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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
In which the captain finds out what kind of man Julius Hobenson really is and Mariah explains the nature of civilization.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 723 RATING: 10 SERIES: FIREFLY
Rachel edged her hand out to meet Hobenson's cautiously, and almost flinched when his fingers snaked out to wrap around hers. "Yi qian shi ren he ren chang shi miao shu tai zi bi zi sha you yu qi que dian." Hobenson raised her arm higher, and planted a delicate kiss on the back of Rachel's hand. "Julius Hobenson at your service."
Rachel smiled coyly. "Rachel Wu. I must say I've heard some interesting things about you, Mr. Hobenson."
"All of them entirely false. I assure you, there's nothing interesting about me." Rachel forced herself to chuckle. "Do I know you? Are you that new girl Lord Folsom's been talking about? I can certainly see why he feels compelled to brag."
Rachel pursed her lips into a forced smile. "No, I'm here on my own. This is Saul Horton, an associate of mine."
Hobenson nodded absentmindedly to Saul, then turned back to Rachel. Before he spoke, however, his eyes flared and he looked back up at the cook. "Not Saul Horton…the Knight?" Saul grimaced and nodded curtly, as if afraid that anyone else there associate him with his title as a bounty hunter. "Well, this is quite a zhong da shi jian. Your reputation precedes you, Mr. Horton."
Saul smiled flatly. "So does yours, Mr. Hobenson."
Hobenson's smile curled into a sneer around the mustache of his thin, graying beard. "Then I suppose we should all be careful tonight, shouldn't we?" Saul forced a smile and Hobenson turned his attention back to Rachel. "Wu, Wu…you're not the one who's sitting in at my table tonight, are you?" Rachel nodded. "Well. It will be a pleasure to have you." Rachel didn't like the way he said that. He looked as if he was about to leave, but then turned back toward her. "Tell me, Miss Wu, why exactly have you come here tonight?"
Rachel shrugged dismissively. "Just trying to meet new people."
Hobenson stared at her for a moment, then nodded seriously. "Just be sure you don't try to break into the wrong conversation, hm? Some people don't take well to others showing an undue interest in their affairs."
Rachel smiled icily. "Yes, I've heard that."
Hobenson sneered gravely, then melted into the crowd. As soon as he disappeared, Rachel shut her eyes and let out a breath of relief. "Well this is gonna end badly."
"You see that look in his eyes?"
"Yeah. Somethin' tells me that girl won't be safe here much longer."
"Tha's one creepy dui sha ren fan." Saul cast a conspiratorial glance around the room, but the clusters of nobles and corporate officers were largely concerned with their own dealings. "You think he knows why we're here?"
"'S what it sounded like to me, and I doubt there's much goes on here he ain't wise to. Still, now I met him, 's just more proof we gotta take that girl outta here. Get Mona and get snooping."
"Ma shang, dui zhang." Saul nodded and slipped silently into the crowd, turning toward the lounge where the children and wives of the gamblers were rubbing elbows.
He found Mona framed by three boys, two about her age and one who looked a little older. She was chuckling, spinning a lock of her chestnut hair between her fingers— teasing and flirting as well as any Companion, and obviously more than a little drunk on the attention. Saul shook his head and sighed. Girl was gonna xing da du zi yun if she kept this up.
"Actually, I've never been to Sihnon. I'd love to hear…" Mona's words were cut short as Saul broke through her admirers and dragged her off by the arm. "Jeez, Saul, lighten up. We were just havin' a little fun."
Saul frowned. "I know spoiled rich boys, all right? You keep teasin' 'em, they're gonna want to have more fun than you can manage."
Mona scoffed. "Come on, Saul. You have got to stop being so paranoid. I bet there's even someone here you could…"
"Hey! We got a job to do. Someone's life might be at stake, you don't get to treat this like a pleasure cruise."
"And you don't get to suck the fun out of everything just 'cause you can't get the stick out of your pi gu!"
Saul opened his mouth to retort, then sighed. It wasn't worth the effort—she never learned. "Why don't you just take this opportunity to try an' learn how to be a functioning member of society?" Mona rolled her eyes. "Cap'n wants us to poke around, try to find Chafee's daughter in case we gotta get her out of here another way." Mona sighed, bit her lip, and nodded.
Mariah was doing well. The captain had been right, most of the players were only here to socialize, and hardly even knew what the suits were. Two of the men at her table had actual talent, but they were letting her win. If she'd actually tried to buy their compliance with batted eyelashes and coy smiles they probably would have seen through it, and she'd be about a hundred square behind. She'd learned a long time ago that she didn't have to flirt, like the captain sometimes did during negotiations, didn't have to act. Being shy and empathetic and sincere worked better than any face she could have put on. The proof was that, despite being a middling poker player, she'd made almost one hundred and fifty square since she sat down.
Mariah rubbed her neck and clicked her chips back into neat piles. "Would you deal me out this hand? I'm going to get a drink." The dealer, a portly man with shiny white hair, nodded amiably.
Mariah leaned against one of the filigreed bar stools and glanced up at the wine list. "Can I buy you a drink?" Mariah's eyes shifted to the right, and she smiled gingerly as the speaker came into view.
"I don't know, can you afford it?"
The doctor grinned. "I think I can make the sacrifice."
Mariah nodded to the bartender. "Just a half glass of the Santo, please." The bartender handed her the wine, and she swirled it around the glass before looking back at Leopold. "Shouldn't you be playing poker, not trolling the bar?"
He shrugged. "I've won three hundred already, and had some wonderful conversation. Pity our mechanic's not adjusting so well." Mariah followed the doctor's gaze to the table farthest from hers. Dex had obviously amassed a tidy pile of winnings, but had just as obviously failed to fit in with the other players. The chuckling that occasionally arose from around the card table was clearly at his expense. "I'm at the game next to his. They've been picking at him since he first opened his mouth."
"Well, he's out of his element."
Leopold shrugged. "I just wish they'd stop acting like mian mao. It's not his fault."
Mariah looked askance at the doctor. "What's not his fault?"
"That he's not as civilized as they are. He can't help having grown up on the Border."
Mariah winced. "That doesn't make him any less civilized. Dex just doesn't put on airs." Another round of chuckles from the table drew her eyes. "Besides, there's nothing to be proud of, being able to fit in with people like this."
"Well, I just meant…things aren't the same here as they are on the Border."
"We're still on the Border. Just because they want to put themselves in a little bubble so they feel superior doesn't mean they're civilized." Before the doctor could respond, Mariah finished the wine and leaned off from the bar as more laughter rose from Dex's table. "Excuse me, I'm going to get back in the game."
Leo shook his head as he watched her go. So much for being the easy one to figure out.
Thursday, April 20, 2006 7:52 AM
Thursday, June 29, 2006 6:58 AM
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