Part XXI—New Year's Day
Authors: justslummin and Midnight-Obsidian
Disclaimer: Don't own 'em. Just playin' in Joss' sandbox.
Summary: Conclusion. The Hit or Miss lands on Persephone, and the two crews part ways.
Marcus splashed cold water on his face and took an extra moment to really look at himself in the mirror. Though the return trip from Shiva had been relatively uneventful, unless one counted the second round of Allies versus Indies which had somehow managed to engulf the entire crew for a couple of harrowing hours, Marcus had not slept decently the entire time. To his dismay, the lack showed in the dark circles under his eyes and the slump in his shoulders.
He straightened his posture immediately, a flash of anger turning his backbone to steel. Why he should spend another moment thinking of Saffron was beyond him, and he resolved to pull himself together and get on with the business of being the Captain of the Hit or Miss. Looking at the whole thing objectively, he told himself, it had not turned out too badly. There was coin enough from his crew's portion to pay his people, fuel the huge vessel, buy the supplies from Dr. Tam's suggested list that he hadn't found on Boros, and stock the larder for a few months. And, while it had been a rough way to find out what Saffron really was, he supposed that it was better to have found that out before he put his ring on her finger rather than after. Now, if only he could convince his heart of that, he'd be just shiny, he thought, sighing.
Pierre's voice floated into his cabin via the comm system. "Landing in five."
Patting his face dry with a towel, Marcus walked toward the bridge to watch the landing.
Jayne stuffed his things haphazardly into his duffel bag, taking care only with his weapons, as Inara carefully packed her clothes in the large trunk she'd brought. "I'm gonna miss this cabin," Jayne said. "I mean, miss the space anyway."
Inara smiled. "Well, I can see why," she said. "It is rather larger than your bunk. But really it's no bigger than our shuttle."
Jayne's hands stopped in mid-action as he stared at her. "Did you just say 'our' shuttle?"
Inara blushed, but held his gaze steadily. "I suppose I did," she said in a soft voice.
Jayne took a deep breath. "You askin' me to move in with you, baby doll?"
Inara bit her lower lip. "Maybe," she said after a moment. "I think we should at least think about it, don't you?"
"Sounds like a plan," Jayne said, the wicked slant of his smile sending a shiver down Inara's spine.
When Marcus arrived on the bridge, Mal was already there, looking out at Persephone looming larger and larger in the window. Pierre turned to greet his Captain. "Got here just in time to engage in your usual back-seat flying instructions, I see."
Marcus tried to look offended. "I don't do that," he protested, picking up one of the robots on the console lovingly. "Besides, if you'd quit looking at me and keep your eyes on your work, I wouldn't have to worry."
Pierre turned back to the console, snorting lightly. "We both know I can land this thing blindfolded with one hand tied behind my back."
"While that may be true," Mal cut in. "I'd take it as a kindness if you wouldn't, least whilst me and mine are onboard."
Pierre shrugged, his eyes twinkling merrily. "Your loss, Captain Reynolds. When I do it, it's a sight to see."
"No doubt," Mal said, grinning. Turning to Marcus, he said, "So, we headed to see Easy first thing?"
Marcus nodded. "Might as well get that little job done before we play."
Mal nodded, and the two Captains watched Pierre land the Hit or Miss effortlessly onto the Eavesdowne docks.
"We're gonna miss you, Bear," Adam said, sitting on the huge man's shoulders as he walked through the ship.
"I'll miss you too," Bear said, thinking how quiet the ship would be once the children were gone. "Don't usually have enough people on the Hit or Miss to play a good game of Allies versus Indies."
Anya looked up at him and grinned. "Maybe one day you will," she said. "And maybe we can come visit again sometime. Or you can come with us on Serenity. She's a fine ship, you know."
Bear nodded. "I know," he said. "I think it would be wonderful to take her out into the Black sometime."
Anya squeezed his hand happily, thinking that she could hardly wait to be back on Serenity herself.
Murdocke stopped tinkering with the engine and looked at Kaylee seriously. "If your Captain can get the fuel flow compensator on Persephone, Marcus has said it would be all right for me to help you get Serenity spaceworthy again."
Kaylee smiled. "You don't have to do that," she began, but Marcus interrupted her.
"Know I don't have to," he said gruffly. "But I thought I might like to. Never have worked on a Firefly, and…" he paused for a moment. "Never worked with a more pleasant engineer, either."
Kaylee blushed and beamed at him with delight. "Well, workin' on Serenity is a pure pleasure," she said. "So I reckon it would be wrong of me to deny you the privilege."
Murdocke grinned widely. "I'll just pack some of my tools," he said, ridiculously happy at the thought.
Jim and Zoe stacked the last of their crew's possessions at the entrance of the cargo bay. Pierre eyed the pile of things appraisingly. "Should be able to get all this back to your ship in a couple of trips if we use both loaders."
Zoe nodded. "Yep," she said. "And what we can't get on the loaders will probably fit on our mule, if I drive it back on the first return trip."
Pierre nodded. Extending his hand, he said, "It's been a pleasure working with you, Zoe."
"It has, at that," Zoe replied, her lips curving into a smile. "I ain't a Reader or anything, but I suspect we might meet up again somewhere down the line."
"Wouldn't be a bit surprised," Pierre said.
"I swear I didn't know that she was bogus," Easy said, fidgeting nervously in his chair. "You have to believe that I would never have agreed to anything that would endanger you, Captain Reynolds." He looked at Mal pleadingly.
Mal concentrated on keeping a stern visage. "Well, I can't say we aren't severely disappointed, Easy. Marcus and I thought you were on the up and up, and now…well, now, we got our doubts."
Marcus nodded, the perfect picture of sad disappointment. "A man in your position has to do his homework," he said. "Can't be expecting to attract good partners if you pull this kinda stunt."
Easy's fingers drummed on his pants leg nervously. "Listen, I really didn't know. And I want to make it right. What can I do to make it right?"
Mal looked at Marcus with a spark of mischief in his eye. "I conjure that we might give you another chance," he said slowly. "Captain Hazzard here is free to take on work, if you've got anything decent going down."
Easy popped out of his chair eagerly. "There is a new job coming up. Looks to be a real good deal too."
"And of course, we'll be requiring that you take a reduction in the standard fee, being as how we ran into additional expense handling the mess you gave us last trip," Marcus said smoothly. "Say, twenty percent?"
Easy swallowed nervously, looking from Marcus to Mal with wide eyes. Both men stared at him impassively, until Easy squirmed under their gaze. "I…I suppose I could do with twenty percent," he said. "I mean, just this once."
Marcus grinned widely. "So," he said, leaning back in his chair. "Tell me about this job."
Marcus walked with Mal to the edge of Harrow's field. Darkness had fallen, and Serenity's lights were blazing, lighting the way home for her Captain. "She's a beauty, for a fact," Marcus said, stopping to admire the lines of the Firefly.
"That she is," Mal said, his heart warmed by the mere sight of his vessel. Longing to walk along her corridors and hear the hum of her engine, he turned to Marcus and extended his hand. "It's been a pleasure meeting you, Marcus."
"The pleasure was all mine, Mal," Marcus said. "Maybe we'll meet again sometime."
"Of that, I'm relatively sure," Mal replied, smiling. "The older I get, the smaller the 'verse seems to be."
Marcus laughed. "You say that like you're ancient."
"I practically am," Mal said, laughing lightly. Looking at Serenity, he said, "You wanna come on in, and have another drink?"
Marcus smiled. "Think we had enough of those after we left Easy's. Best I be getting back to the Hit or Miss."
Mal nodded. "Then I guess I'll be seeing you later, Captain Hazzard." And with that, he walked through Harrow's pasture and into his home, as Marcus turned back toward the docks.
River stood waiting inside the cargo bay. Running the last few steps to meet him, she jumped into Mal's arms. "I take it you're happy I'm home," he said, twirling her about.
River nodded and sighed with contentment. "Children are all asleep, and everyone's settled in for the night," she said.
Mal nodded. "Kaylee and Murdocke get the part in?"
"Yes," River confirmed. "Kaylee said to tell you that she'll have Serenity ready for a test flight in a couple of days. She wants to do some other maintenance work while we're dirtside anyway."
"Sounds like a plan," Mal said, walking up the stairs, running his hands lovingly along Serenity's walls as they moved into the corridor.
River smiled. "She missed you," she said.
"Did she now?" Mal asked, delighted by the thought.
"Wanted her Captain back," River acknowledged. "Felt empty without you."
"Well, in that case, I'm glad we're home," Mal said. Having made his way to the bridge, he sat down in the pilot's chair, pulling River into his lap and nuzzling her neck softly.
"Me too," she said, leaning into her husband's warmth and thinking that this was the only home she would ever need.
Authors' Notes: just-slummin: So ends another tale of the 'verse. Thank you kindly for reading it. And to those who took the extra moment to leave feedback, a special thanks is extended. There are, of course, more tales to tell, but they will have to wait for another day. In the meantime, I'd like to thank Midnight Obsidian for the lovely crew of the Hit or Miss, whose rich personalities have captured my imagination in a wonderful way. It's been a pleasure to work with you, kind sir, and I look forward to more joint ventures with you in the future. 'Til then, happy reading and writing to you all!
Midnight-Obsidian: I would like to thank each and every one of the readers who left feedback and basically made this labor of love that much more special. Of course, I would be remiss if I did not take a moment to give my heartfelt thanks to just-slummin, who made all of this possible. She's my muse and absolute gem in a sea of rocks! And do not fret, those members of the Marcus Hazzard fan club (all two of you, lol). I am planning on a few new fics. You really don't think the crew of the Hit or Miss can stay out of trouble for very long, do you?