BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

KAYNARA

Bed and Wine: Part 20
Sunday, March 26, 2006

Pieces. NC-17


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 3776    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

Bed and Wine: Part 20 By Kaynara

*** Pieces. NC-17 *** Thanks to Grimlock for the consult. It’s Joss’s verse.... *** Slick limbs and wet hair. Sluggishness and the smell of sex. He tugged her perspiration-drenched body atop his own, pressed a kiss to the top of her head. She laid her cheek to his chest, murmuring into the skin above his heart so the words tickled. “I love you.” He stroked her hair. “I love you,” he whispered back. But she might already have been sleeping. *** He found her in the bay; little witch had got into into his weights. Was just over a week since big brother cut the cast off her leg, removed the enhancers. Lil’ Kaylee made it somethin’ of a celebration, bakin’ a cake with real-sugar frosting and coverin’ Crazy Girl’s face with congratulatory kisses. When Jayne’d seen what she done, he’d got a great urge to shake her. What exactly we celebratin’, Kaylee? Just what here merits engine wine and your shiny smile? Was a gorram farce to be truthsome. Kinda like the arm cast she’d wear awhile longer. Rest o’ the crew done decorated the plaster with dumb jokes and picture-drawings, autographin’ her as though it meant somethin’, changed somethin’. Hell, even Mal printed ‘Captain’ in big, black letters, sketchin’ some manner o’ bird below. Jayne hadn’t wrote a damn thing. What would it matter? Didn’t, to be plain. Squatting, he’d watched through the window as the doc cut loose her leg. It emerged from out the plaster, a fine sprinkling of dark hairs in the spots the cast had covered. Jayne stared at the pale limb, all white and scaly, and felt a merciless stab of lust hit his nethers. From her perch atop the exam table, River looked down on herself and burst into tears. “River?” Clueless, the doc started right in feelin’ up her leg for out-sticking bones or some such. For all his smarts, boy just didn’t get it. Didn’t get that what was hurtin’ her weren’t medical. Nara seemed to understand. In a way, she always understood folk. Must come from sexin’ so many of ‘em. “It’s alright, Simon.” Inara smiled in that way she had of at once getting her way and reassuring you it was all for the better. “I think River might appreciate a warm bath and a little girl-talk before we all enjoy Kaylee’s delicious cake. Am I right, sweetheart?” “Hot water. Talk about men. I’m fine, Simon.” Girl sounded as death regurgitated and made to walk upright amongst the living. She was surely pale as the dead, flesh made whiter ‘gainst the dark of her hair. For a long, sweaty second Jayne imagined all that ivory skin flushing red with heat, going warm and wet under his hands’ ministrations. He met her eyes through the glass and felt a pink flush creep over his own neck. Now she was pumping her good arm in bicep curls while the casted one hung limp at her side. Sweat had her hair curling, wispy little bits that fell free from her pony tail to lick at her face. The effort of the workout had her skin glowing, shiny pink under the cargo bay flourescents. “Morning.” She smiled. “You dreamed about her last night. Haven’t in a long time. Kept me up.” Little witch had the gall to sound accusing. “Don’t recall sayin’ you could use those. Just cuz some folk on this boat treat you like shiny glass don’t mean you’re special. Not nothin’ new, just a female same as any other. Me, I ain’t got no burnin’ desire to see you smile.” “But I do make you burn.” Her smile paled to a tight white line. The disappointment he felt was a shock, quick as a knife blade betwixt his ribs and equally as sharp. “Sorry. Forget sometimes. Just because I can...it’s not to say I should. Forget not everyone can see....sorry, Jayne. Memories are possessions; Vera belongs to you.” For long seconds they watched each other in silence. Finally he shrugged, switched the weight in her hand for another. “This is better. Builds up the endurance gradual-like. Vera weren’t her.” He hesitated, meeting a pair of eyes that looked of a sudden a whole hell of a lot older than nineteen. “Jo...well, Jo was weak. Ain’t the sort a man calls his weapon for. Jo was her though. Vera was the one killed her.” “Captain Malcom dreams in red and black, Kaylee’s have polka dots. All Jayne’s dreams are gray.” “Gray’s a good color. Steel and guns is gray.” “What was she like? One Vera killed....” “Not like you. Softer. Harmless. Kinda like Kaylee. Couldn’t hurt no one, matter how mad they got her.” “Was she pretty?” “Not especial-like. Kinda plain. Sweet as grape soda.” “You loved her.” “Much as I was able. Didn’t never tell her though. People after...said she musta knowed. Load a go suh if I ever heard one. How can folk know nothin’ lest you tell ‘em? Not like she was psychic...not like you....” She studied him like some object of fascination, only blinking when she had to. “Would it make us happy?” she asked at last. Her eyes got little-girl again. Broken little crazy girl, begging with her eyes. “For a lil’ while. Before and during. After if we was lucky.” “Would it feel good? During....” He could hardly croak. “Yeah. Yeah, would feel good.” “And after...would you hold me, Jayne? The way Simon holds Kaylee and the captain holds Inara?” “Guess I would. If’n you wanted it.” “Thanks, Jayne. Thanks for your weights.” “Right. Sure.” He got out ‘fore he lost his chance. *** Mal strode purposely up to the bridge.  He weren’t the least bit eager to send this wave and thus wanted it done with soon as possible. So he’d just pour a cup o’ joe for hisself first, maybehaps trim up his bunk some.  Really the icebox was in need of a good scrubbing…. In the kitchen, Kaylee poured water into clear plastic cups. “There y’are, Cap’n!”  She sounded breathless, red-faced and glowy, hair sticking to her skin.  “Why ain’t you down there with us?” “What game you playin’, Lil’ Kaylee?” He stole one of her neatly-filled glasses, gulped down the water. “Touch football.  Boys ‘gainst the girls, so Zoe, Nara an’ me versus Simon an’ Jayne.” “Inara’s playin’ football?” “Yup.”  Kaylee sounded mighty proud with herself. “Inara Serra?  Dark-haired creature ‘bout yay high?”  He held his palm level with Kaylee’s head.  “Wait a minute, never mind Nara. Simon’s playin’ football?  Stuffy-shirt doctor about--”  He hesitated, uncertain.  “Well, now, how big is the doc?” he mused. “Oh…plenty big.”  Kaylee smirked, nudged her elbow into Mal’s ribs as he groaned.  “Let’s see, now, spect he’s about....” She held up her hands as though trying to estimate. “Stop! As your captain, I am ordering you to stop that. Stop talking and...and put your hands in your pockets!” “Come on down to the bay, Cap’n.” Kaylee beamed up at him with her most cheersome smile.  “‘Member how we’d all of us play Hoop Ball?  Back before…?”  “I remember.  Got captainy things though.”  He tossed a light punch at her shoulder.  “Go have fun, Lil’ Kaylee.” Alone, he wandered up to the bridge, took a seat in Wash’s chair.  Much as he appreciated the diversion, he was more than a mite relieved to see her go.  It guilted on him too much, havin’ that girl’s shiny smile in sight with what he was about to do.  Man he meant to wave was a murderer—weren’t no two ways about it.  He ended the Shepherd as surely as if he’d run him through with that hoe-tze duh pee-goo sword.  Slaughtered the whole of Haven, women and children included.  Given proper provocation, he’d have sacrificed Inara, too, all for the purpose of getting to a little girl could slay the monsters.  Wash…well, he woulda liked to hold the man liable for Wash as well.  But that meant relinquishing his own culpability.  Mal wasn’t quite ready to give up on that account. In the silence of the cockpit, he leaned back against the headrest, dug a hand into the pocket of his trousers.  The scrap of parchment rested curled where he’d crammed it, hidden in the back of his wallet betwixt his Browncoat Indent. and an old capture of a dead woman was once his mother.   This felt wrong a thousand times over.  Solicitin’ help from him that murdered family.  Riskin’ the lives of his livin’ crew to locate what could be a figment. “I’m asking you to take this, Captain.  Should you wish to contact me, this may prove your only means.”  It wasn’t a good day, that one.  With most of his crew laid up, he spent it planning three funerals on his lonesome “I don’t see a shiny reunion flick in our future.” “Captain Reynolds…I have neither past nor future.” “I stumble upon you in a lonely alley somewhere, you’ll find your present comin’ to a fast close.” “I won’t come to you, Captain.  I give you my word, I won’t come to you.” Somewhere between burying the dead and resurrecting his ship, Mal folded the code in his wallet and forgot it.  Now, he stuck the paper to the console, typed the number into the Cortex ‘fore he could change his mind.  The message was sent.  He wondered whether the hwoon dan was alive to answer. *** He was rather absorbed with her belly.  Amused, she watched him kiss and nibble, drawing his mouth along the line of her hips. He dipped his tongue down into her belly button, suckling the warm flesh along with the jewelry she wore there.  He shifted lower, kissing along the waistband of her pants.  His hands lingered on the drawstring, unknotting the bow, but making no move to lower the linen.  He seemed content just to touch for now.  She played her fingers through his hair, content to let him. He hadn’t shaved in a few days, and the stubble on his cheeks stung pleasantly against the skin. “My hurtin’ you?” he asked when he realized, bringing a hand up to rub at his jaw. She smiled. “I think we’re long past that, Mal. “Yeah?” She nodded, tugged him up by the suspenders. Lightly, she brushed his lips. “You know, when we first...had intimacies. Well, I was a little...I don’t wanna say nervy, ‘cuz it weren’t that.” “Of course not.” She tried to kiss him again, rolled her eyes when he once more frustrated her aims. “Maybehaps anxious. Just a mite.” “I was scared too, Mal.” “I didn’t say scared, Nara.” “Sorry.” She kissed the tip of his nose. “Anxious, was it?” “Now see here I am tryin’ to have a serious discussion...and there you go with the cracking wise.” “My apologies.” She bit her lip to hide a smile. “So we’re discussing something?” “No, no. Forget it. Can just have sex if you’d rather.” He made a move to unbutton his trousers. She smiled now, unable to help herself. “If you insist. Take me, Malcom Reynolds.” She tossed a playful hand over her eyes. “Ai ya, if you ain’t a brat.” He pulled her hand away, pressed kisses over her eyelids. “I’m teasing, Mal.” She nuzzled her lips over his neck, pleased by the way his breathing quickened. “Unless the matter you wish to discuss is liable to cause a fight. In which case I’d prefer we have sex first.” “Don’t reckon it’ll incite a riot...though I do tend to excel in infuriating you.” “Mmm, not just me,” she teased. “Whoa-ho. No respect for your elders.” He fell back on his side, tugging her against him. One hand slid down her back to slap gently at her butt. “What you need’s a good bit o’ discipline.” She snuggled against the warmth of his chest, pressed her face into the soft fabric of his undershirt. “Spanking? How delightfully deviant. You never mentioned these eccentric sexual inclinations previously.” She titled her chin up, anticipating his blush. Ta ma de, he was cute when he blushed. “You’ve been holding out on me, Captain.” “You, uh....” He was turning red and fast; dammit. “You ever...I mean, that a popular--inclination--in your old line o’ work?” She just smiled wickedly. He shook his head. “Never mind.” He kissed the top of her head before moving to her lips. “Brat.” *** Raven whined, big brown eyes solemn as she stared around the empty cargo bay. Zoe bounced the squirming eight-month old on her hip. “Birds are gone, Rave. Went bye-bye on ‘Sephone.” “Baby talk from our stalwart first mate?” Zoe turned to find Simon smiling over a mug of tea. “Doctor.” She inclined her head in greeting. “I’d leave the cutesy speak to Wash if he were here. Seein’ as he ain’t...well....” “I think you talk one-year old very well.” Simon held out his arms hesitantly. “May I?” Amused, Zoe passed her daughter to the doc. He held the child, albeit awkwardly, against his chest. “Mm, she smells nice.” “Better than the penguins,” Zoe agreed. “I wonder if the captain didn’t know all along they were going to a zoo. Sometimes I think he takes pleasure in antagonizing people.” Zoe smirked. “Only sometimes?” “You’re doing a great job with her, Zoe. I’m not very good with children.” “Was a time you weren’t much good with womenfolk either.” She started down the hall, giving him little choice but to follow with the baby. “But you learned. And now look at you, Doctor.” “Kaylee’s good for me.” “Imagine you’re good for eachother.” “Zoe, wait.” The baby was wriggling against his chest. Automatically, Simon lifted her up to blow bubbles against her belly. She laughed wildly and kicked her little legs. “Somethin’ you wanted to say, Doctor?” “What’s Mal going to do?” “What’s the captain gonna do ‘bout what?” “You know what, Zoe.” “Baby was made from him and River?” At Simon’s nod, she just shook her head. “Ain’t certain, Doctor. Captain’s been through hell and back, but this...this got him tore up plenty.” “For all Mal’s faults, he’s fiercely protective when it comes to family.” “Captain does his best to protect those he considers his.” “And does that include a child conceived against his will? Against my sister’s?” “It includes that child if he conjures it does.” “Your mother seem to have a knack for languages, Raven. She’s as adept at cryptic as she is at baby talk.” “And the captain’s skilled in keeping private that which he don’t want known.” Except when it came to Inara, she mused. Man never could keep his feelings for her secret. “I don’t know what to do here, Zoe.” Raven had her head on his shoulder now. She was a good baby, unfussy with bein’ held by her many aunts and uncles. Sometimes it miffed Zoe just a bit how easily she seemed to take to strangers. But then that was just a part of what made Raven her father’s daughter. “Seems you’re doin’ just fine, Doctor.” “I’ve never been comfortable with babies, even my own sister. Of course, River had a nurse in the beginning: Mrs. Wu. She took care of me as well. You see, my parents are very busy people. They didn’t have the time to...at any rate, Raven’s the first baby with whom I spent a significant time. I love my sister very much, Zoe.” “Don’t think anyone’s ever questioned that fact.” “I gave up everything I knew to find her. And I’d do it again. All I want--all I’ve ever wanted--is to see her safe. And happy. If the captain tries to steal back her--their--child...she’ll never be safe.” “And if he doesn’t seek out that child?” “She might be safe. They might leave her alone. And she might never be happy.” The last he said quietly, a low whisper into the baby’s hair. “Seems like a lot of maybes, Doctor.” “And maybe I’m selfish.” She appraised him carefully, her expression serious. “Ain’t ever known you to be that.” “What if I said I believe we should leave BSB to its abominable creation, attempt to live out our lives with some semblance of peace? What would you say then?” “I’d say that you’re a man who’s lost too much and prefers not to lose more. Not so unlike the captain really.” Not so unlike herself. “It’s not real to me. The baby,” he explained. “Not like River. Kaylee. Not like Raven.” “Reckon it’d be different if you saw your sister swelling with it. Always harder to believe in something you can’t see.” Simon lowered his gaze, a smile playing over his lips. “You know, for a second there I could almost hear Shepherd Book.” Zoe returned the smile, reached out a hand to tousle her daughter’s hair “Mind her for a bit?” “Me?” His mouth formed a small o of surprise. “I, uh, well....” “Thanks, Doctor.” Yawning, she headed up to the bridge. Her baby girl had her up half the night and a nap was sounding better by the minute. She’d kick off her boots and curl up in her man’s chair. Sometimes, in the stillness, it felt like him holding her. Anticipating the solace, she climbed the steps to the helm. And stopped short when she saw who was seated in her husband’s spot. “Zoe. Hi.” “Gideon. Didn’t expect to find you on the bridge.” “Serenity can be very...full. It’s quiet up here. Peaceful.” Zoe just nodded, hoping he’d take the hint. Hoping he’d go. “On the ship River and I flew...the Champion...some nights I’d sleep at the helm, watch the stars. Tried the other night, but you all beat me to it.” Zoe raised a brow, then smiled. “Movie night. Kind of a--” “--tradition. I got that part.” He gave a lopsided smile. “Traditions are nice.” “Could have joined us,” Zoe said in a voice free from inflection. “I did have friends once. The concept isn’t entirely alien.” “These people could be friends to you. Be hard-pressed to find better.” “The others don’t understand, Zoe. They found Serenity when they were lonely, when they needed her. They stumbled upon a home.” “Could be home to you too. If the captain don’t decide you need killing, that is.” “I think I’ve got it figured finally.” Zoe hid a smile. “Alright.” “It isn’t as though they’re cold...or cruel-natured. No one’s treats me with malice.” He hesitated, reconsidering. “No one but Jayne treats me with malice. Jayne and...sometimes Mal. I don’t think Simon likes me much.” “You did help the government seize his sister.” “Yes. And I slept with you. Mal seems to carry grudges for people you go to bed with,” he added mildly. Zoe shrugged not the least bit embarrassed by the turn of phrase. Good sex was nothing to be ashamed of. Bad sex on the other hand....But with Gideon it had been good. Easy to feel and heal and lose yourself. “Helped us snatch River and the captain back from the hospital, too. He’s not like to forget that soon.” “I’m not unhappy here. I’ve been in places far worse.” “Ain’t disagreeing on that point.” She refused to let the tremor shake her spine. Place she’d found Gideon...that sort of horrible stuck with you, flashed before your eyes in lonely moments, late at night alone in your bed. “You changed after Miranda. All of you changed. You lost two of your family and tightened the bonds with those left standing. If you look, really look close, you see the spaces between. But they’re small, almost impenetrable. I can’t slip through the cracks. Hell, Zoe, I’m not sure anyone could fit through those holes anymore.” She didn’t say anything. She wasn’t sure anyone could fit either. “Zoe--” The Cortex buzzed, indicating an incoming wave. She raised a brow, motioned for him to answer. “Firefly transport Serenity here, what’s your Ident.” A man’s face filled the screen. He was middle-aged with dark hair and skin. The whites of his eyes shone brightly as he met Gideon’s gaze unflinching. “Hello, Serenity. I seek an audience with Captain Malcom Reynolds. Gideon was reminded of a prize horse made lame in a fall. There was death in this man’s eyes, though whether it belonged to himself or others Gideon couldn’t say. “Uh, hold on. I’ll go find him...the captain.” Gideon pressed the hold button, turned to Zoe. “Do you want me to...or we could do that....” Zoe had flipped the switch activating the vid screen in Mal’s bunk. Gideon found himself watching what looked to be the beginnings of sci-fi porn. Blinking, he tore his eyes away from the image, affixing his gaze firmly to his lap. “Sir.” Downstairs, Mal glanced up with a start. “Ai ya! Zoe, I’m kinda--” “--engaged. Can see that, Sir. Seems you got a gentleman caller. You comin’ up the bridge or should I beam it down to you?” *** Waving the man mayn’t have been the wisest course. Now Zoe was sore at him, Inara was worried, and Mal still knew next to nothing. “I was only privy to that information which enabled me to do my job, Captain. I was never one of the inner sanctum that decided fates.” “No.” Mal felt his throat tighten. “No, but you decided a couple just the same.” “You think I don’t see the blood. It stains my hands.” “Figure I ain’t sorry for that.” “Captain...I don’t have the answer you seek. If I could be of more use to you I would.” “All the favors in the ‘verse...won’t none of ‘em make up for what you did to me and mine.” “All these months later, and you still take me for an idiot. I don’t attempt to right myself in your eyes, Captain Reynolds. I no longer intend anything.” Mal looked away. “I’m only askin’ you ‘cuz that girl’s been to hell. She deserves to know why this was done to her.” Even if he could do nothin’ to fix it. “As I said before, Captain, I do not know. The Blue Sun organization could want to replicate River Tam’s genes for any number of reasons.” “And me?” His voice was rough, his gaze steady. “What in the nine hells would they be wantin’ with me?” “You were raised by your mother, weren’t you? She raised you herself.” “Back on Shadow. What’s this gotta do with--?” “Do you know the man who was your father?” “Didn’t ever meet his acquaintance, no.” “Those that employed me to recover River Tam authorized your death should the situation necessitate it. But that was not the preferred outcome.” “Why? What’s it matter to them whether I go on breathin’?” “That I cannot say. The ancients seemed to believe a father’s sins would be revisited upon his children. ‘Those of you who are left will waste away in the lands of their enemies because of their sins; also because of their fathers' sins they will waste away.’ Perhaps the same holds true for a father’s labors in that they don’t die with the man.” “I’m sorry, you quotin’ the good book at me?” “I simply offer you an alternative way of viewing the situation.” “Even if there were truth in that...man was my father is long dead.” “Captain Reynolds, I have no one. I am by choice and necessity wholly alone. Very few people live as I do.” “So you’re tellin’ me to look to his people?” “I don’t presume to tell you at all.” *** He stomped into the kitchen like he owned it, which in fact he did not that it made the least bit o’ difference. Still, goin’ on the offensive seemed the only option here. They was the lot of ‘em set ‘round the table. He decided to get right to his point. “That weren’t exactly kosher-like, Zoe,” he said, folding his arms. She gave a careless shrug. “Had a wave for you, Sir. What would you have had me do?” “Knock?! Knock ‘fore enterin’ a man’s bunk, whether it’s you-corporeal or the electronic version, dong ma?” “Sir, I seem to recall seein’ your face more than my own husband’s in that honeymoon was spent in the second shuttle.” “That’s just ‘cuz Wash’s face spent the whole week an’ a half betwixt your--” “Mal.” Rising, Inara laid a soothing hand on his shoulder. “Let’s all just take a moment and--” “You know, Sir, I wonder if the flow of blood to certain body parts isn’t taking away from that was intended for your brain.” “And just what does that mean?” Mal demanded. “Means you’re bein’ stupid with the gettin’ sexed regular,” Jayne offered helpfully. “Now that ain’t fair, Zoe.” Kaylee shook her head. “Cap’n’s said and done plenty o’ stupid stuff ‘fore he got to sexin’ Inara.” The look both Mal and Zoe shot Kaylee had her cringing. She took a significant step back, bumping into Simon who was watching the scene in silence, Raven still held on one hip. “I don’t think I’ve really seen them argue before.” Simon murmured near her ear. “They’ve disagreed, but....” “Oh, they go off the horse now and again. It’s good for ‘em. Healthy-like.” She grabbed and apple off the table and started munching. “Sir, do you truly mean to invite this man into our lives? Will you really solicit help from him that murdered family?” For a second, everyone went deathly silent. “I ain’t solicitin’ nothin’ from nobody, Zoe. Had a question that I had hoped a former Operative could answer.” “And did he, Sir? Answer it?” “No. No, he didn’t at that. “That’s it then.” Kaylee looked hopeful. “It’s done? Can all stop fighting?” “Captain ain’t gonna let this go.” Zoe studied him through narrowed eyes. “Are you, Captain?” “Is it really so bad?” Mal demanded. “My wantin’ answers?” “Only if you think those answers are like to change something. Way it is is the way it is, Sir. Don’t you say that?” She retrieved her daughter from Simon and strode from the mess. The others stood around, as though waiting for the play to continue. “That’s it, folks: no second act. Take your popping corn and your programs and get the hell outta my dining room, dong ma?” When no one made a move to leave, Mal rolled his eyes ceiling-ward and started for the bridge. Sins of the father. Malcom Reynolds knew plenty ‘bout sinning. When it came to fathering...well, there he knew considerably less. *** “You again?” Carly grinned. “I’m flattered you’ve missed me so. To what do I owe the pleasure, Malcom?” “I need a reason for wavin’ my pretty sis?” He gave a sheepish smile at her raised brow. “Well, ‘haps I could use a favor. The lady was married to my daddy...you know anything of her? A name maybehaps?” Caroline’s lips twitched. “Mama referred to her as ‘Frigid Bitch.’ I’m fairly certain that wasn’t her Christian name.” “Well, that don’t sound much like--” “--a woman speaking on her lover’s lawful wife? She who shared his bed on a more regular basis?” Caroline gave an unladylike snort. “Be real, Malcom. Do you know Mama’s age when she had me?” “Let me see, you’re just turned twenty-nine, so that’d make Mama....” “Inara’s fortunate to have snared such a charmer.” Caroline rolled her eyes. “Since the day you were born, nothing but trouble.” “You know, folk always sayin’ that. Frankly, I don’t see it.” “No, I don’t imagine you would. Fifteen.” “Shuh muh?” “That’s how old Mama was. When I was born.” “Wode ma.” “You knew her when she was older, wiser. She was different during my childhood. Younger and sweeter. More idealistic maybe. Naive. Was she ever crazy over your daddy. Used to dress in her finest frocks and let me spray rose-hip behind her ears. She’d clean and polish till the whole house gleamed and beat me if I tracked in dirt. She was high for days before he came, singing and dancing, making elaborate plans. When he left, she’d curl up under a quilt and stare at her bedroom wall, hardly blinking as though her eyes were glass. After he died...well, I guess you could say she grew up after that. Matured into the mama raised you.” “How come you never told me none o’ this ‘fore now?” “Malcom....” She smiled softly. “You were the baby. Both Mama and I wanted to spare you what we could. I suppose we didn’t either of us succeed.” “Hey, now. You both did a damn good job, best you was able. Don’t start thinkin’ otherwise just ‘cuz I ended up a sumbitch.” “You’re not bad as all that. Just stubborn mostly. Infuriatingly stubborn.” She offered him a rueful smile. “Are you going to tell me what’s worrying you now, Mal? Or must I start badgering the crew...?” “Don’t much want you frettin’ over my troubles.” “You let me decide what’s worth fretting over, Malcom Reynolds. Now: you gonna talk? Or should I summon Kaylee, have her sit on you till you spill?” “Let’s avoid that, shall we?” He told her an edited version, leaving out the details of their hospital stay, how bad off his albatross was now. “So in summation, we know a whole lotta nothin’. River says the way it is, and seein’ as she’s a reader...anyway, the pieces fit. Did practically walk outta that hospital complex with hardly a fight. Don’t see them lettin’ us walk, not unless....Ai ya, Carly, I don’t want this. When did everything get so complicated?” “Oh, Mal. Have you managed to un-complicate things with Inara at least?” “Well, I wouldn’t say it’s simple. But, yeah. Yeah, me and her come outta this alright.” “I’m glad, Mal. I like her very much.” “You did mention,” he said dryly. “Brat.” She stuck out her tongue, somehow made it seem ladylike. “Is the sex still fabulously exciting?” she asked just to see his ears burn. “Tan de ma! Jesus, Carly.” “Good sex is therapeutic, Mal. I’m glad you’re having it.” “Oh, I’m glad too. Now can we please talk about somethin’ else? ‘Fore I ain’t never able to have it again on account o’ this conversation killin’ me dead?” “Swear you’ll be safe.” “Well, see, you’re a little late on that note. Mama had some of the ranchers teach me all ‘bout rubbers a few years back.” “Cute. You don’t have to tell me your plans. Just promise you’ll be careful.” “Carly...you don’t gotta worry over me. This is what I do.” “I know what you do, Mal. Promise me anyway.” “You got my word. No thrillin’ heroics, that’s a promise.” *** “Mama! Mama, there’s a wagon comin’!” The Woman-Caroline knew it would be ten years before the Alliance came with cars, offering high-end models to wealthy plantation owners in exchange for land. The Girl-Caroline had never heard tell of automobiles; she knew only that wagons meant visitors. New people, maybe the sort would bring presents. Carly rose to her knees in the garden, used the back of her hand to wipe the dirt from her face. She squinted off into the distance, trying to make out the figures seated behind the horses. They was real fancy; that much was certain. The sort bought their clothes in stores steada makin’ ‘em. “Mama--oh!” Mary Reynolds, tall and skinny with hair the color of honey, echoed her daughter’s stance as they together peered off after the setting sun. It was an oddity--and indeed a rarity--to recognize the past as just that while one dreamt it. “Wash up now, Carly.” The Woman-Caroline yearned to sink into the soil at her mother’s feet, press her face against the skirt of her apron and sob. She ached for the comfort she’d been sorely missing all these years, the motherly advice she’d long gone without. She wanted badly to wave Malcom. “She’s here, Little Brother. Our pretty mother, flesh unlined by age and worry, eyes not yet clouded with the sickness.” But Malcom wasn’t a grown man with a ship and a crew and a lifetime’s worth of hurt and guilt. He was a baby, a healthy boy, six months old and asleep in the kitchen. And she, Carly, was about to earn a smack for disobeying her mama. “Do you think they’s from this world? Have kind of a foreign look, don’t they, Mama?” “Upstairs, Caroline Ann. Rinse your dress out in the tub and change into your church clothes. Dong ma?” “How come, Mama?” The Girl-Caroline appraised her mother with wide eyes the color of cornflowers. The color of Mama’s and Malcom’s, too. “Cuz I’m liable to lock you up in the barn elsewise. That reason enough?” But her tone was indulgent, her hand affectionate as she patted her daughter’s tangled locks. “Go on now.” After she’d wonder how much of the dream was real, how much invented to fill gap’s in a little girl’s memory. The Child-Carly hurried out of her dress and left it soaking in the bath. In just her underthings, she knelt at the window to watch the visitors approach the door. The man was the one called Derrial. The lady--well, her memory couldn’t possibly have conjured the lady. She was the most fabulous creature on which eleven-year old Carly had ever laid eyes. Whirling, Carly dug out her church things. The Woman-Carly moaned for her to go faster, wishing she could assist with the column of tiny buttons. Finally, both woman and girl made it down the steps, stocking-slippery feet sliding to a stop on the kitchen tile. “Caroline.” For a woman whose moods shot wildly around the barometer these past months, Mary Reynolds seemed shockingly composed. “Why don’t you brew tea for our guests?” “Yes, ma’am.” Carly gave a little curtsey, just in case her manner were up for debate. She filled the kettle and set out tea cups--Grandma Reynolds’s good china--before rooting around in the ice box for milk and cream. She snuck quick glances over her shoulder, and so absorbed the visiting lady in snatches.  She was pale for one, her face smooth and creamy ‘stead of pink and brown like Mama's. Dark tans were common among the Shadow’s women, those who worked in her fields, labored and toiled under the ever-beating star.  But then, someone this lovely and kind—for Carly was sure now she was that—couldn't possibly have work on a ranch.  Riding would muss her hair, a thick, lustrous black that hung straight to the waist.  Envious, Carly fingered her own messy waves, hastily tied back from her face with a faded red ribbon. “Won’t you sit?” Mary inquired of the guests. The dark-haired beauty removed her short velvet jacket, draped it over the seat of her chair before obliging, as though to protect herself from something in the wood.  Filth?  Poverty? The Woman-Carly wanted to cry for her poor mama.  The child wondered whether they’d forgotten to dust. “You don’t wear mourning, Miss Reynolds.  Shall I admit I thought you would?” “Isn’t mourning the true wife’s prerogative?” “Come now, Mary.  Will we just now try to establish boundaries?  After all, you saw fit to go to bed with my husband.  Is it really so much worse to mourn his passing in proper dress?”   “Perhaps black simply isn’t my color.” “No.  No, I imagine you’re more inclined to brown.” “Emmy.”  Derrial touched her wrist, a subtle gesture that the child-Carly missed even as the adult absorbed its import. Mary raised her chin, jaw set in a stubborn line. “I don’t ‘spect you came all this way to discuss my wardrobe.  Emmy.” “No.”  The younger woman picked imaginary lint from the rich silk of her skirt.  She smoothed the fabric over her knees.  “No, Mary, I did not.” “Then maybehaps you’ll be kind enough to state your true ruttin’ purpose.” “Perhaps this discussion isn’t fit for impressionable ears.”  “Perhaps those ears are mine to deem impressionable or not.” “I’m sure that’s so.  After all, the child’s borne witness to adultery.  Surely a civilized conversation can’t distress her overmuch.” Mama’s nostrils flared but she kept her voice low. “I’m thinkin’ you ought get to your point.” “My point, Mary, is very near to our present topic of discussion.  It concerns my late husband’s offspring.” “She ain’t his.”  Mary jerked a head in Caroline’s direction.  “Be that truth or falsehood, I can do nothing for her.  How old are you, child?  Eight?  Nine?” “ ‘Leven.”  Caroline watched her younger self lift her chin in imitation of her mama.  “Just smallish.” “Even if she were his daughter, she’s—to employ a simple analogy—dwelled too long with the bitch that bred her.” At the stove, the Girl-Carly whirled. “That ain’t a word you wanna be callin’ my mama, you fancified huss—!” “Caroline!” The woman watched her mama press narrow white lips in an obvious attempt to stifle a smile.  “Please leave the room, bao bei.” “But, Mama, did you hear what she—” “Ain’t askin’, Carly.  Get.” Sulking, Carly stomped out of the kitchen.  She pounded up the stairs and then crept halfway down again, careful not to let the old boards creak under her feet.  Gingerly, woman and girl lowered themselves to the step, angled their ears toward the kitchen. “— in earnest I can’t quite fathom you bein’ here.  Hell, you didn’t give Quentin a thought when he was livin’.  Bet you took more time pickin’ out the veil for his funeral than you ever did seein’ to his needs.” “But, Mary.”  The stranger’s tone turned haughty.  “I had you to see to those needs.” A hesitation. “He was mine ‘fore he was yours,” Mama said at last. “And now he belongs to no one.”  Could that mournful lilt be termed melancholy?  The girl-Carly fumed too hard to care.  “The choice to come here wasn’t one I took lightly.  I weighed it over for many days before concluding it was my wifely duty.” “I ain’t understandin’ your full meaning.” “Then let me be exceedingly clear.  Surely you’re aware that Quentin fathered no legitimate offspring.  As his widow, I’ve decided to assume responsibility myself for his sole heir.  The bastard who sleeps there in the basket as we speak.  A boy, isn’t it?  I’d like to take him back with me, Mary.  I’d like to raise him in a manner befitting his father’s son.” For several moments there was absolute silence in the ranch house.  Even the dust clusters seemed to float in space, shimmering in place as light from the setting sun pierced the drafty windows. “Naturally, I would compensate you for the boy.”  She spoke faster now, as though eager to be out of this place.  “They crashed Quentin’s accounts, of course. But my own family is quite wealthy.  Name your price and I’ll have the credits transferred to your account.  If you prefer, I can pay in coin.” When Mama finally spoke, her words were weary, her throat hollow. “You ain’t the least bit shamed. Walk in my house, have a seat at my table.  Sit there in your fancy dress and offer me gold in exchange for my child.” “And you look back at me holding my husband’s son—a son by his mistress—and ask whether I feel shame.  I’m ashamed, Mary.  Ashamed enough for us both.” “I—I want you to—” “—go.  Yes, I thought you might.  Derrial and I have rooms reserved at the Inn.  No, don’t blame him for this.  I engaged him as my escort but would have come alone if he’d refused.  We’ll be here the night and perhaps another.  Please don’t let your hatred for me color this decision.  The coming years will be hard ones.  Worlds like Shadow…I can give him a better life than you.  I can give him everything you can’t.” “I’m sorry, Mary.”  The man meant it; Carly could tell.  “I—“ “Please be leavin’ my house now, Mr. Book.” Book.  A funny name, Mr. Book.  Mr. Derrial—ohhh.  In her bed on Boros, Caroline woke with a start.  When her breathing calmed, she went to wave her brother. *** He was going to the abbey. Maybe the trip would yield naught but more mysteries. Maybe the Shepherd had done his damnedest to keep these bits of the past buried. But he had to go to Bathgate. And he had to go without Serenity. “The last thing I want’s you hurt.” He laid a hand on her shoulder. “Tell me you know that, Inara.” “I’m not an imbecile.” “No, you surely ain’t that. This...ai ya, it’s what I have to do. Ain’t none of it ‘bout shutting you out.” “Rutting hell it isn’t. You’re shutting me out...and Zoe and all the rest. You don’t have to do this alone, Mal.” The strain of controlling all her expressions proved too great. Her voice rang true though her lips twitched. “This is what you do. How foolish of me to think three little words would change that.” “I--you can’t think...Inara, I ain’t never said that before. Not to nobody.” “I know, Mal.” She softened, lowering her lashes. “And I believe you meant it.” “I did. I do. Inara, I--” “Don’t. Just....” She backed away, holding out her hands so he wouldn’t touch. “Don’t. Can’t you see you’re making it worse?” “I ain’t leavin’ this room till you talk to me.” “What do you want from me, Mal? It’s blatant you’ve already decided.  What would you have me do?” “What would I have you—?  Ai ya, I don’t know, Inara.  Could get all misty-eyed and beg me not to go. Could do somethin’, anything, to stop me.  Could scream some and slap me—Ye su knows I’d be deserving o’ that and more.” A faint smile played over her lips even as her eyes glistened with unshed tears. “While the last is rather tempting, I think I’ll refrain.”   “ ‘Cuz I’m so damn pretty?” He was trying for levity.  “ ‘Cuz a slap would mar my pretty complexion?” “No.  No, because you don’t deserve the satisfaction.  Ren si de fo zu, you’ve quite the penchant for suffering, Mal.  Did you pick up that habit at the knee of your childhood priest?  Or was this particular foible learned straight from the trenches?” “You’re bein’ cruel.  It don’t much suit you.” “I’m sorry.”  She turned away to hide her face but the wetness of her cheeks sparkled shiny in the lamplight.  “You didn’t deserve that.” “Yeah, I did. That and more, and more again.”  He hauled her around by the arm, tugged her forcibly against his chest.  “Can cry on me, Darlin’.  I ain’t quite sweet enough to melt from it.” “I don’t want you to go.  I love you.  Damn you, Mal.” “That ‘bout sums it up.” “Finding your child was a given; it’s who you are, Mal.” Funny, but he thought he was the one who ran. Not for the first time, he wished the Shep were still around. Oh, they’d be havin’ a talk ‘bout now.... “I just hoped, however naively, you’d let me help.” He stared at a spot someplace over her head. “Too dangerous.” “We’ve been in danger before.  Risked our lives before.” “That was different.” “Different how, Mal?” “Okay, so it ain’t different.  It’s exactly the same ruttin’ thing.  And look how good that turned out!” She sighed. “Mal--” “Only I won’t do it again.  Won’t set you in harm’s way or see you hurt.  Said once I wouldn’t watch you die.  That ain’t negotiable.  Anyway, this isn’t the end o’ somethin’.  I swear to you, I will come back….If you wanted, I’d marry you.” She blinked several times, her expression unreadable.  Then she laughed shortly, a hollow sound that wasn’t her. “Oh, what a charming proposal.  It’s just what every girl dreams of hearing from her lover.  ‘I’ll marry you...if you want.  That is, if I don’t come back in a box.  If I don’t come back altered or broken.  If I come back at all.’ ” “Inara.”  He sighed, employing his knuckles to rub at his temple.  “I ain’t one for talkin’ pretty, as you probably surmised by now.  Ain’t much advanced of the doc when it comes to puttin’ my thoughts to voice.  But I do love you fiercely.  Spent a long time battlin’ those feelings and to no avail.  Now that we are where we are...well, I surely ain’t relinquishing that without a war.  I’ll fight with my last breath to make it back to you, Darlin’.” “That’s what worries me, Mal.  What gives you the right to insist on my safety while throwing yourself repeatedly in harm’s way?  Who awarded you power to decide our fates?” “God?” “God?” she repeated dully. “Him who bestowed the masculine race with upper body strength.  And, of course, the penis.” “Of course.  Mal?” “Yeah, cupcake?” “I may slap you after all.” “Anytime you’ve the inkling.”  He sobered, tilting her chin to look her in the eye.  “These folk don’t play games, Inara.  Had the misfortune to meet up with some Blue Sun men during my second tour.  Armed Forces Division. They was lookin’ for information, names and locations and the like.  Bein’ just a lowly sergeant, I didn’t happen to know what they needed.  Didn’t stop that from tryin’ to torture it out of me.  Went on three days till Zoe and some others stumbled upon where I was.  By then, I was more than half dead and wishin’ to be all the way gone.  I’d go through all of it again if it meant keeping their hands off you, Nara.” “Mal—”  Her voice was worn, weary. She yearned to hold him, kiss away the pain with her lips. She couldn’t even touch it. “See, now that I’ve had hands on your myself…well, makes a man all manner of possessive.  Prefer that my hands be the only ones henceforth.    Well, ‘ceptin’ Lil’ Kaylee, I ‘spose.  Is mighty cute watchin’ the two of you cuddle.” “Mal...what if you don’t find what you’re seeking at the abbey?” He didn’t have an answer to that so he just held her. *** When he was packed, he went looking for her. She sat alone in her bunk, reading some book on the bed. When he entered, she laid it down, stroked a single finger over the spine. “Mal.” “Nara.” “So, be landin’ on Bellerophon within the hour....Came to say my goodbyes.” “Right. Goodbye, Mal.” “Goodbye.” He caught her around the waist just as she reached for his shoulders. His hands stroked up her torso, lingering to cup her breasts. They slid over her throat before disappearing into the black of her hair. He kissed her like he might not have the chance again. She slipped her fingers under his belt, pulling his shirt free. Then she grabbed hold of his hands and tugged him toward the wall. Realizing her intent, he unzipped his trousers. He groaned as her fist closed around him, thrust a hand under her skirt. She was wet for him; that knowledge alone had him throbbing for her. He plunged a hand down the front of her panties, dragged them to her knees. No words. Just her gaze: open and inviting. A slim, graceful leg wrapped itself around his waist. He lifted her up under her bottom and drove into her. Save her little gasp at his entrance, everything went quiet. Slippery skin glided noiselessly as they coupled against the wall. The only sound to pierce the silence was their breathing, warm and pregnant in the muted glow of her desk light, and the gentle rustle of clothes they hadn’t bothered to remove. He went into her over and over, sliding almost all the way out before driving his full length in again. She was boneless, wrecked, barely capable of holding herself upright. With her fingers, she found the spot on his neck that made him writhe, put her mouth there and sucked. He shivered against her, met her eyes in the darkness. She caught his face in her hands, and they made love with their mouths as their bodies found release. After they rearranged their clothes. He sat on her bed, watching as she brushed the sex from her hair, making it again smooth and sleek. He went up the ladder first, helping her the last few rungs. She didn’t cry when he said his goodbyes, not even when he brushed his lips over her cheek, murmured a not too quiet “I love you” by her ear as the others--save Kaylee who knew already and looked pleased and River who looked something Inara couldn’t name--stared politely at their boots. He’d have gone then, except Raven, perhaps sensing the heaviness in the adults, gave a little shriek and held out her chubby arms. “We already said our goodbyes, Little Chick.” But he took the wiggly bundle from Zoe, pressed another kiss to her rounded cheek. “Be good for your mama, dong ma? Lord knows she gets enough grumblin’ from me.” “Reckon by now I’m used to you, Sir. And I understand why you’re goin’. Figure I should say it now in case you get yourself killed.” “I appreicate that, Zoe.” “Still don’t feel right, though--you goin’ off on your own. Used to keepin’ my eye on you, Sir.” “Well, see, I need you watchin’ my boat.” “You mean my boat?” she teased. “Don’t go gettin’ too attached there, Zoe,” he warned. “You’re just borrowing, hear me? Borrowing. And I don’t want the kid talkin’ till I get back,” he ordered of no one in particular. “Understand, little one? You hold off on the first-word business.” He gave the baby one last squeeze and offered her to River, lingering to his left. She shook her head. “Albatross?” “You’re good with her.” She gave a watery smile. “You’d make a good daddy.” Mal looked surprised, took a hesitant step toward the girl. “Darlin’--” River turned hot, hurting eyes on Inara. “It should be yours!” She lowered her voice to a whisper. “Not mine, dear Ye su, not mine.” She ran from the room, clutching her injured arm to her chest. “River.” Gideon took a step to follow but Mal shook his head and watched her go. “You ready, kid? Let’s see what that heap of Alliance go suh can manage.” Gideon nodded, hefted his bag. Mal stroked a hand over Serenity’s walls. “Take care of my girl, Kaylee.” Then, more quietly, his eyes on Inara, “Take care of both my girls.” Serenity’s crew watched its captain leave the ship. *** Amos Kane did as he promised. They found the Champion in good repair and full of fuel, ready and waiting in a warehouse outside Sweet Leaf not five kilometers from the spot where Gideon abandoned her. Mal sat shotgun, figurin’ he oughta let Gideon fly this part. “Just for a spell, mind you.” He smirked. “I’m a quick study.” “She’s a smooth ride. You’ll have the hang of her soon enough.” “Guess we’ll wait and see, Kid.” He watched them soar into the darkness. “Guess we’ll wait and see.” ***

TBC in Part 21. Girl needs feedback!

COMMENTS

Sunday, March 26, 2006 5:22 PM

BRIGIDSIDHE


FIRST REVIEW????

Wow. The build up increases... WRITE MORE RIGHT NOW DAMMIT.

My concrit abilities fail in the face of the cliffhanger. sorry.

Sunday, March 26, 2006 5:39 PM

LEIASKY


> “Stop! As your captain, I am ordering you to stop that. Stop talking and...and put your hands in your pockets!”

Bwahahahaha! Oh, excellent exchange!

And Simon with the baby. Serious awwwww! His conversation with Zoe was great.

Hmm, Mal's father...

>"Of course. Mal?”, "Yeah, cupcake?”, “I may slap you after all.”

HOWL! Oh, that conversation was lovely!

How about a little S/K action to go along with the M/I? :)

Sunday, March 26, 2006 7:51 PM

BLUEEYEDBRIGADIER


Oh...damn....have to follow the crowd here and say "GUH" for the M/I coupling before Mal and Gideon do a Butch and Sundance impression.

BTW, are we psychically linked? Cuz I swear you have used ideas I have been finetuning for a fic of my own several times in this fic:( Still, you do the concept all manner of justice, Kaynara;)

BEB

Sunday, March 26, 2006 8:27 PM

PHOENIXRISING


Yay, another chapter. It wasn't necasarily my favorite, but the filler parts have to be there to get you from point a to point b. I really, really liked the last part there though, when he's saying good-bye to the crew and he tells Kaylee to take care of both his girls.

Sunday, March 26, 2006 9:48 PM

ANNABELLEOFGEORGIA


Thank you for this story. I hate it, and love it, because I have absolutely no idea what will happen next. I'm mesmerized by all the little threads weaving together.

Book? Agent Gray? Vera? Matty? I'm eating Oreos of frustration trying to guess where you are taking the BDHs next.

And I want poor little River to be happy with Jayne. You made me cry for her. I don't think she can take much more.

Monday, March 27, 2006 12:19 AM

AMDOBELL


Yowzer, way to rack up the tension! Really love this though some sections it was a bit confusing following who was who and such, worth the figuring though. I absolutely adore Mal and Inara being together and confessing their love for each other and poor River. I'm hoping this doesn't end badly like the opening of Pandora's box. Not gonna get a lid on it once that pile of trouble has been opened. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Monday, March 27, 2006 2:23 PM

RMMC


Beautiful job! I just loved it, but I'm thinkin' you need spew warnings. I sprayed my computer screen with the tea I was drinking after the start of this bit:
“Sir, I seem to recall seein’ your face more than my own husband’s in that honeymoon was spent in the second shuttle.”

“That’s just ‘cuz Wash’s face spent the whole week an’ a half betwixt your--”

That's when I started choking with laughter. :)

Please keep up the good work! (Damn! gotta wait another week for the next bit.) :-)

Monday, March 27, 2006 8:54 PM

SIMONSGIRL87


Wow... tons of twists. Especially the one with Book... This could get pretty interesting. Good development with Mal and Inara maybe a little more with Simon and Kaylee... It has been a while with the two of them! *Wink*

Overall really well done... Can't wait for the next installment!

Wednesday, May 31, 2006 3:51 AM

BELLONA


“Inara’s playin’ football?”
“Yup.” Kaylee sounded mighty proud with herself.
“Inara Serra? Dark-haired creature ‘bout yay high?” He held his palm level with Kaylee’s head. “Wait a minute, never mind Nara. Simon’s playin’ football? Stuffy-shirt doctor about--” He hesitated, uncertain. “Well, now, how big is the doc?” he mused.
BWAHAHAHAHAHA!!! brilliant, as usual!!

b


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