BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

KAYNARA

Bed and Wine: Part 23
Saturday, April 15, 2006

Talkin’, sexin’ and shootin’. NC-15.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 3621    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

Bed and Wine: Part 23 By Kaynara *** Talkin’, sexin’ and shootin’. NC-15. *** AN1: Thanks to the Great Grimlock, shaper of plots and purveyor of violence. AN2: Thanks to Miss Volpe, inventor of cosmo-doms. ***

“Stop laughing this instant.” “I--I’m trying!” “That’s what it’s called! That’s the name for the ‘pinkish part.’ ” “Oh, I believe you. I just--just....” He bent forward at the waist, shoulders shaking. “I’m serious, Mal. Keep this up, and I’m putting on my dress.” Her lips twitched. She would *not* smile. “Dammit, Mal. This isn’t funny.” “Just...say that word again.” “Mal....” “Please? I’ve had a ruttin’ sucky day, darlin’.” She sighed, rolled dark-chocolate eyes at the ceiling. “If I say it...you’ll stop laughing?” “Cross my heart.” She said it quickly, under her breath. He clutched his ribs, almost crying now. “Malcom Reynolds!” “I’m sorry.” He blotted the corners of his eyes where the tears were forming. “Ain’t you I’m laughin’ at, honest.” “There’s no one else here!” “Well, no, there’s me. Darlin’, I ain’t any good at....” He sighed, smiled ruefully. “You are awful pretty, Miz Serra.” His eyes danced down her bare shoulders, taking in the curve of her breasts, the swatch of lace between her thighs. Sweet Ye su, he missed touchin’ her. She smiled in spite of herself. “Do you want me to start?” “No, no. I can do this.” He glanced quickly at the door to ensure it was locked. Didn’t matter none anyway, whole abbey was long in dreamland. “Am I allowed to open my eyes this time?” “Let’s not get crazy. Okay, so I’m kissing you now. My mouth’s movin’ down your neck, suckling at that sweet spot just under your ear. And you, well you’re doin’ that sexy little whimper thing--yep, that’s the one.” He was starting to get more than a mite aroused. “Now I’m, uh, kissing your, um...breasts? Yup, definitely doin’ some of that.” Was a sweetheart, that one: didn’t even tease him for stammering. “My tongue...my tongue swirls ‘round your nipple and over the....” Dammit. He took a slow, deep breath. “Over the....” She opened her eyes, gold fires of mirth lighting the dark pools. “Go ahead.” She waved a benevolent hand. “You can’t help yourself.” He hung his head, the smirk tugging at his cheeks. “Areola,” he managed, shaking with laughter. “That’s what it’s called!” *** She pounded with the back of her fist. “Open up.” “I’m sleeping.” “No, you ain’t.” “Now how you know that, Kaylee-girl?  Could be sleep-talkin’ for all you know.” “Uh huh.  Well, less you open this door I’m gonna find myself a spare compression coil and shove it up your sleeping—” “Hell, girl.”  She heard the hatch click, pushed in the ladder to descend. “Well?” he asked when she stood before him. “Sit.” He raised a brow, scratched idly at the back of his head. “Now.” He sat wearily, his shorts wrinkled from sleep, his chest bare.  He had imprints from the pillow on his cheek. “Us two gonna have a little chat, dong ma?” “What’s your deal, Lil’ Kaylee?  Doc miss a spot last night?  Can’t see why else you’d be actin’ such a po fu.” “Don’t bullcrap me, Jayne.  You and me—we come from the same end o’ the ‘verse.” “Ass end.” “Maybe.  Maybe that’s so.  Don’t mean we gotta act like trash.”  “Just ‘cuz you went an’ married yourself a big city dandy don’t mean I gotta—” “Gotta what, Jayne?  Act like a man?  Stand up like one?” “Aw, quit your gripin’.  What’s it matter to you, anyway…if the doc treats me as somethin’ to be scraped off his shiny-ass shoes?  Don’t change a damn thing.” “Oh, sure.  Don’t matter a speck.  Hell, Jayne, how’s it matter, any of it?  Way we treat one another.  Just ‘cuz we’re all any of us has.  Just ‘cuz it’s us and Serenity and the Black.”  Her eyes filled with liquid.  He tried to touch her, but she shoved him away.  “Dammit, Jayne.  Couldn’t you just stuck to your whores?  Why’s it gotta be Simon’s little sister?” “ ‘Cuz she asked me.  ‘Please, Jayne, make me feel somethin’ ain’t pain.’  Ai ya, what was I ‘sposed to say?  ‘That’s all life is?’  I shoulda told her that?” “Yep.  Yep, that’s just what you shoulda done.  Coulda just told her, Jayne.  Coulda just told her life was pain.  Weren’t no reason to show her.” “Doc thinks he can cure what ails her, that’s he can cut the pain outta her with a ruttin’ scalpel.” “No, Jayne.  Simon don’t think that no more.  Now he just thinks he failed her.  And he’s scared outta his skull, scared you’re gonna take that last little piece of her heart ain’t bruised and bleeding and step on it.” She huffed out a breath, continued ranting. “You think I don’t know you, Jayne? I been with ten guys like you.  Big and strong, ‘cept on the inside where they’re broke to bits.  They told me I was pretty and…hell, that was all it took.  Never did feel so special as when they was ruttin’ in me.  And after…well, after I didn’t feel so special no more.  Wasn’t their faults, really.  ‘Spect I knew what I was getting’ for myself….” His mouth was full of sand. “Kay—Kaylee—“ “You know, Cap’n might have his faults.  Might not say and do what’s right in every instance.  But he was the first man not my daddy or granddaddy to treat me like a lady and not want nothin’ in return.  My whole first month he called me, ‘Miss Kaylee.’”  She smiled at the memory. “Gorramn sweet story, that.  But ain’t exactly seein’ the relevancy, as I sure as shit ain’t Mal.” “I love you, Jayne.  Just like you was my own ge ge.   Even though you sometimes act that way with other folk, hard and takin’ advantage …You weren’t never that guy with me.  And maybe I ain’t real bright…but I didn’t for a second think you’d be that guy with River.” For long seconds, neither spoke. “You’re one of the brightest bulbs I know, Lil’ Kaylee,” he said at last.  “But if you’ve got me pegged as some knight in shiny-armor…well, that’s just ruttin’ dumb.” She snorted. “Sex that good, Jayne?” “I ain’t sexin’ her.” “I’m sorry, that term offensive?” “No.  Just ain’t is all.” “Why her, Jayne?” Cuz she’s here.  Cuz she needs me.  Cuz you don’t.  “Told ya why.” Kaylee rolled her eyes. “C’mon, Lil’ Kaylee. Don’t much care how the doc regards me.  If’n he thinks I’m trash...well, reckon I can live with that. Figure it’d ‘bout kill me though, if’n the two of us stopped talkin’.” “I ain’t gonna stop talkin’ to ya, Jayne.” “Don’t ‘spose you’re much good at the silent treatment.”  He tickled her under the arm. She smiled though it was a sad one. “Be good to her, Jayne.  Make it nice for her.  Owe her that much least.” He gave a short nod.  She just shook her head at him, started up the steps.  “He make you happy?” The words tumbled out ‘fore he could stop ‘em. She turned. “Shuh muh?” “He cares for you proper, treats you like you deserve, says how pretty you are?” “He does. All of it.” “That’s good, Lil’ Kaylee. How it should be.” She just gave him another sad smile and kept climbing. *** Mal sat up slowly, still panting for air. “That...that was a damn good game.” “Uh huh.” She sounded breathless, sleepy but pleasantly so. “You...good words,” he said mildly. “Thank you.” She smiled, cheeks flushed with pleasure. “You were very...eloquent, Mal.” “Eloquent.” He grinned. “I do think that’d be a first. Don’t reckon it’s fair though. Now I just wanna hold you, and you bein’ so far off....” “I want that too.” She studied him through the Cortex, taking in the pale skin, sunken circles under his eyes. “You look exhausted, Mal.” “Well, I’m an old man, see.” He tugged his suspenders back in place. “You wore me out.” “Mal. We’ve made love half the night on more than one occasion.” Her lips curved. “You didn’t suffer so much as a muscle strain.” “ ‘Haps I was just bein’ brave. You know, so as not to ruin your image o’ me as a tough guy.” “Oh, and I thought it was because you couldn’t get enough of me.” “Yeah. Mighta been some o’ that.” “Tell me what’s wrong, Mal. You trusted me enough to...do what we just did. Trust me with this too.” “I do trust you. And I will. Just...first gotta get things straight in my own head. Can I ask you somethin’?” “Alright.” “You, uh...you ever miss it? Bein’ a...your job?” She hesitated. “Mal, I--” “ ‘Sokay. I ain’t gonna get mad. Just be truthsome.” “I miss aspects of it. “Like?” “Mal, why are you so interested suddenly? You’ve made no secret of your contempt for my profession.” “Guess I’m just curious. Had a whole life ‘fore we met. I’m wonderin’ who that girl was.” “She’s the same person you know now. And, in truth, I think your past’s more mysterious than mine.” “Maybehaps we both oughta make with the sharin’.” She nodded though her expression was conflicted. “I miss aspects, sights and scents, the way the air felt just before a storm. I miss the women I considered my friends; of course now they’d not even acknowledge my presence in polite society. But I miss a time when we were sisters. I miss House Madrassa, the big, light rooms, the lush gardens. I miss the scent of lilacs outside my bedroom window. I miss Sihnon. “ She shrugged a delicate shoulder. “I miss the emotional pleasures of my job, helping others feel comfort, find release. What I don’t miss, Mal: I don’t miss the sex, and I don’t miss other men.” “What’s to keep you from gettin’ bored? How do ya know you won’t tire of me after a spell?” “There’s at least seven shades of you, Mal. One for each day of the week.” She smiled. “And, also, well you’re pretty good in bed. I imagine I’ll keep you around awhile.” “That’s good, kitten. ‘Cuz with you, I do like bein’ kept.” *** “Zoe.” Inara smiled. “Come in. I’d offer you something hot to drink, except...well, this is Mal’s room.” Zoe grinned. “Man ain’t much for entertaining.” She raised a knowing brow. “Does seem to host you often enough. ‘Spect you stayin’ here in his absence is a comfort to ‘im.” “I think so.” Inara motioned to the bed, somewhat more inviting now that she’d brought her own linens down. “Please. Sit.” “Won’t keep you long. Just had a couple things to speak on. This a good time?” “Perfect.” The younger woman’s cheeks were flushed with something...pleasure? Zoe felt her lips curving. It wasn’t hard to guess how Nara and the Captain spent the morning. Was probably a good thing. When one was used to sexing somewhat regular...well, the sudden lack could prove all manner of disturbing. Zoe knew something about that. “The papers finally came in off the Cortex.” She offered Inara a formal-looking document. “Was hoping you’d still be willing to sign.” “...’by conveying my signature below, I agree to assume legal guardianship of the child Raven Alleyne Washburne in the event of her mother Zoe Washburne’s death before the child’s eighteenth’...Zoe, are you sure?” “You’d make a good mama, Inara.” Zoe smiled easily. “Wash thought so too.” “I--thank you, Zoe.” Her eyes scanned the document, glanced up to meet Zoe’s gaze. “Mal’s name is on these as well.” “Figure the two of you ain’t just fooling around now.” “No, I don’t suppose we are. Though I don’t know that we’ll ever...neither of us is exactly traditional.” “Captain might surprise you there. Hang on to those, get ‘em back to me when you can.” “I will. Thank you again, Zoe. It’s a great honor.” Zoe nodded, hesitated at the ladder. “Can I ask you a favor, Inara?” “Alright.” “Kaylee’s mindin’ my little girl for a spell. Would you come down my bunk in two hours, give me the injection that’s sitting on my night stand?” “Injection? Shouldn’t you ask Simon...?” “Rather not get the doctor involved.” Inara’s nose crinkled quizzically. “I know you can give injections, Zoe. I saw you do that and more before Simon joined the crew.” “Funny thing about being technically dead. Kinda hard to handle a syringe.” Inara’s eyes went wide. “Zoe.” “I ask you a lot of favors, Nara?” “You mean besides assuming care of your infant daughter?” Zoe’s eyes gleamed. “Besides that. I need this. I need to touch him.” Her eyes were dry, her voice sure and unwavering. Inara blanched at the pain in the older woman’s stare. “That drug...it isn’t a game, Zoe.” “Answer me this, Nara. What if it were Mal? There anything in the ‘verse you wouldn’t risk to hold him once more?” “Perhaps my daughter,” Inara said quietly. Now it was Zoe’s turn to blanch. “Please, Nara.” She caught the younger woman’s hand in hers. “Help me.” Inara nodded shortly. She’d help Zoe find comfort. Wasn’t that her role? Comfort-giver. She lowered herself to the bed, waiting for her heart to slow. *** His was very much a man’s room. Man colors, man toys and man edges. A half-empty bottle of whiskey, lovingly stoppered on a shelf. A tube of roll-on deodorant, a deck of well-worn playing cards. A packet of Blue Sun Prophylactic Cosmo-doms, two of which were missing. His closet door stood open, and she could see his shirts, marching in a neat, if wrinkled, row across the bar. On a lower bar, his pants followed suit. He didn’t appear to keep pajamas or underwear. His bed was unmade, the blanket balled up at the foot, leaving bare the crevice where he kept his guns. Six, shiny, silvery shotguns. She smiled at the image and the implication. He took great care with his weapons. Even as a boy, he believed dangerous things to be deserving of respect. “Can sit down,” he offered, smoothing the thin blanket out over rumpled bedclothes. “Thank you.” She perched carefully on the edge, hands folding over themselves in her lap. She could *smell* him on the sheets, sweat and soap and something else, something vague and musky. For long, lovely seconds she felt like a girl, very conscious of her wave of dark hair, her soft skin and firm breasts and long thighs. She was conscious of the space between her legs, the way being near him caused it to swell and tingle. She ached to know what new pleasures his touch could conjure. She was also more than a little eager to see his desire for herself, witness how his body bulged with the wanting her. After a moment, he sat beside her, stretching long legs out before him. “So.” He tapped a rhythm on his thigh. “Should I take off my dress now?” she asked. “Wha--I, uh....Hell, girl, don’t gotta be me.” She hesitated, let the hem of her dress fall back in place. “All I meant is--ai ya, if all you want’s a man, could get you one. Kid your own age, even. Hell, bet Nara could rec someone willing. ‘Magine she knows a boy whore or two worth his dime. But don’t you go feelin’ like...don’t go thinkin’ I’m all you can get, dong ma? Pretty kid like you, all smart and...don’t think like that.” He trailed off, out of stuff to say. She just blinked at him, those black eyes big and all-knowing. “You, uh...you got a response to any o’ that?” “Yes.” “Well?” “Like when you kiss me on the mouth. Let’s start there.” “River--” “Jayne.” She employed her resolve face. “No talking.” He nodded solemnly. Using one hand, he caught hold of her wrist, encircled the slender bone with his fingers. He pulled her to her feet with a firm tug, maneuvered her gently between his legs. Holding her gaze, he collected her skirts, slid the fabric up her body. His hands grazed her narrow rib cage, stroked over the sides of small, high breasts. She lifted her arms, allowing him to tug the material over her head. Laying aside the dress, he dropped his gaze, let his eyes take in the rest of her. He’d seen her bare before, watched her crawl out of a box and fall to the floor shrieking and shaking like a thing weren’t human. Like an animal, which in fact was how they’d made her. They turned her into a prize mare, theirs to beat and break and breed. In nineteen years, she’d suffered more than any human creature oughta suffer. Fighting was one thing. Jayne always knew he’d go out fighting. He accepted it as truth, didn’t lose much sleep o’er the notion. Long as he fell with a weapon in hand, be it gun or knife or just his swinging cod--well, he figured that was alright then. All that mattered to Jayne was havin’ his shot at makin’ the other guy bleed. River...well, she’d had that shot taken from her. Weren’t kosher-like, way those Academy just tied her up and took. Weren’t anything fair about it. He stood up slow-like, so as not to scare her. Reckon if anyone had call to be skittish it was one had her brain cut into. His hands slid up her neck, fingers fisting in her hair. He tilted his head, stooped down to meet her mouth. It was a nice mouth, hers. Soft peachy lips, the bottom one just full enough to bite. He held her face in his hands and kissed that pretty mouth. She pressed against him, burrowing into the protection of his arms. Big, warm arms, peppered with coarse black hair, cut with muscles. She stood on tip toe, leaning up into his torso. She could feel him through the rough khaki of his trousers, hard against her soft cotton underwear. “Swollen,” she observed, pressing her palm to his lap. “Ai ya....” She smiled and traced his lips with her index finger. He took the digit in his mouth, sucking until the wet heat had her shivering. She laid her hand flat against his face, feeling the rough hair of his beard tickle her palm. “Oh, ta ma de....” He groaned out her name, arms wrapping around her narrow waist. Her movements tentative, she trailed her hands down his chest and belly. She drew them up again, dragging his shirt along with her. She traced a jagged, pre-Simon scar with her fingers. “Pretty,” she murmured, lips curving. Jayne just shook his head. “If you say so....” “Take me to your bed, Jayne Cobb.” “If you say so.” His voice was rough, his hands gentle as he lifted her up like a doll, carried her the few feet to his bunk. He pressed her down into the blankets, shimmied out of his trousers and lied out beside her. “I’m gonna try not to hurt ya. Gonna go slow and try like hell not to hurt ya.” She smiled bravely. “You won’t.” Jayne knew otherwise but tried not to think on it just now. He caught her whimper of pain with his lips as he pushed inside her, slid into that tight heat. “Girl...River.” He hesitated, searching her eyes. “You okay?” “No more pain?” she asked softly. “Won’t be no more tonight,” he agreed. Capturing her lips, he began to move. *** He felt rather than heard the presence: a weight at the end of the bed. "Nuh muh," he murmured sleepily. "Time to wake up, Captain." "Mmm…Nara?" "Not quite." He opened his eyes. "Oh, that's just mean." "She calls you 'captain'?  How…special." "Oh, jeez.  Can hear the sermon now.  Blah blah blah, premarital, blah blah, sexual advantage--"  The rest of the statement faded into yawn. Shepherd Book smiled "I wasn't gonna lecture you, boy." "Really?  Well, that'd be a first." "You love her.  There's nothing sinful about love." "Now that is funny.  I woulda thought love the greatest sin of all." "You think loving her…accepting her love in kind…makes you selfish.  I believe it shows growth.  You've come a long way, Malcom." "One o' your disciples did say as much.  'Fore he handed me a stack of pages big enough to bury a man." "Don't let it." "Don't plan to."  Mal shrugged.  "So fella was my daddy…Alliance lapdog, huh? Mama never said it, not with words.  But a part o' me always wondered.  Even got the nerve to ask, just 'fore I shipped out for Basic.  Was a day or so after my eighteenth birthday.  I said, 'Mama, what is it makes you hate him so?  He a Fed or sumsuch, one of them hwoon dan lands down in his fancy boat, makes it his aim to intimidate folk?  That why you never speak of him?'  She slapped me right in the face.  After that, I just figured it was so." "He was a good man, Mal.  Not perfect, but then few men are.  And his sins are just that: his.  They aren't yours to redeem, boy." "So you come here to tell me the true tale of the man Quentin Webb?" "I'm dead, son.  Don't gotta answer your questions no more." "Shepherd, you never answered a damn thing when you was breathin'." Book smiled. "Like woman and a certain ship-captain, I am a mystery." "And mainly I'm content to keep it that way…would like to know one bit though.  If you don't got someplace to be…?" "The dead have a surprising amount of free time." "I do look forward to the leisure.  Answer me this though, Shepherd. 'Fore you took up the cloth…you ever, uh, have relations with my mama? I wouldn't ask, you bein' such the good and virtuous sort, just that Caroline seems to have some odd remembrances in that area." Book chuckled, unoffended. Maybehaps death enhanced a man's wit. "I remember your sister.  She was certainly…spunky." "Yeah.  Yeah, funny none o' that came up when you was flyin' with me. Rent-free, I might add.  By the way you owe me 'bout thirty-six years worth of birthday gifts, what with you bein' my goddaddy bit. Reckon you oughta pay up." "Isn't my sage counsel a far more valuable commodity?" "Now that is a laugh.  Anyway, quit dodgin' my questions—ain't you been cryptic enough for one lifetime?" "Surely a couple lifetimes.  Mary Reynolds was a fine woman, Captain. I knew her well I think, though not perhaps in the sense you're implying. Losing Quentin…I think we both felt like a good part of our youths died with him. I'll admit there was a temptation.  Your mother was quite comely." "Sweet Ye su, I'm gonna be sick." Book smiled, slapped the back of Mal's head at the blasphemy. "Be good, Captain.  In my absence, I trust Inara can keep you in line." " 'Spect she's got more enjoyable ways o' makin' me behave.  One more thing, Preacher." "Hmm?" "That Companion…Emmy?  What sorta woman was she?" "Esmerelda Webb Fitzgerald."  Book smiled, as though the memory came back to him just then. "Emmy was...Emmy. She was quite a lady.  Now hadn't you best get some sleep, Captain?  I'll leave you to dream of things more pleasant than I." "I'll do that."  Mal fixed his eyes on a stain in the floorboards—blood?  "I am sorry, Shepherd.  Sorry you went out the way you did.  Weren't right you havin' to die for me, nor havin' to take out that shooter 'fore you went." "Don't worry, boy."  Book smiled sadly.  "I suspect the debt of payment still lies somewhere in my court." "There you go, bein' cryptic again!" "Watch out for your friend.  Gideon, is it?  He isn't all right." "Well who in this 'verse is, Shepherd?" "Kiss that baby for me, too." "Which one?" Mal muttered, but he was talking to a shadow. *** He couldn’t rest. Couldn’t do anythin’ ‘cept scour those letters. What in the shiny ‘verse was he lookin’ for? Weren’t nothin’ but words. Messages from a dead man. Hell, none of it meant a damn thing. He unsheathed another, held the paper up to the lamp.

July 6. To Malcom:        The day I learned of your conception was the same day Lian Marrim fell three floors to his death.  Surely you’re wondering about this man, why his murder—for I know now what befell him was no accident—merits remembering.  He was not an especially good man, nor a wholly evil one.  But Representative Marrim of the Sihonese Congress was an enemy of the Allied Core, a fact that I now believe precipitated his demise.  It was Emmy who told me of the death, sent me the wave at your mother’s house on Shadow. I’m ashamed to say she knew where to find me, knew I’d be screwing my mistress for that’s what your mother was now. That’s what I made Mary the day I wed Esmerelda Slate, retired Companion of the House Vidya and object of my obsession, married her on a sun-drenched hill on Guild land while Derry and Aston stood up as witnesses. I kissed her painted lips, closing my eyes to escape the hesitation in hers. Possessing a Companion is like catching a butterfly with your fingers. There’s a power in the act. I should have realized it then, but, ah, Malcom, I was so young. With every sweet swell of power comes an equally potent fear of losing said power. From the moment I married Emmy, I anticipated the anguish of losing her. Emmy and I fought before I left for Shadow, though strangely our angry words in no way stemmed from my impending departure. No, Emmy had her own reasons to resent me. We both held our bitterness like a prize, locked it away in our secret places, took it out to polish and refine at will. She waved me in the evening, when little Carly was asleep, when Mary and I were just setting down to tea in the front parlor. “That man we had for dinner. Marrim. He’s dead, Quentin.” I blinked at her, stunned. How can a man eat your chicken one week and be dead the next? The chicken had been dry. I couldn’t help remembering that now. “How did it happen?” “He’d contracted with a Companion for the weekend. Lilah Sun of House Ushas. She went to fetch breakfast. When she returned, the balcony doors were flung open. His body was strewn out on the lawn.” “Suicide?” “The coroner ruled it an accident.” Emmy’s lips trembled. I longed to cover them with mine to still the shaking. “I went to see Lilah this evening.” “Y-you went to the Guild?” Compassion forgotten, I felt the cool sheen of anger coat my eyes. “Lilah and I studied together and were quite close once. Besides, I enjoy visiting the Guild. I enjoy remembering.” She met my gaze, her own haughty. She enjoyed my discomfort, I realized. It was only a second; then the sadness returned, a torrent of emotion that made her appear even younger than her twenty years. “Quentin, she told me Marrim never would have gone out onto that balcony of his own volition. She suggested they drink their wine in the air the night before. He refused, told her he was deathly afraid of heights and always had been.” “What are you saying?” I wasn’t as skilled a performer as she. I had to fight to keep the fear from my tone. “I’m...I’m scared, Quentin.” I felt my heart beat faster, hard enough to break through my chest. Dear God, what was I doing here? Why wasn’t I home with my wife? “I’m going to call Derry. He’ll stay over with you tonight.” “I want you, Quentin.” “I’m sure everything is fine, bao bei. Derry will stay with you tonight; I’ll leave first thing in the morning. I miss you, Em.” “Miss you, too,” she said breathily. When I ended the wave, Mary was waiting. She told me about you. We made love all night.... *** It took Mal the better part of an hour to stumble over her name on the Cortex. A glowing feed named her as benefactress of the Osiris City Children’s Charity, praised her work servicing orphans or some such. The article was a year old. He’d have to hope her coordinates were current. “You’ve reached the recording service of Esmerelda Fitzgerald,” a smooth masculine voice informed. “Please leave your message and coordinates after the tone....” “Uh, mornin’. Ms. Fitzgerald, my name is Malcom Reynolds. Think you knew my daddy,” he quipped. “Uh, maybehaps you thought I was dead, if you thought on me at all. But..well, I ain’t. I’m at the Southdown Abbey, on a little world called Persephone. Ain’t sayin’ you owe more anythin’...but I would like to speak to you a spell...ma’am. I’d be willin’ to make the trip to ‘Siris...or could meet you someplace other. I’ll leave that bit up to you....” *** There was something strangely soothing about working at an abby. Despite his smallish stature, a lifetime of training and studying had honed his body into a tight, muscular package. Gideon would never equal the children of the Academy in skill or grace, but he liked to think he made a good accounting of himself. The coma had left him far weaker than he’d been in...well, a long while. Simon’s considerable abilities aside, Serenity was hardly the optimum setting for rehabilitation. There were no P.T. facilities to speak of, no skilled therapists. Inara seemed to know something of muscle groups. Still, Gideon wasn’t exactly comfy asking a whore, even a former one, for advice in such matters. Neither was he naive enough to think Mal would appreciate him soliciting said advice. At the Captain’s insistence, Jayne had reluctantly granted Gideon the use of his weights. Running laps around the cargo bay and catwalks had enhanced his stamina some, but his aching biceps left a lot to be desired. He heaved another forkful of dirt, feeling the sting singe his shoulders. “Don’t worry about it, son.” “I’m sorry?” The Shepherd hoeing the bed next to Gideon’s glanced up from his work. “Gardening is...a special kind of pain.” Brown eyes regarded Gideon thoughtfully. “Strength doesn’t matter very much; it’s a whole different muscle set.” The older man smiled, a well-worn twist of the mouth in a face accustomed to such displays. The dark, weathered skin bespoke many hours of working in a garden, perhaps tending these very strawberries. Gideon rolled his shoulders, lifted his t-shirt to wipe the moisture from his forehead. In the distance, he saw two figures striding up the gravel path to the rectory. Something about their movements just didn’t sit right. Gideon was no Catholic. But even he could see these men weren’t parishioners. “I’m gonna get some water. You want?” The shepherd smiled his refusal, went back to raking. Gideon cut through the church, accessing the rectory by the back entrance. The hard stone floors made the stealthy approach tricky, mandated slow progress. Inside the pastor’s office, he could hear the rough accents of the newcomers, mingled with Father Marty’s gentler tones as the men conversed. Gideon leaned against the wall, listening. “...should cover this month’s payment. And this portion will satisfy the balance for last month’s deficit, plus the penalty.” Silence. “That ain’t acceptable, old man.” “Is there a problem with the platinum exchange? I checked my math twice.” “That ain’t it,” the first man whined. “See the problem is image. You didn’t pay what was promised.” “Yeah,” the second agreed. “Yeah, we can’t let that slide.” Another beat. “I understood there was a clause in our arrangement with your employer for just this situation, hence the penalty fee.” “Our boss is a man o’ morals, see. He gave you a very fine deal, and, well--you ain’t holdin’ up your end.” “I see.” Marty sighed. “Perhaps if we double the penalty fee? Will that amount satisfy your boss’s...morality?” “You bein’ snarky with us, old man? Don’t think the boss would like that much.” “Please, gentlemen. If you allow me till the end of the day, I’m sure I can--” “Ain’t gonna work, Daddy-o.” The first man laughed shortly. “Boss-man ain’t exactly what you’d call patient.” “Nope,” the second agreed. “Badger...see, he’s--” “--a delusional lowlife with bad taste in minions and worse in hats?” Gideon enjoyed the way mouths dropped as he sidled into the office. He appraised the two men, big in a way that spoke of muscles, not flab. One carried a pistol under his jacket, if the bulge on his left breast was an indicator. The other wore his weapon openly on his hip. “Shaking down the clergy, huh? Guess it’s a fine time to be a flunky.” The taller of the two scowled. “This ain’t your business, blondie.” “Best listen to him, Gideon.” Father Marty chewed his lips nervously. “You needn’t trouble yourself with this.” “Probably not. Probably isn’t my business. And clearly I’m delaying theirs. What’s on the agenda for afternoon, guys--gonna beat up some school girls?” “Wouldn’t be worryin’ over the school girls if I was you,” the shorter man hinted. “Oh, fellas.” Gideon smiled. “I’m not worried.” In a quick move, he whipped his leg around, clipping the taller of the two thugs in the temple. The shorter merc shot his fist forward. Gideon swept the blow aside, then reversed to grasp the man’s hand. He twisted, easily popping the gun’s shoulder out of joint and grabbing his weapon. While the shorter one collapsed on the floor, Gideon turned his attention to the first thug who, having recovered from the head blow, had his gun out and aiming. Gideon ducked into the hall, waiting just out of sight. When the merc came out running, Gideon swept his feet out from under him, watched with no small pleasure as the man collapsed face-first on the stone. Blood trickled out of his broken nose. Gideon knelt down beside him, holding the snub-nosed pistol against the downed-man’s neck. “You know, you’re already in a church. I kill you now...Badger wouldn’t even have to spring for a hearse.” “This is a house of God, son.” Father Marty appeared at his side. He laid a smooth hand on Gideon’s shoulder. Gideon rose slowly. “Get up. Take your buddy and go running back to Badger. Dong ma?” “That was very Christian of you, son,” Father Marty said when they were alone. “I’m not a Christian,” Gideon murmured. *** Mal walked into Badger’s office with no small amount of trepidation. Past dealings with the little man had an annoying tendency to sideways. Mal had to use both hands and a foot to count the number of times the lowlife screwed him and his crew up the pigu. For these reasons, Mal was feeling less than optimistic as Badger’s thugs escorted him into their boss’s inner sanctum. Stiffing Mal seemed to be a profitable side job; Badger’s office looked considerably nicer than he remembered for previous visits. Even Badger looked a mite more respectable. Well, respectable was a relative term. “Captain Reynolds. Didn’t ‘spect to be seein’ you any time soon.” “Dirtside on personal dealings.” Mal nodded his greeting. “Looks like business has been good to you, Badger.” “That’s ‘cuz I’m good to business.” Badger flashed a toothy smile. “Nice, though, ain’t they? This here’s hand made on Sihnon.” He gestured to a swanky little footstool. Mal chose to stand. “Must o’ cost you a pretty.” “Did. See those paintings there? Two could buy a heap o’ go suh like the one you call home. But you didn’t come here to talk interior decoratin’.” “Here to make something right. That incident at Southdown....” “And by incident you must mean two o’ my boys getting roughed.” Badger’s grin faded. “Your work? No, Mal. Even you ain’t that stupid.” “Not me.” Mal met the shorter man’s gaze. “Fella flyin’ with me.” “One o’ your crew?” Badger’s face weren’t gettin’ any prettier. “Surprise, that. Thought one o’ yours would know better than to mess with a respectable businessman like myself.” “Said he was flyin’ with me, Badger. Didn’t say he was crew.” Careful, Mal. “And we get done here, good chance the only flyin’ he’ll be doin’ is out the airlock.” And now for the really sucky bit. “Like I said, I just came her to make things right. Shepherd says he owes you coin. Now I brought that, plus I’m willing to negotiate for the damage done to your men.” “Oh, you’re willing, ay? You see, Mal, that’s always been your problem. That stick up your gorram pigu. Anyway, what makes you think I want your coin?” “Coin’s coin, Badger. More useful in the long haul than blood, don’t you think?” Mal held out a bag. “How’s about we just leave it at that?” “Problem is, Captain...I’m movin’ up in the ‘verse. Word gets out I can’t even run me a simple protection racket...on a church, no less. That doesn’t look very good, does it?” Mal forced himself to look the little man in the eye. “I understand. Now how ‘bout you tell me what it’s gonna take to right this?” “Well, Mal, I might be willin’ to take your money. But that ain’t enough. There has to be...what’s that word? Reciprocity. Yeah.” “ ‘Spect a heartfelt apology ain’t gonna cut it?” Mal hardly heard the two thugs come up behind him. They caught him under the arms, dragged him out into the foyer. “Oh, Mal. This is just business,” Badger explained as the bigger of the two set to work massaging Mal’s kidneys. “Good to know,” Mal ground out. He wasn’t exactly expecting the gun to appear in Badger’s hand. But neither was he all that surprised. One good thing about gettin’ screwed so often--not a whole hell of a lot surprised you. It seemed a disturbingly long time before he felt the bullet. Then it was all sorts of familiar. Something about being gut-shot that tended to stick in your memory awhile. Mal found himself lying in a heap in the alley, clutching a bloody mess where his belly once was. *** Simon. She’d tell Simon. In these situations, he was the most levelheaded of them all. He wouldn’t panic, nor would he make Zoe’s personal business the subject of crew gossip. Simon would know what to do. Inara walked into the infirmary, walked straight into Kaylee. “Ouch!” Both girls clutched at their temples. “Sorry!” “Glad I ran into you...well, not literally.” Kaylee grinned and hopped up on the exam table. “Wanted to run this by ya ‘fore I hand out copies to the crew.” Inara unfolded the sheet of paper, raised a brow at the heading. “ ‘Things We Ain’t Telling The Captain About When He Waves,’ ” she read aloud from Kaylee’s scrawling script. “ ‘Number One, Jayne sexing River; Number 2, Jayne sexing River.’” Inara raised a brow. “Thought that one deserved double mention.” “Fair enough. ‘Number 3, Simon and Jayne not speaking; Number Four, Serenity needing new bearings on the engine rotors.’ Kaylee, I didn’t know that either. Is this also the ‘Keep Inara in the Dark List?’” Kaylee giggled. “Long as we ain’t drifting, I figure you ain’t interested in the day to day.” Inara smiled gratefully, returned her gaze to the page. “ ‘Item Five, Raven maybe saying her first word if by ‘duh’ she was trying for ‘duck.’ “ Inara glanced up. “When was this?” “Earlier, whilst you an’ the cap’n was, um, occupied.” Kaylee grinned. “She coulda been tryin’ for ‘da da’, but Zoe doesn’t think so cuz Raven liked the penguins an awful lot and thought they was ducks. She kept carryin’ her duck book to the cargo bay and pointing at the penguins. Even made Jayne read it to ‘em.” “Let’s hope for Mal’s sake it was just baby-babble. Missing her first word would be bad enough. If her first word was for the penguins....” “He did seem to begrudge ‘em,” Kaylee agreed. Inara nodded, continued reading. “ ‘Number Six, The Greenleaf Job; Number Seven; Zoe getting clipped on the Greenleaf Job; Number Eight, Kaylee being a week late--What? Wait. Go back a second, mei mei.” “To the duck part?” “Not the ducks, Kaylee.” “Inara...” Kaylee bit her lips. “What if I’m...?” Inara wrapped an arm around the younger girl’s waist. *Oh, go suh.* *** TBC in Part 24. Comment, I’m begging you!!! Girl needs feedback to keep writing this monstrosity. *Sigh.* Girl needs a nap.

COMMENTS

Saturday, April 15, 2006 2:43 PM

COPILOT


This was great. You are a wonderful wirter. I am so looking forward to part 24.

Saturday, April 15, 2006 2:51 PM

LEIASKY


I squee'd like a little girl when I read this!

>Kaylee being a week late--What? Wait. Go back a second, mei mei.”

This was such a great chapter. Kaylee's discussion with Jayne was nice and the cortex sex.....bwahahaaha. Is this also a keep Inara in the dark list! ha! So many good moments. Even Jayne and River. Missed a Simon scene though :(

Post more soon! I'm definitely hooked on the story:)

Saturday, April 15, 2006 3:03 PM

2X2


Oh my, where to start?!!

Cortex sex... areola!!! Bwahhahaa!

Mal's contemplation on Inara's profession, because of Emmy... wonderin' if she missed it, and Inara tellin' him exactly what she *didn't* miss... Mal's gonna come out of this endeavor a changed man I think... (if he comes out, of course, more on that in a moment)

I loved the Book dream/spirit conversation... and Mal contacting Emmy! WOAH that is gonna be one interesting meetin'....

And that hun dan Badger!!! Shakin' down a church... I didn't think even Badger would stoop that low... ruttin' bugger... and I'm wishin alll sorts of pain on his person right now for doin't that to Mal... poor Mal, always tryin' to make right, and always payin' for it in the worst ways... Gideon better ruttin' find him or something, since it's his gorram fault really...

Love the list of things not to tell Mal!!! And ... the very last line Oh go suh! hehehehee....

oh, and Zoe wantin' Inara to be her baby's godmamma... so sweet.. but it's all manner of unsettlin' the danger she's playin' with....

More moremore!!! and more! and just because... More!!

Saturday, April 15, 2006 6:04 PM

SQUISH


Excellent chapter! I'm glad you brought in the part with Zoe going to "see" Wash. I knew she wouldn't be able to stay away from that. Hope it goes well. (and Raven really was saying dada wasn't she?)

I nearly teared up at the part with Jayne and Kaylee. I'm wondering how this thing with River will turn out. I like your Jayne, rough on the outside, but just a little softness/conscience on the inside. And always like the hints of Jaylee and unrequited love (angst is addictive).

Okay, I'm rattling... Oh! And so good to see Book! I wondered why we never got to see him and yet Wash pops up all the time.

I'm wondering what will happen with Gideon, is he a candidate for the abbey or will he become part of the crew (and maybe a return to a relationship with one of the women)? Hey, didn't he and River...you know? I'm wondering why Jayne is thinking he's the first didn't they have a conversation about that once?

Okay, shutting up now. Can you tell I love this series?!

Saturday, April 15, 2006 7:35 PM

KAYNARA


Hey Guys,

I thought I'd post a quick note because of the Rayne confusion. Gideon and River did have sex, which Jayne does know. But they were only together that one time, and River described the experience as painful on several levels. Since this is only her second time, both River and Jayne expect it to be somewhat painful as well. Of course, not all pain is physical, and the characters are referencing future emotional hurts as well as the physical pain of the act itself. Hope that makes a little more sense. And hope you're all still enjoying!

Thanks for reading,
April (Kaynara)

Saturday, April 15, 2006 9:19 PM

BLUEEYEDBRIGADIER


Damn...this is quite the rollercoaster of emotion you got here, Kaynara;)

First off...loved the Mal/Inara Cortex sex attempt and Mal laughing his pigu off trying to get "areola" out (which I think would be kinda hard for a guy to do....just seems a might flowery for an honestly wonderful spot).

Secondly, heart just broke with the Zoe/Inara scene, especialy the end part with Inara helping Zoe take the drug so she can be with Wash....so sad and angsty;(

Jaylee scene....yeah, can imagine this going on. Jayne seems to care for Kaylee and knowing she's with Simon would hurt royally. Unrequited love kinda sucks, though I am glad he can at least make an attempt at moving on;)

Book/Mal dream sequence: oh so Joss-like in it's banter and hidden meanings. Can imagine a scene like this being in a BDSequel betwenn the Captain and Book:D

Quentin's letter to Mal: been finding these letters a wonderful link between Mal and his dad, espcially when Mal has been unintentionally aping his father in certain ways. The ESB-style wisdom from those who have came before works real well here:)

Gideon's defence of Brother Marty/Mal's meeting with Badger: honestly, these two are like complete numb nuggets with their attempts at protection and martyrdom. I seriously hope Gideon or someone else finds Mal ASAP cuz he's already come close to the BDN (Big Dirt Nap) twice before. Though Badger shaking down a church....doesn't seem quite right for some reason in my mind....guess cuz Joss and Mark (Sheppard) had Badger as a more Lando-like "businessman" than Jabba the Hutt.

And the Kaylee/Inara, "Don't tell Mal" scene? Comic gold, especially the Fight Clubesque repeat of Point #1 as Point #2 and the last bit with Kaylee sneaking in a notice of her possible pregnancy....spot on:)

BEB

P.S. Sorry about the SW references....just seem appropriate for my thoughts:P

Sunday, April 16, 2006 2:45 AM

AMDOBELL


This was brilliant, excellent and awesome. Did I mention I loved it? Very fine, I absolutely loved the way you wrote Book in this, laughed so hard I almost did myself permanent damage over Inara and Mal having *cortex sex* (is that even a word?), and really want something bad and terrible to happen to Badger. Poor Mal, never gets an even break. Can't wait for the next part, Kaylee being pregnant and all along with everything else that is going on. Hope we get to meet Mal's ma. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Sunday, April 16, 2006 9:05 AM

TAYEATRA


If you kill Mal then I will never, ever, ever forgive you.

Comedy genius aplenty... Loving this chapter.

On an irrelevant note... did you know that if you put 'strange bedfellows', 'bedlam' and 'bed and wine' into one text file it is 207695 words long and covers 461pages of size 8 type.

Wow!

Sunday, April 16, 2006 10:16 PM

SHINYGEEKET


Great chapter, as always. I especially loved the "Things We Ain’t Telling The Captain About When He Waves" list, it's so very Kaylee. I truly love this fic, I look forward to reading it every weekend whenever I have down time (even if my down time is at one in the morning!). Can't wait for the next chapter, you're doing a fabulous job!

~ ShinyGeeket

Monday, April 17, 2006 11:57 AM

CCKE


Ok, I know I commented on this before, but I've been thinking all day...
Why 'go suh' in the end... What's gonna happen?
*hopes it's something cool like Inara realising she's being a week late too*
Still, loved the chapter!

CCke

Thursday, April 20, 2006 3:32 AM

ANJULIE


Oooh, HurtMal© I like that. This series is my favorite here. I was hoping you would be updating soon.

Friday, April 21, 2006 12:06 AM

LEIGHKOHL


I loved the Jayne Kaylee convo, revealing and poignant! Mal cracking up at the areola, so hilarious! The convo between Inara and Kaylee, yay! This was a great chapter! Can't wait for your next post!

Saturday, April 22, 2006 7:01 PM

MUTINOUSMUSE


I just tore through the whole series over the past week, and I love it! I love the arc you've set Mal and Inara on, I love how you write Kaylee and Simon, and I think you have a solid handle on the dialogue. I can't wait for the next chapter!

Saturday, June 24, 2006 5:18 AM

BELLONA


oh, lordy...mal's dying in an alleyway, kaylee might be pregnant, zoe's trying to kill herself (technically), jayne's sexing river, raven's trying for her first word...now where's the kitchen sink, i ask you?

b


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