away, allowing us time to enjoy each other's company? So, please, tell me why you asked to meet me here."
Inara smiled lightly. "Inara please, Mr Haymer. I believe we have a certain acquaintance in common, one whom my associates and I are anxious to locate. You wife, Mr Haymer. I think when you knew her she was calling herself Yolanda. I wonder, could you help me find her?"
Durran boggled. Whatever he had been expecting Inara's motives to be, it clearly had not been a search for his errant wife.
"I, well, I... What makes you think that I know where she is?"
"I had heard that you keep what I am sure would be a paternal eye on her. A wise move, I must say, knowing, as I do, her ability to confound and, dare I speak plainly, swindle."
"Ah! You do know my wife," he smiled sadly. "However, Inara," he smiled gently at her as he used her first name, "she is, after all, still my wife, and difficult as she is, you are right to think I care about her." He sipped his tea lightly, reminiscently. "She is a troubled girl with a troubled history and my only concern for her is to help her reform, as unlikely as that sounds. If I knew exactly where she was I would be helping her myself. Unfortunately, I don't know where she is, nor have any of my hirelings managed to find her. She's elusive when she wants to be. Nevertheless, I think I know which planet she's hiding out on. But I'm afraid I couldn't disclose her whereabouts to anyone I thought might wish her harm."
Inara looked at him kindly and laid a gentle hand on his arm in comfort. "Then I shall tell you exactly why we need to find her and maybe that will sway you. I will also say this. If you tell me where you believe her to be, I think I can give you some reciprocal information about the location of another item of yours you may be interested in, a laser gun of some antiquity?"
Durran's eyes glittered and he looked up eagerly. "My Lassiter! You know where it is?"
"Not exactly, but let us say I have friends who might be able to track it down for you, for a small fee, of course and in return for the favour you will be doing us."
"Ms Serra, I hope this isn't blackmail." Durran looked stern, but then sighed wearily. "Much as I would love to see the centre piece to my collection returned, the promise of the Lassiter is not enough to buy Yolanda's whereabouts. Tell me why you're looking for her."
Inara dimpled depreciatingly. "Well, Mr Haymer, it's a matter of some delicacy. Some time ago my associates and I had the misfortune to be, shall we say, preyed upon by your wife. In the course of her scam she contrived to get herself married to one of us without his knowledge and then foisted herself upon us as his wife. This gentleman, and believe me, he is a gentleman, refused to take advantage of your wife. Well, almost." She paused, remembering the circumstances of the crew's first encounter with Saffron. Then she continued hurriedly, "but she nevertheless contrived to gain control of the ship through her cunning arts and attempted to kill us. The gentleman involved now wishes to marry the mother of his unborn child, but cannot, of course, do so until he has obtained a divorce from your wife. We therefore need to locate her and ask her, ever so politely, to provide just that."
While Inara spoke, Durran's stern face had relaxed and, by the time she completed her tale of woe, he was laughing gently. "That's my Yolanda, all right! Well, I'll tell you where I think she is, provided I have your word of honour as a registered Companion that your, erm, associates won't hurt her."
Inara smiled. "I would be happy to give you that assurance and, moreover, if we do find her, once we have obtained what we require, we'll be more than happy to pass her over to you for, shall we say, safe keeping?"
"On that score," grinned Durran, "I have a small device which might assist you in keeping track of her, always supposing you can find her."
Inara swanned into the galley and almost fluttered onto a chair, just as supper was getting under way. Mal turned to her and raised a curious eyebrow. She looked demure.
"The pigeon has flown the coop."
"Hunh?" Mal looked at her uncomprehending.
"Work with me here, Mal, I'm trying something new!" She sighed in exasperation.
"What're you tryin' precisely? Crazy talk?"
"No, I was going for subdued espionage."
"Gotta tell you, from where I'm sittin', didn't take."
Inara scanned the confused and sniggering faces round the table. "Anyone else?"
"Nu-huh!" Wash shook his head. "Much as I appreciate playing spy, 'Nara, and you just gotta love all that trench coatin' and dead letter drops, I just don't think you've quite got it."
"Well, I ain't go the first ruttin' clue what any a the lot a you's on about and I don't much care!" Jayne reached for a roll and masticated heavily.
River looked up form her plate. "She means that Saffron in no longer on Belleorphon, right?" she looked at Inara for confirmation.
"Right!" smiled Inara. "Now why couldn't the rest of you have got that?"
"*Lao tyen yeh*! Takes crazy to know crazy?" suggested Jayne, his mouth still full of food.
"Hey, that's my sister you're talking." began Simon. Kaylee put a soothing hand on his arm and he was momentarily distracted by her dazzling smile.
"OK, well then, now we've got the talkin' gibberish portion of the evening out the way, always saving River may wanna weigh in with some more," Mal was sarcastic, "care to tell me where the banshee is?"
"She's on Hangxian somewhere, probably New Peking."
"See how easy that was?" Mal smiled. "You couldn't just a said that in the first place?"
Inara gave Mal a withering look and said nothing.
Supper was over and Harriet sat at the table watching Inara prepare tea.
"So the meet with Durran Haymer went well?"
Inara considered, "Yes, very well. In fact," she blushed at the memory, "he's a remarkably charming man. I might even take him on as a client."
"So, to sum up, the caper's goin' good?"
"Very good, I'd say."
"Too good, would you say?"
"I don't know. How can something be too good?"
"All I'm sayin' is, things goin' too good often leads to things goin' too bad, in my experience. 'Nara, I reckon there's a hole in the plan."
Inara looked a little confused. "A hole?"
"A hole!" At that moment Zoë bounced into the room, heading across it towards the cockpit. "Ah! Zoë, exactly who we need!" Zoë looked quizzical. "We appear to be havin' an impromptu inaugural meetin' of the Women of Serenity committee and I think you should attend. Reckon as how we got ourselves a hole in the plan."
Zoë pulled up a chair and sat up to the table. "A hole?"
"Zoë, where's the Lassiter?" asked Hat.
"It's in one of the smuggling holes, down in the cargo bay. Why?"
"And who knows it's there?"
"Me, Wash, the Cap, Jayne. Pretty much everyone."
Hat sat back with a look of triumph. "Ladies, that's our hole. All we need is Jayne or, saints preserve us, Mal, getting befuddled by that *jien hwo* hellcat's wiles and they'll take her straight to it! We gotta move it, re-stow it somewhere less, you know, well known."
Zoë nodded. "You got a good point there, Hat. But, where'll we put it?"
Inara looked amused. "Let's hide it in here. Hat's here most of the time, she can keep an eye on it."
Zoë scanned the room. "Where in here though?"
Inara giggled, "let's tape it under the table." She stroked the wood of the great table gently as she spoke. "Hide it in plain sight! Who the hell ever looks under the table?"
Zoë nodded. "I'll go get the gun then, shall I?"
Hat looked on with a satisfied smirk. "I declare the inaugural meeting of the Women of Serenity closed!" She said.
Zoë leant against the back of the pilot's chair, watching her husband in action, as he brought Serenity in to land at the New Peking docks on Hangxian. "You fly this thing good, husband!"
"I do, don't I?" Wash smiled back up at her.
"You do! But how's about you put Serenity to bed and we go try a different kind of flyin'?"
Wash looked enthusiastic. "Really? Now? Right, engaging locking sequence!" He had half risen from his chair, an eager and devoted _expression on his face, when Mal stomped on to the bridge.
"Zoë, it's gone!"
"The Lassiter, I just been to check on it and it ain't there."
"No! What'd'yer mean, no? You telllin' me you knew it was gone?"
"Well then," Mal was annoyed, "d'you mind tellin' me where it is?"
"Couldn't say, sir."
"Couldn't say as in you don't know, or couldn't say as in you won't tell me?"
Zoë considered. "The second one, Sir."
Mal spluttered, momentarily at a loss for words. "Zoë, I'm yer Captain. If you know where it's gone, you gotta tell me!"
"Sorry, Sir, but can't. Conflict of loyalties."
"Conflict of loyalties? What the hell are you talkin' about?"
"Was??" Mal boggled.
"The Women of Serenity, Sir."
"So, you're in a union now?"
"Not so much a union as a committee, Sir."
"A Committee?" Mal was shouting. "*Jien tah duh guay*! This is my boat, there ain't no gorram committees on my boat!"
"'Scept for WoS, Sir."
"Zoë, I'm warning you."
"Easy, Sir! You won't get on the committee just 'cos yer voice has gone really, really high!" By this point Wash was doubled over with ill-contained laughter.
"This is a gorram mutiny! Who's involved? I'm guessing my wi. Hat has something do with this *gou shi*?"
"Well, so far it's just me, Hat and Inara, but I'm sure Kaylee and River'll be joinin' once we recruit them." Zoë looked defiant.
Mal rubbed an exasperated hand over his eyes. "Could you and 'WoS' at least confirm that the Lassiter is in a safe place?"
"That we can do, Sir." Zoë nodded.
"*Ta ma duh*! Consider yerself on report, Zoë, for serious insurrection. Guess I better be takin' this up nearer home." He stalked from the bridge.
Wash collapsed against Zoë sniggering hysterically. "You choose a fine time to stand up to the Cap, wife."
Zoë turned a critical eye on her husband. "Careful husband, WoS may take you in hand next! Come on, bedtime!" She smiled.
Janye was loving his part in the plan, just loving it. He yelled loudly across the bar to the barman for another drink. He wasn't taking the looking for Saffron thing too seriously. After all, if he found her what need would he have to frequent every sleazy bar he could find and get rat-arsed? He tightened his grip around the willing young-old whore attached to one hip. He might be drunk, but she seemed comely enough, in fact, now that he came to consider it more carefully, she looked remarkably familiar. He swore.
"Gorramit, Saffron, how in hell did you get there? You ain't the piece of tasty I had under my arm an hour ago!"
"And it's lovely to see you too, big man!" Saffron smiled winningly. "I thought as how maybe you and I could use a chat and frankly, as I recall, first time you and me met, you were quite keen on having me under you." Her voice dripped innuendo and despite himself Jayne grinned.
"Well, if yer've changed yer mind on that score, about not wantin' to be wed to me an' all; yeah, I heard all about that, then I could give you a trial. I hear tell there's some awful comfy beds in this here place, at the back, behind the bar." He gestured towards the bar with one hand whilst simultaneously leering hideously at her.
"Maybe later," she smirked, managing to make a maybe sound like a promise, "but first, how's about you tell me something."
"Ohh! *juh jun shr guh kwai-luh duh jin-jun*!" Jayne was suddenly wary, "I ain't tellin' you nothin' woman and it ain't no good trying any a' yer wiles on me 'cos I ain't stupid as the Cap!"
"Not a bit!" smiled Saffron sweetly. "Let me get you another drink." She beckoned to the barman. "Now, I heard tell as how you and that Captain of yours had had a little falling out."
"Mayhap we have. Ain't none a' your business either way." Jayne tried to look noncommittal and disgruntled at the same time, like a man drowning his many sorrows in drink. Acting was not his strong suit, but he felt he was playing the part of a drunk with sufficient verisimilitude. The only thing confusing him slightly was the fact that there appeared to be at least two, if not more, Saffrons staring at him. Maybe he'd taken Mal's instructions to "play it really ruined" a little too seriously.
"See the thing is," continued Saffron, sipping demurely at her own drink, "it's a shiny story, you and my husband falling out over selling that grorram gun, you drinking to forget the humiliation, but it just all seems a little too convenient, you know?"
"*Shah muh*?" Through a fog of alcohol tiny alarm bells were beginning to ring in Jayne's heavy head. He was pretty sure this wasn't how the conversation was supposed to play out. Mal was gonna space him!
"Seems to me," continued Saffron amiably, "it's all just a little bit too handy. Oh, don't get me wrong; I admire the planning that's clearly gone into this. Let me think. you show up here, where I'm known to be hiding out, now only my dear Durran could have told you that, and you put it about that you and Mal have fallen out. What would I be expected to do?" she looked inquisitively at Jayne, pouting slightly. "Why!" she answered her own question without waiting for Jayne to do any more than open and shut his mouth in consternation a few times, "what else but find you and persuade you to help me steal the Lassiter back from Serenity. Am I close? No need to say anything," she patted Jayne's gaping cheek soothingly, "I can tell just by looking at you, I'm right, Jayne. You really aren't that good an actor. Perhaps Mal should have sent the Companion or that cute little button of a mechanic to fool me, but you I can read like a book!"
Suddenly Saffron was all seriousness and Jayne's _expression turned from one of confusion to one of utter attention. Even in the noisy bar he had heard, as well as felt, the cocking of the gun under the table, the cold barrel of which Saffron was now holding against this leg.
"Now, Jayne, I suggest, if you want any possibility of being able to follow through with me later, you contact that *jing-chang mei yong duh* husband of mine, any way you see fit and tell him to get his gorram butt down here and explain things. It's either that or you're going to be kissing goodbye to your man parts in about thirty seconds time."
Mal threw himself angrily down the ladder into Hat's bunk, only to find it deserted. He ground his teeth and was startled out of his reverie by a thumping coming from the other side of the wall and his own room. Swearing under his breath, he climbed back out and swung down into his bunk, stopping dead at the ladder's end. Hat was sitting naked on the end of his bed, calmly darning what appeared to be one of his socks.
"*Wuh de ma*!" Was all Mal could find to say.
Hat looked up, unconcerned; "by now I figure you'll know we moved the Lassiter, so I reckon you'll be wantin' a bit of a fight. Thought I'd be prepared."
"Oh and naked is now you prepare to fight with me, is it?"
"Think you'll find that's naked AND articulate, Mal. And, yes, it is. Doesn't hurt to have some diversionary tactics."
Mal began to unbutton his shirt and undress. "So I'm guessing this isn't a fight I'm likely to win, then?"
"See?" responded Hat, "the naked thing helps. You're not half as mad as you were when you came in."
"Yeah well, I'm finding it hard to concentrate," Mal admitted. "What are we fightin' about again, *bao bay*?"
Hat looked sweetly at him, laying down the sock and pulling him to her on the bed. "You're annoyed," she stated, her voice muffled as she kissed her way along his torso, "'cos WoS doesn't trust you to come out a this caper ahead and has taken evasive action."
"Actually that ain't it!" Mal reached down and pulled Hat's shoulders back up the bed so she was facing him. "*Ta ma duh*! I think I only just realised why I'm annoyed. It ain't the women of Serenity as don't trust me! It's you, ain't it, Hat? You think Saffron'll pull a fast one on me 'cos I'll let her. You think I can't resist that gorram snake? That's all manner of hurtful, Hat! Now you may think you can get round me by makin' me forget you don't trust me, what with all the nakedness and promise of a fall and such." He waived his arms at her creamy body, "but I'm tellin' you now, so listen good, you trust me! You believe right here and now that I'd never lie with another woman, that no other woman can give me my fall or I'm gettin' dressed and I'm goin' ta sleep in your bunk, WITHOUT YOU, the promise of a mighty fine roll in the hay notwithstanding!"
He glared at her angrily, his lips set in a firm line. Hat looked at him seriously for a long moment and then sighed and smiled tenderly at him, melting against him, her body fitting so neatly, so precisely against his that it made him gasp with shock and pleasure.
"I trust you, my Captain, I really do!" she spoke gently, looking into his eyes and then kissed him softly and passionately.
At that very moment, the com. crackled into life.
"Er, Mal, you may wanna get up here, like, right now!" Wash's nervous voice was doing a passable impression of Shaggy from the Earth-That-Was TV programme, Scooby-Doo.
Jayne's face was a worried blur and his voice was strained with unease, as he transmitted over the com. to a hastily dressed Mal, Wash and a concerned Hat.
"Gorramit, Mal. I din't do nothing! But Saffron here, she ain't stupid. She knew we was playin' her from moment one. She says as how she'll shoot me if'n you don't get down here, sort things out and I for one ain't so sure she's not being truthsome. Leastways the gun inches from a seriously key part a my anatomy is more than a little worryin'."
Mal frowned at the tiny screen. He stood for a long moment, arms crossed, thinking, then he sighed.
"*Tzao gao*! Ok then, tell Saffron I'll be there in an hour. 'Till then, sit tight and try to hang on to your manhood!"
The com. fizzled as Jayne nodded and cut the link.
A stunned silence held the bridge for a few moments. Then Hat burst out, "Mal, tell me you ain't seriously intendin' to go meet that vixen?"
Wash nodded agreement. "Hat's right, Mal, this can't be good. Saffron will be cookin' up some scheme, make no mistake."
"Well, what the *guay* do you two propose? We can't exactly leave Jayne there to have his stones shot at! I'll be back in a couple of hours. If I ain't. Well, if I ain't, you can be fairly sure something's occurred. If that's the case, come up with a new plan!"
He kissed Hat softly and ran down the steps from the bridge.
Mal slid carefully onto the bar stool facing Saffron. He glanced lightly at a sweaty and nervous Jayne. Clearly Saffron was that little bit too highly strung to allow Jayne to relax into thinking she wouldn't shoot him.
"Saffron." He nodded to her. "Gotta say this is a fairly compelling way to get my attention. You couldn't a just booked us into marriage counselling?"
"Captain Reynolds." Saffron smiled her greeting.
Not taking his eyes from Saffron, Mal said, "Jayne, you get on back to the ship. I'd like to be alone with my wife."
"Hey, you don't have to tell me twice! Bye-bye, crazy lady!" Jayne was up and gone in seconds.
Saffron beamed at Mal. "Now we're alone! That's better! Let's go somewhere more private. I believe they've got some very nice rooms behind the bar." Mal nodded, his eyes on Saffron's gun and led the way to the counter.
Mal leant against the wall of the small and rather dingy room, arms crossed, radiating annoyance.
"Well, YoSaffBridge, you wanna tell me what this is about?"
"I thought you'd be telling me, Mal! After all it seems you've gone to some fairly elaborate lengths to find me."
"Cut a long story short, Saffron, I'm needing a divorce and I'd be mighty grateful if you'd give me one, with the modicum of fuss."
"Uh-huh!" Saffron sat on the small bed, nevertheless managing to ooze sex appeal as she did so. "So you got yourself some prairie harpy you're wanting to be wed to, have you, Mal? Or wait, I bet it's one of your little crew, so dedicated, "doing for each other" as you do, I believe, do. Let's see now, it's not going to be the Companion, too much class to wed herself to a dupe like you. Hang on! I've got it, the mouthy little cook. That's her, isn't it? I never realised you hankered for shrewish domestication, Captain. I could have cooked and nagged to perfection, if I'd a known that's what you wanted. I mean, I seen she's attractive and I seen you looking, but I never thought she'd." She sighed and rearranged her clothing, so just a few more inches of bare shoulder rose above her dress. "Can't imagine she'll be pleased you've got yourself in this bit of a situation here. Alone in a room with a temptress like me, what will she say?"
Mal, who'd remained impassive and tight-lipped throughout Saffron's monologue, opened his mouth to say, "won't bother her, she knows she can trust me."
"Ah, but can she though, Mal? I know part of you hankers for me."
"All I want from you, Saffron, is a divorce. Now, what do I have to do to get it?"
Saffron pouted in disappointment. "I want the Lassiter, Mal, that's all. It should've been mine anyhow."
Mal shook his head apologetically. "Can't help you there, I'm afraid. Seems my wife-to-be got the drop on you somewhat. The women of Serenity seem to think I can't handle myself where you're concerned, so they've hidden it. I ain't got no gorram clue where."
"Well, then," said Saffron, not the least perturbed, "you can stay here, sort of, though I don't like to use such a bald term, like a hostage and I'll pop to Serenity and find it. I'll have to tie you up, but, soon as I find it, I'll let you."
As she spoke, Mal let out a strangled cry. "*Tyen shiao duh*! No way, you ain't goin' any where near my ship or my people! I won't be putting them in danger! We sort this out ourselves!"
"I frankly don't see that you have a choice, Mal," said Saffron, looking round to find something to use to tie him up. Several things suddenly happened at once. Mal lunged at Saffron, trying to get passed her to the door, they struggled momentarily and the gun went off like a firecracker in the confined space of the room. Mal dropped to the floor, covered in blood. Saffron, shaking slightly, leant over and turned his body face up. Mal was still and quiet, his carcass unmoving. She sighed heavily, jabbing at Mal with her toe. Then she turned and left the room, locking the door behind her. After all, she'd paid for the entire night.
It was early morning and peace reigned on Serenity. Not everyone however was asleep. Kaylee lay in Simon's arms, tracing patterns delightedly on his naked chest. They whispered to each other in the dark. Just simple lovers' talk of how they felt for each other and what had brought them together, little observations from their day, how Serenity still needed a new compression coil and how River seemed to have recovered from her last episode.
Suddenly an inhuman wail ripped through the ship, causing Simon to leap form his bed and pull on his trousers and Kaylee to fumble for her clothing. The screaming continued like an alarm, surely no one on the ship was still asleep?
Simon ran to River's room, the source of the screaming. Book was already there, saying "shh, child!" over and over whilst River, his arms around her, sat bolt upright in her bed, the covers thrown back, still screaming, her eyes wide with terror. Simon took one look and said, "Shepherd, you stay with her, try to get her to calm down. I'm going to get a sedative."
As he tumbled out of the room he ran slap bang into Zoë, who looked at him with concern. "What the *guay*.?"
"River," he explained and ran on, brushing past Wash and Hat who were also coming along the corridor to see who was making such an unearthly noise.
He returned a few minutes later. River had calmed down a little, but not much. She was still sobbing and muttering "don't shoot, don't shoot" to herself. Simon looked up at the worried faces of the crew.
"I can deal with her now, thanks. You should all go back to bed."
All rather shaken and unable to sleep, the rest of the crew gathered in the galley. Book passed around some biscuits and made tea.
"Well, at least we're all going to get an early start, won't do any of us any harm." He smiled softly.
"Girl's a worry," said Jayne.
"Anyone else noticed how she gets all hysterical an' something bad happens?" asked Wash nervously. Several of the others round the table nodded agreement.
"Come to think of it," said Book, thoughtfully, "the Captain should have been back hours ago, shouldn't he?"
Zoë looked at Book seriously. "You ain't wrong, Preacher, I got a notion something's happened."
Kaylee voiced a concerned "oh no!" and Hat drew in her breath. Inara turned to her with a soft, "It'll be all right, honey."
"Cap's probably just been delayed, right?" asked Kaylee, looking at Zoë for reassurance.
Zoë tried to look comforting, though she wasn't really feeling it. "I'm sure that's what it is," she soothed. "He's just been held up is all."
Jayne looked up and, with his usual lack of tack, stated, "don't think that's likely the truth of it at all. Reckon as how the Cap has only gone and got hisself kidnapped again!"
Saffron wove through the back streets of New Peking, looking for the berth in which Serenity was docked. It was early morning and few people were about. Those that were had their own problems to worry about and hardly turned an eye to the woman in their midst, never mind that that her dress was somewhat spattered with dry blood.
Saffron couldn't quite believe what had just happened. Of course, she didn't rightly care if Captain Malcolm Reynolds were alive or dead, but she was feeling a little remorseful and confounded that he'd died at her hand. Still, once she obtained the Lassiter and was on her way, she was pretty sure the wedge of platinum she'd be getting when she fenced it would make up for her killer's remorse.
Nevertheless, it felt a little off centre to have been instrumental in the death of someone you kind of knew. She wondered how long it would take the rest of the crew to find the body. Not long, if she knew them. They were a tight knit bunch, always looking out for each other. She felt a stab of envy and that led to annoyance. Their "do for each other" attitude put her teeth on edge. Well, this would show them where that kind of investment in others got you. Nowhere but the grave!
She had reached Serenity and slipped inside the small inner bay door, which was standing unlocked. She'd reckoned on having a bit of time to find the Lassiter; after all it was the middle of the night, well, early morning, surely nobody would be up. But, as she crept through the cargo bay, she was startled by the sound of many feet running along the catwalks. She ducked swiftly behind the mule, which was handily placed for spying and watched as pretty much every crewmember issued from the living quarters upstairs into the bay.
Zoë was the first down, strapping on a gun belt and barking orders at the others behind her.
"Jayne, Wash, you're with me. We'll head out, have a little scout around, my guess is Saffron won't've gone too far from that bar. She'll stick to places she knows, places as are safe, 'specially if she's comin' up with a plan. 'Nara, you go see if you can contact Haymer, see if he can give us any light on Saffron's likely moves. Kaylee, talk to Serenity, see if there's any way to track the Captain. Everyone else, stay here and keep things locked down. Don't want no one else goin' AWOL or gettin' hurt. Doc, p'raps you can sort out yer sister someKeep her calm. Drug her more - hell, drug her lots - if you have to."
"I'll help you with that," Book suggested to Simon, who nodded and they headed together towards the infirmary.
No one else seemed to argue. Seemed to Saffron, in Mal's absence, Zoë naturally took command. Made you wonder whether she'd not like to have a command of her own someday. Not that she knew it, but, by happy chance, that day just so happened to be today, following her Captain's untimely death. The small cook woman headed back up towards the galley, hugging Inara tightly before she turned off to her shuttle. Jayne, Wash and Zoë headed out the cargo bay doors.
Saffron had been startled when they'd all appeared, but now she collected herself and thought hard. Seemed they'd somehow sussed something was up, but this situation could work to her advantage. Hadn't Mal said that the cook had hidden the Lassiter? Now was a perfect opportunity to see about that.
She made her way to the common area outside the infirmary. As she did so, she passed the open door of the young girl's quarters. She seemed to be spark out on the bed. Probably drugged, she surmised, if she had understood Zoë's earlier comments. Creeping to the open door of the infirmary itself, she could see the doctor and the Shepherd inside. She drew out her gun, but then, recalling what had happened with Mal, she tucked it away and opted for a different approach. Before either Simon or Book could react, she had stepped into the doorway and, grasping both sections of the door, she slammed it shut and locked it.
She looked through the glass at the shocked and worried faces of the doctor and the preacher. She waived sweetly, tickling her fingers in a parody of a genuine greeting. She could smell their fear, the unspoken questions in both their faces; was the girl all right? Was Mal? She suddenly felt a wave of venom for this "family" that the Captain appeared to have gathered around him. She spoke softly through the door, knowing they would hear her. "*Fahng-sheen*, the girl's asleep. Your Captain's dead though."
Zoë, Jayne and Wash walked purposefully through the slums of New Peking, heading for the bar. Suddenly Zoë, in the lead, stopped dead, frozen. Wash, then Jayne, cannoned into her from behind.
"Son of a bitch! We are ruttin' eejits! *Tah-shr suo-yo dee-yure duh biao-tze duh mah*! What in God's name were we thinking?"
Jayne looked thoroughly confused and Wash said; "*Tyen shiao-duh*! What is it, honey?"
Zoë turned and started to purposefully half march, half run back towards Serenity. She explained over her shoulder as she ran. "Say Saffron is holding Mal hostage. What's her next step? She'll head for Serenity and try to make a grab for the Lassiter, that's what! And we've just left the door wide open for her!"
Jayne and Wash both swore and all three of them broke into a run.
Simon sank back in shock against the cold metal of the counter.
"Did she just say what I think she said?" he asked shakily.
The Shepherd looked sorrowful. "Yes, son, I'm very much afraid she did."
"He's dead then."
"I wonder how it happened?"
"Guess, we'll find out soon enough." The Shepherd sighed. "There's going to be many on this boat as'll miss that man, you and your sister, not the least."
Simon gulped and nodded; leaning back against the counter he was keenly aware of the cold metal surface beneath his hands. Its icy surface could not however account for the sudden wintry chill that ran sharply through him. He vividly remembered, like firework flashes, half remembered words:
"Yeah. But she's our witch. So cut her the hell down."
"You're on my crew. Why we still talking about this?"
"This is my boat, and they're part of my crew. No one's getting left."
"You ain't weak. I don't know how bright you are, top three percent, but you ain't weak and that's not nothing. You live by my rule, keep your sister from doing anything crazy, you could maybe find a place here."
He hadn't been kidding when he told Kaylee that River loved Serenity, that it was more home to her than any other place she'd ever been. If he had been dissembling then, it had been about his own strength of feeling for the ship and for its crew. Sure, it wasn't the Core with its gleaming hospitals, good pay and career prospects. But this rough and ready group of people, continually squabbling and grating on each other, but caring more than he'd ever imagined possible, these were more like a real family than anything he'd ever known.
And now the primogenitor of that family, the father figure, the core itself, always keeping the others in check and looking out for River, was gone. Simon had no idea what the others might choose to do with him and River now. There were certain people he was sure of, Wash and Harriet, Kaylee, but what about the others, now there was no Mal to tell them to act with nobility? Zoë would think of the dangers, but would protecting the Tams mean more to her than shielding the rest of the crew? Inara would look to her calling. Maybe she would see the economic advantages of getting rid of the Tams and being free to visit the Core again. The Shepherd, well he was enigmatic. He seemed to genuinely like River and Simon, but there was no knowing what his real intentions were or even when he might choose to leave Serenity. And that left Jayne. With no Captain to threaten and intimidate him into submission, Simon was willing to bet Jayne would sell them out in very, very short order, once the opportunity presented itself. Without the aegis of the Captain, he'd give himself and River mere days to make good their escape before something treacherous happened.
He only now realised how much he had underestimated the Captain and his value. With his crotchety and gruff manner, he had led Simon to believe he was a difficult man, but now it appeared that he'd been a benign influence on the ship and its crew. He'd been a hard man to get to know and a tough man to like, but that rigidity itself translated into such strength, such unbreakable potency. Under the brusque exterior was a man with a need to protect rivalled only by those renowned protective mothers of the animal kingdom, willing to die for any one of their offspring. He found he was suddenly finding it hard to breathe, the room felt stifling.
"Here, son," the calm voice of the Shepherd cut through his heated thoughts, "sit down, you look all in. I'll get you some water."
Hat had decided that the best course of action was to keep herself busy, so she was making wonton. She concentrated hard on the little pastry parcels trying not to think about where Mal might be or what state he might be in. It seemed better to just believe, as always, that he'd get out of it somehow and be back on Serenity in no time, maybe with a minor bullet wound, a few knocks and scratches, but nothing too serious.
Amidst her working silence she heard a noise, nothing loud, but the sort of noise someone makes when they're trying hard not to be heard. She whipped round to find Saffron standing in the doorway, watching her. "Hi honey, I'm home," she said.
Hat stared for a moment and then, saying nothing - it really didn't seem like the time for small talk, unaccustomed, as she was, to combat by banter - she reached smartly up behind her and pulled down Serenity's biggest frying pan. At the same moment Saffron lunged for a bread knife, lying on the table and snatched it up.
"I heard tell that you want to cut in on my man." Saffron smiled. "Maybe I could help you with that?"
Harriet stood at one end of Serenity's long galley table, brandishing the frying pan. Saffron stood at the other, ready to advance as she could. She flipped the knife coolly in the air.
"Look!" She smiled with no trace of real amusement. "I know how to handle kitchen implements too!"
"You *boo hway-hun duh puo-foo*! Take one step closer and I swear I'll brain you!" Harriet's shaky voice belied her firm words. "Where the hell is Mal, you gorram harpy?"
Saffron whistled amusedly. "Language, little miss Cook! You kiss your Captain with that mouth?"
If Saffron hadn't been quite so distracted with amusement at Hat's rather pathetic attempts to stand up to her, she might have noticed Hat's pupils dilate in relief. As it was, the cocking of a gun at her temple took her completely by surprise.
"Drop the knife." Zoë's voice was hard, without a trace of tremor. Saffron, knowing when she was beat, dropped the weapon hurriedly and Inara, who had entered at the same moment from the shuttle-end of the room, scuttled to retrieve it and remove it out of harm's way. Jayne leant in, around Zoë and removed Saffron's gun from where it was stuffed in her belt. At the same time Wash moved over to Hat and prised the frying pan out of her grip.
"Let's put this down, shall we, before anyone gets hurt?" he asked soothingly and hung the pan back above the stove.
"Sit down." Zoë's voice had, if anything, got harder. Saffron sat, Zoë's gun was still trained on her, but now Jayne had positioned himself at the other end of the table, lounging on a chair, as if it were only by accident that the muzzle of his gun had happened to swing round to cover her too. "Now, yer gonna tell us where the Captain is and best be quick, if ya don't want to end up impersonating a colander."
Saffron, initially startled by Zoë and the others, had relaxed and assumed her usual air of detached and cocky devilment. "Oh, did I forget to mention?" Her eyes strayed to Harriet, containing, if only for an instant, a hint of sympathy, "your ruttin' fool of a Captain ain't married to me any more. seein' how he's dead and all."
Harriet managed not to react verbally to the news, though she did turn paler than any live person ought to be and one hand strayed unconsciously in a protective motion across her belly. Inara too had gone white. Wash swore quietly, but savagely under his breath and Jayne grimaced. Zoë however didn't flinch nor react in any way. She simply continued to stare at Saffron and then nodded in a businesslike manner. "Well then, best take me to see the body."
"Nah-ah!" Saffron knew when to strike a hard bargain. "I'm not going anywhere or showing you anything without I get the Lassiter. You hand it over, I'll take you to the corpse."
"Don't see as how yer in a position to argue!" growled Jayne, but Saffron simply smiled her cat-like smile.
"No crappy piece of military history, no stiff." She stated.
"Fine!" Inara stepped forward sharply and leant under the table to where the Lassiter was taped. "Here you go!" She threw the gun at Saffron who reacted slowly and almost muffed the catch. "Watch it, the safety's off, wouldn't want it to blow up in your lovely hands, now would we?" Inara said icily.
"Right, you've got yer piece of gorram pretty, now take me to the Captain." Zoë was cold and deadly. Saffron nodded and stood up. Wash eyed her suspiciously.
"I'm comin' with you. I don't trust this ruttin' little murderess one bit. No sudden movements, now."
Zoë nodded, for all her reserve, she was actually just too shocked to argue.
After Zoë, Wash and Saffron had set off, heading back to the bar and Jayne had gone to release the Doc and the Shepherd, Inara led Hat to her shuttle and began to make tea.
Inara was surprised at the strength of her own sorrow. It was true, she had once certainly been in love with Mal, until she had given up those feelings (and not without some troublesome nights) when the strength of Hat and Mal's passion for each other became evident, to her, at least and she did still loved him. But the nature of their existence out in the Black was such that one should be prepared for any person's life, including one's own, to be snuffed out candle-like at any moment. She had thought she would be ready, but now she felt all at sea. She was proud of her independence and liked to keep herself separate from the rest of the crew, but a world with no Mal, no Captain, was a world where suddenly no one was in control. She felt scared, terrified of the unknown future. Suddenly the glue that had held the crew together seemed to have come unstuck.
Her hand shook as she made the tea and the cups tinkled against each other. She glanced at Hat, who, if anything, was worrying her most. No one, having just been told that the father of her baby was dead, should be this calm. It wasn't natural. Merciful Buddha! It wasn't healthy. She took in the pale cheeks and the blank _expression and wondered what one did for shock and where the hell Simon was.
Hat looked up at her as the cups chinked. "Inara, you ok? Here, let me." She leant across to take a cup. She looked into Inara's eyes. "I know you cared 'bout him very much."
Inara nodded and gulped. "Harriet, I'm so sorry," she began, "it's heart-breaking. I know how devastated you must be. it's all right to be upset in front of me, you know."
Hat looked at her again and this time there was a spot of red high up on each pale cheek and her eyes blazed. "Well, I ain't. No how! I ain't so much sad as down right angry! I'm so mad I could spit!"
Inara felt a calming influence was needed. "I know and I don't blame you, Saffron is an evil..."
"Oh, I ain't mad with Saffron," said Hat. "She's just doin' what it's in her nature to do. *Nee ta ma duh. Tyen-shia suo-yo duh run doh gai si*! I said not to go after her, didn't I? I said it again and again. And did any of you listen? Did he listen? Did he, ruttin' hell! Gorram it! If he weren't already dead, I'd kill him my own self!" Then she seemed to realise what she'd said, sat down on Inara's couch and burst into tears.
Inara breathed a sigh of relief and sat down gracefully next to her, holding out a silk handkerchief. Hat took it with a thankful smile through her tears and used it to emphasise her point, waiving it in the air. "I mean I ain't stupid! I know that life is nasty, brutish an' short out here in the Black. I weren't really expecting we'd be growin' old together sittin' in our gorram rocking chairs on a shiny veranda on some border world. But I thought he might at least hang around long enough to see his own ruttin' son! There's things Mal junior is gonna need to be taught and I was expectin' him to be the teacher. How to grow up to be a good man. not, you know, as gorram stupid as his father, but a man none the less."
She sobbed as Inara rubbed her back comfortingly. Hat looked at her with lost, little-girl eyes. "I just ain't awful sure what I'm supposed to do now. Mal's supposed to be here to tell me!"
"I know, honey," Inara was gentle but firm, "but he's not and we all have to deal with living anyway."
Hat gave a forlorn sigh. "I just ain't so sure I can be bothered!"
Still trapped in the silent infirmary, Simon shuddered at the realisation that, as soon as he was let out, he'd have to tell River the news. Lord alone knew what her reaction would be. He just hoped to God someone else would tell Kaylee. Involuntarily, he half whispered to himself, "oh God! Kaylee, River!"
The Shepherd put a comforting hand on his arm. He was aware just how much the Captain's death would affect the crew. For a man with avowedly no faith, he had certainly had the ability to engender faith in others; faith in him and his ability to look after them all. As a man of God, Book had to admire the man's strength of character, the determination with which he had held on to his little crew with a grip like steel. Men like that never did last long, he reflected, either passing into legend, revered by their devotees as a martyr or, with their death, tearing down the elaborate constructions of faith founded on them and turning their followers into bitter and disillusioned cynics. He found himself praying that the news wouldn't destroy the innate optimism of the sunny little mechanic or cause River to spiral deeper into her lonely psychosis.
He looked at Simon, searching for words to give comfort and assuage his grief, when the door was yanked open and Jayne stood on the threshold.
"Yer lunatic's awake again." He said, looking at Simon, "best see to her. Last thing we need is her brand a crazy."
Book looked at the big man sympathetically, despite the offhand words, he seemed subdued. "I take it you've heard about the Captain, then?" he asked gently.
Jayne nodded, "that I have." He looked at Simon again, "and you best be tellin' yer sister, best way you know how, Doc. I'm gonna go find Kaylee, she's a right to know, same as the rest a us." He turned and headed up the stairs beside the infirmary.
Simon made his way, heavy hearted, towards River's room. To his surprise she was looking far more composed than, given her behaviour of a few hours ago, he could ever have imagined. She was sitting cross-legged on her bed drawing an intricate design. It looked like stylised horses running against a background of green.
"*Mei mei*." Simon swallowed, it seemed harsh to break her peace so abruptly, to just blurt it out, as he was sure Jayne was now doing to Kaylee. He sat down softly next to his sister and took her hand, the one holding a pencil, uncurled the lead from her grasp and kissed her palm softly. "*Mei mei*. I have something to tell you."
River looked up into his face, so trustingly he thought his heart might break and smiled.
"I know all about the Captain," she said and laughed.
Jayne headed up slowly to the engine room to find Kaylee. He refused to admit to himself that he was afraid of breaking such news to a girl. He was finding it hard, his own self, to deal with the information. He was a mercenary, gorram it, that's what his kind did; live fast, die young. There weren't nothing to get upset about there. But no Mal was something he hadn't bargained for.
He wondered what Zoë would do. He simply assumed she'd be taking command. Would she want to keep him on? Most likely, with his reputation for trouble and his open antagonism towards her "little man", she'd pay him off. Truth was, for all his moaning about the jobs and the pay, Serenity had been a far better situation than Jayne had ever hoped to find. He reckoned the general devotion to Mal among the crew had kept him alive a lot longer than would otherwise have been the case.
So what that Mal had threatened to space him more'n once? Jayne respected, gorramit, he liked strong leadership and that's what Mal had been, a tough leader, no pantywaist nancy-boy. Jayne had the sense to recognise that Mal had made some fine decisions over the past years, not ones Jayne agreed with or would ever have thought of making, but ones that worked out well for the crew. It certainly wouldn't be the same without him. It wasn't as if he liked the man, but he'd been a comrade, someone to watch yer back in battle and a gorram reliable one too.
Regardless of their desperate situation, he could hear Kaylee before he even entered the engine room, humming tunelessly to herself as she bent over a complicated electrical array. Despite his usual tactlessness, he was not looking forward to destroying the mechanic's light-hearted mood and in consequence his voice was gruff. "Kaylee." He cleared his throat and tired again, "Kaylee!"
"Oh, hey Jayne!" she smiled as she looked up, but then, reading his _expression, said quietly, "what is it, Jayne? Is it River?"
Jayne sighed, this was gonna be worse than he'd imagined. He gulped and tired for cheerful.
"Kaylee, ya missed all the fun! Saffron's sneaked aboard and we had to roust her out, Zoë was in a killin' mood!"
"Really?" Kaylee smiled, but once again the smile faded as she sensed Jayne was leaving something out. "What is it, Jayne? Tell me!"
"'Kay," Jayne was blunt, but kind. "Kaylee, Saff told us something. She said the Captain's dead." He looked away, unable to watch her eyes as she heard the news.
"Oh!" was all she found to say, said quiet like, and then the tears welled up in her eyes. "Oohhh Jayne!" she sobbed and fell into the big man's arms, crying softly into his T-shirt as he awkwardly patted her shoulder and smoothed her back. After a few minutes, she pushed herself gently away from Jayne's embrace and wiped her tears with the back of her hand. The resolve and submission in her eyes were almost worse than her first rush of despair. Jayne ducked his head.
"Guess you'll be wantin' ta go see yer Doc now."
"Yes," she nodded. "But how's Hat, Jayne? We all gotta be strong fer her now. Imagine!" Her eyes brimmed with tears again. "He was always lookin' out for us, now we gotta look out for his family."
From the tears leaking out from Kaylee's eyes as she slid open his door, Simon presumed that Jayne had told her about the Captain. She slipped quietly in, unspeaking and came into his arms in a rush, before he could see further tears fall. He sat on his bed, holding her to him as though he could make it all right, when really, nothing could.
Kaylee sobbed in Simon's arms, breathing in the scent of his clothing and him. Normally she loved the way he smelled, so fresh and clean, but right now it almost offended her. She would have given anything to be breathing in the scent of worn cotton shirts, earth, engine oil and the faintest hint of tobacco picked up in dingy bars. Those odours had the indefinable whiff of Malcolm Reynolds, strong and resolute, a captain, a father. She'd not been 18 when she left home to serve as the mechanic on such a little, old ship, on the lovely Serenity. She'd been passed from the strong governance of a stern, but loving, father to the hands of an equally firm, but equally tender, Captain. She could remember each hiding she'd got from her daddy, whenever she played up; staying out too late or tumbling a boy. Mal's tongue-lashings had served a similar purpose. She remembered so many tellings off:
"Ain't paying you to get your hair played at."
"I cannot be having this from you right now."
"Kaylee, I know you have or you'd've spoken up sooner, which by the by you should have."
"What would you do in that rig? Flounce around the engine room? Be like a sheep walkin' on its hind legs."
But that was how she functioned. She rebelled just enough to be shown that he still cared about her, was still watching out for her. She was still his little girl, to punish, but also to reward, to buy dresses and to tell her how well she'd done:
"You're still the best mechanic floating."
It just wouldn't be the same now. She'd really have to grow up and smartish, she realised that. She'd not be anyone's little girl no more, no how. She was a woman and it was about time she started acting like one and being taken for one. Rubbing her tearful eyes against Simon's shirt, she reached up and pulled his head down for a long, impassioned and comforting kiss.
Saffron entered the small room at the point of a gun. Zoë had to bend to get through the door behind her, closely followed by her husband, watching Saffron like a slightly fluffy hawk. Saffron nodded to the corpse lying face up on the floor and kicked it lightly with her foot.
"There you go, what did I tell you? Dead as a dachshund!" She said brutally.
Zoë looked down at the prone form of her Captain and experienced a moment of queasiness. He really was dead then. For a moment she had no idea what she should do. Wash was her present and her future, but Mal had been her past, her anchor, securing her to the present and the now, giving her roots and a history. Looking at the corpse she felt a lightening, an untethering as though she were coming loose from her moorings, being carried out to sea over uncharted depths and towards unexplored possibilities. Everything felt unfamiliar and peculiar. She felt seasick.
Wash, though ostensibly his attention fixed on Saffron, watched his wife out of the corner of his eye. He knew that, after a few days, he would grieve for Mal, who, despite the differences in their characters, had been a good man and a careful friend. But right now he could only feel pity and grief for the woman he loved who was, so obviously to his eyes, grieving terribly for her dead friend. His concern for the dead could wait; it was the living he needed to shelter and protect all he could now. He could only imagine how she felt, looking at the stiff and lifeless flesh that had been her commander and captain. Oh, on the outside, she looked all collected and tranquil, but he knew that below the surface she was in horrible pain. He also knew that, if he wanted to hang on to this beautiful and proud woman he loved so much, it would take all his tact and delicacy. Say the wrong thing now, a little voice was saying inside him, and you'll lose her forever.
He opened his mouth to speak and say words that would, he hoped, comfort her. But before he could speak, before Zoë could bend down to gather the body to her, the eyes of the corpse snapped open and Mal struggled to sit up, smiling slightly, but weak from blood lost from a large bleeding wound to his inner arm. Zoë could do nothing but open her mouth and stare.
"Hey!" Said the corpse. "YoSafBridge, next time you pronounce someone dead, check their gorram pulse, why dontcha? And I like dachshunds, all those tiny legs, what was the why involved in killin' 'em all off any how? Hey there, Zoë..."
Zoë continued to stare. "Something about them bein' bred with a tendency to maul, as I recall," she said dryly, her composure returning with a quirky, slightly shaky smile. "Hey there, Sir. Glad you ain't dead."
"I'm fair pleased about that my own self," agreed Mal jovially. Wash heaved a sigh of unfeigned relief. The disaster that had threatened to engulf them all so suddenly made a noise like a hoop and rolled away. Unfortunately, caught in the moment, neither Mal, Wash nor Zoë were watching Saffron. Quick as a wink she'd high-kicked the gun out of Zoë's hand and caught it up. Now it was trained on Wash. "Drop it!" Wash looked at Zoë who sighed and raised her hands resignedly. Wash dropped the gun swiftly to the floor and followed suit.
"Why the hell does this always happen to us, Zoë?" asked Mal.
"If you want to make the not being dead thing permanent, Mal, I suggest you shut the hell up." Saffron was tense. She'd been shocked and more relieved than she'd ever care to admit to see Mal was alive.
Mal shrugged and also raised his hands. "Fair enough, though, as I recall, way you shoot, reckon one of us, probably you, Zo, or maybe Wash, in the corner there, 'ud have a decent chance of comin' out a here without a scratch! And after all, law of averages - you've already managed to pin me the once, I'm pretty confident you couldn't do it twice." He lifted up his arm to show where a bullet had ripped through his coat and shirt and had winged him heavily.
"*Nee mun doh bee-jway*! Now I'll be taking the Lassiter and this here gun too," Saffron bent down to pick up Wash's discarded weapon, "and be going." She smiled a tight little smile.
"Pleasure doin' business with you as always, YoSafBridge," Mal said with heavy sarcasm.
"Oh the pleasure was all mine, Captain Easy-Mark!" Saffron breathed. She bent down and, with one foot firmly on Mal's chest to stop him rising, though he was still weak from loss of blood, she kissed him deeply on the mouth. The she turned, grinned at Zoë and Wash and ducked out the door.
Zoë looked implacably at Mal. "So I'm guessing that's one of the things I shouldn't be mentioning to Hat then?"
Mal had the grace to look slightly shifty. "Yup, reckon that's so. That and, of course, the rumours of my untimely demise."
"Ah!" said Zoë. "Think we might have a problem there, Sir."
The entire crew had assembled in the cargo bay, no one wanting to be alone, all waiting for Wash and Zoë to return with the body. Only Hat sat a little away from the others, half way up the stairs not really concentrating, just staring into space. None of the others were speaking much. Now and again someone would start a topic of conversation that would peter out as quickly as it had begun, but on the whole to talk was just too sad and painful. Only River seemed unaffected by the atmosphere. She was pirouetting gently around the bay, singing an old Earth-That-Was nursery rhyme. Whenever the others stopped talking, to stare long and hard at their shoes or a patch of the cargo bay next to them, the strains of Bobby Shaftoe echoed eerily through the cavernous room.
"They should be back soon." Book looked at the others.
"Reckon that's so, not long now." agreed Jayne.
"He'll come back and marry me." sang River.
"What's that?" asked Simon, jumping at a noise and bouncing Kaylee's head, which lay in his lap.
"Just a rat." said Inara soothingly.
"He's my love forevermore."
"*Tzao-gao*! Will you shut the gorram hell up, Moonbrain?" growled Jayne.
"Well, if this isn't the most melancholy crew I ever had the misfortune to lay eye's on! What's the matter, someone die?"
"Captain!" Kaylee's head shot up from Simon's lap in an instant. Mal walked calmly into the cargo bay, smirking amusedly, but looking weak and supported by Zoë and Wash. "We havin' some kinda wake?" he asked.
Kylee threw herself across the bay towards him. But, eager as she was, she arrived at Mal's side moments after Jayne who enfolded Mal, to Mal's and indeed Jayne's own surprise, in a hearty bear hug, clapping him on the back. Mal reeled, clutching his wounded arm as Jayne stood back, looking suddenly embarrassed by his unwonted display of emotion. "Ouch, Jayne, you *hwoon dahn*! You reckon Saff didn't do a good enough job a tryin' to kill me, so you're givin' her a hand?" asked Mal.
Jayne blushed and looked at the floor. "Just glad she didn't make a corpse a you, Mal."
Kaylee used the opportunity to give Mal a gentler hug. "I so hoped as you weren't dead, Cap." He kissed the top of her head, all the while looking over her till he caught Hat's eye. She was looking beady. He swallowed.
Meanwhile, the others crowded round. Inara smiling softly at him in relief and kissing his cheek, "welcome home, Mal!"; Simon standing back shyly, but grinning enormously on catching Mal's eye; the Shepherd patting him on the back, "good to have you back, son!"; River, still dancing strangely, "I knew you weren't dead. Don't know why they're all making a fuss."
Mal disentangled himself form Kaylee's embrace and walked towards Hat, who had remained silent, standing at the bottom of the stairs. "So here's a funny thing. I ain't as dead as you might think." He grinned at her sheepishly and rather apologetically.
Hat's face showed no emotion, so he wasn't at all prepared for what came next. Her fist shot out and punched him heavily in his wounded arm.
"*Liou koe shway duh biao-tze huh hoe-tze duh bun ur-tze*! That gorram hurt! What d'you do that for?" Mal's eyes watered slightly.
"To remind you that you ain't never EVER doin' anything like that to me again, Malcolm Lazarus Reynolds!" Book grinned at the biblical reference that he was pretty sure only he and Mal would get.
Mal continued to look at Hat in a hurt fashion. "Well, I ain't likely to forget that punch in a hurry, woman. I ask you, is that anyway to greet your returnin' hero?"
Hat looked up at him, standing close. Her eyes filling with tears and her bottom lip wobbling. "*Lao tyen*! She said you were dead!" She said accusingly, and then more softly, "I thought you'd left me."
Mal reached out and pulled her into a firm embrace, wincing as his hurt arm wrapped around her. "I ain't never leavin' you, *dong ma*? I can't promise you I'll always come back, mayhap sometime I won't, but I'll have to be real good and dead first, get me?" As an afterthought he added, "and they better think about buryin' me nice and deep!"
Hat nodded against his chest and hugged him all the tighter.
"Well," Book coughed and turned to the others, "I'm thinking we're all a little over-wrought." He glanced at Jayne who was sniffling and Kaylee, bouncing on her toes as she hugged Simon. "How's about we move upstairs and have a soothing cup of tea?"
"With wood alcohol?" asked Jayne, looking hopeful.
Kaylee grinned. "Jayne's right! This definitely calls for a celebration, I'll get my moonshine."
Inara looked up. "And I've got a bottle of whiskey I was saving for a special occasion. I think this counts." She smiled fondly at Mal and Hat, still wrapped closely together.
"I think I better patch up the Captain first," Simon suggested, "but you guys go on up, we'll join you when we're done."
As it turned out, everyone decided they'd come along to watch the Captain get stitched up. Just didn't seem fair to start celebrating without the guest of honour. Mal lay on the infirmary couch, with Hat, clearly a permanent attachment, at his side, whist Simon stripped off his tattered shirt and poked around his arm. The others draped themselves in the doorway or sat and leaned against the units.
Simon looked up. "Well, the good news is the bullet went straight though and didn't hit the bone. The rather less good news is it tore through the upper section of your brachial artery. That's why you lost such a lot of blood and why you're feeling pretty groggy right now."
"Hey!" Mal raised his other hand feebly in surrender, "ain't gonna argue with you, Doc!"
"Anyway, I'll have to repair it and then you need a transfusion and a substantial amount of rest." Mal nodded as Simon injected him swiftly in the arm. A look of contentment passed slowly over Mal's face and he shut his eyes. Still with his eyes closed he said, "so, to sum up this latest very not smooth caper, not only have I been shot AGAIN, but; one, we ain't got the Lassiter; two, we ain't got any money for the Lassiter; and three, I ain't got no divorce! Well, I take full responsibility for this pile a *niou-se*. Sorry crew!"
"Succinct as that shiny little summary was, *bao bay*, it ain't exactly right." Hat put in sweetly from his elbow.
Mal's eyes snapped open. "Hunh?" Hat, Inara and Zoë were exchanging smugly satisfied little glances. "Ok, ladies, what isn't WoS tellin' me?"
Hat smiled an infuriatingly self-satisfied smile. "Well, when 'Nara met Durran Haymer."
"He gave me," Inara took over the story, "a long distance tracking device, very small."
"Tiny in fact," put in Zoë. "Real state a the art, quality merchandise."
"Anyway," went on Inara, "when we re-hid the Lassiter, I attached the tracer to it and when Saffron demanded the thing with menaces, I was the one that handed it over to her. And I just had time to switch on the tracer too, how about that?"
Zoë smiled wickedly. "How about that? I'd say there weren't much chance at all that either our Saffron or that gun are still at liberty right now."
Hat grinned back at her. "Reckon as how they probably both have pride a place in Mr Haymer's little museum of has-beens."
Mal grinned proudly at the three women. "Ah! Revenge ain't half a shiny thing! You three've been mighty sneaky and mighty busy, I must say!"
"That ain't all, neither," went on Hat.
"I was given to understand by Mr Haymer," explained Inara, "that there's a not insignificant reward for the return of the Lassiter. He knows I'm the only one who could have put the tracer on the gun. To tell the truth, I'm expecting a sizeable token of Durran's regard to appear in my account at any moment."
"Well, that's two out of three, I guess," sighed Mal.
"*Lao tyen yeh*! Is anyone else worried by the obvious evidence of the deviousness of our womenfolk?" asked Wash. "I for one ain't gonna be sleeping soundly in my bed after this!"
"Oh yer gonna sleep soundly enough, husband." said Zoë with a promise in her eyes. Wash raised his eyebrows in amused yet eager response.
"Yeah, well, I reckon you should put a stop to this *go se* right now, Cap," said Jayne. "These women a got me all manner a nervous."
"And that's just as it should be!" Inara gave Jayne a smouldering look that seemed to make him even more uncomfortable, or at least twitchy.
"I'll be in my bunk!" he said and exited promptly.
Harriet looked at Mal, lightly touching his good arm to get his attention. "Mal, I'm gonna give you a little gift for free now, just 'cos I love you, *dong ma*?"
He nodded and looked intrigued. "You got me a divorce too, miracle worker?" he asked.
Hat smirked fondly. "Nah! I like that yer married to a homicidal sneak thief." She leant in to kiss him tenderly on the lips, stroking his cheek. "But if there's any lesson to be learnt form this luckless caper, it's this: You and I, Malcolm Reynolds, are already as wed as we'll ever be. I laugh when you laugh, I hurt when you hurt and I cry gorram buckets when I think yer dead. Don't take no ring or ruttin' marriage service to make it proper. We're way more married than you and Saffron'd ever be and I like it just fine thanks. Don't fix on bein' a widow any time soon though, if'n yer agreeable."
Mal looked at her sheepishly and a might foolishly. "So I just got shot for nothin'?"
Hat grinned mischievously. "Yer could say that. I couldn't possibly comment."
Mal felt suddenly exhausted, he lay heavily back on the infirmary bed. "Well," he sighed, his eyes closing in spite of himself, "I guess all's well as ends without any a us bein' a corpse!" And with that, he fell asleep.
 Dog cr*p!
 Oh God!
 Mother of Jesus!
 Name of all that's sacred!
 Like hell!
 loopy in the head
 That's all right then!
 cheap floozy
 remorseless harridan
 Mother of God!
 cheap floozy
 Like Hell!
 F*ck me!
 this is a happy development
 consistently useless
 Mother of God!
 F*ck me!
 Name of all that's sacred!
 don't worry
 Whores in hell!
 Name of all that's sacred!
 remorseless harridan
 Fuck everyone in the universe to death!
 little sister
 little sister
 Everybody shut the hell up!
 Stupid son of a drooling harlot and a monkey!
 Oh God!
 cow dung
Wednesday, February 01, 2006 3:55 PM
You must log in to post comments.
OTHER FANFICS BY AUTHOR
All FIREFLY graphics and photos on this page are copyright 2002-2012 Mutant Enemy, Inc., Universal Pictures, and 20th Century Fox.
All other graphics and texts are copyright of the contributors to this website.
This website IS NOT affiliated with the Official Firefly Site, Mutant Enemy, Inc., or 20th Century Fox.