Thirty Two – Aftermath


Only Zoe knew just how uncomfortable she was at the moment because—despite the completely calm and focused exterior she was showing—she actually had to resist tapping one foot due to her nervousness. She knew that her unruffled, solid 'front' was the only thing keeping Kaylee halfway quiet or her husband from charging off to do something he probably shouldn't do—

So at the moment, she was very glad that the Shepherd was quietly reading his bible, Simon was pacing along one side of the Dining Area and River was still in her chair at the Dining table (a sullen, angry look continuing to darken her features) so the First Mate didn't have to deal with any problems from those individuals.

Zoe herself was waiting to the side of the short stairs leading through the forward hatch of the Dining Area. From there—leaning against the hatch frame—she could keep a very close eye on the Bridge hatch at the other end of the forward passageway. Inside her head she was counting down on a clock, biding the time before surrendering to the situation which would mean getting the emergency breaker bar for the Bridge hatch out—

Zoe was far beyond beginning to wonder the reason why the two problem children were still locked in the Bridge. Without much hope she still 'hoped' that the Shepherd had been right—that the two of them really were still talking—

Because the other possibility that was most likely to her—the one put forward by her husband—the one she was pretty much mentally settling upon—was the possibility that the both of them were hurt and/or incapacitated—if she didn't have the boundless faith in her Captains ability to survive the unsurvivable—

But…after all this time, Zoe had to wonder, if Mal had somehow managed to ambush and take down Lady, he'd have to come out of such a moment whole simply because it would have to be an all-or-nothin strike. Lady is simply too dangerous in such close quarters in any case where she wasn't taken completely out on the first shot.

That thought had logically led to the next one. If Mal had managed to ambush Lady and inflict some kind of telling damage…but it hadn't taken Lady all the way down on the first hit

Lady could have very well have struck back out of pure combat-conditioned reflex causing serious if not worse damage to Serenity's Captain as she did so. That could mean that Zoe's waiting was causing or had already had caused the one or both of them too—

Zoe took in a deep breath suddenly ready to advance her own countdown—just in case—

Then her head snapped over at the sounds of boots coming up the forward companionway—

Oh God, not now—

Jayne came around the corner into the passageway.

His eyes immediately widened at the sight of Zoe. He stopped in the middle of the passageway looking past her into the Dining Area, questions coming into those eyes—

Even at this distance, Zoe could tell that he had been drinking (still) but after all the time spent together; she could tell that he wasn't really drunk—well, at least not sloppy drunk.

Which at the moment was a bad thing. Because he was less than likely to just head to his bunk to pass out if he wasn't three shades to the wind—

Sure enough, he walked up to the outside portion of the hatch, more questions coming into his eyes as how everyone was gathered and apparently waiting—his mind also registered the looks his arrival was causing in the expressions of everyone there who was now looking at him (except River whose eyes didn't leave the table top).

"Somethin goin on?" he kind of half growled. "Where's Mal and the Bitch?"

"They're on the Bridge having a little talk." Zoe figured that much of the truth wouldn't be a problem.

Jayne glanced back at the closed Bridge hatch. It sounded like he grunted something that Zoe couldn't hear. He then looked back at Zoe, "ain't nothin good gonna come outta her stayin around Zoe. It'd be in everybody's best interests for her to be gone." He glanced back at all the other eyes that were watching him from inside of the Dining Area. "She's the one messin it all up, upsettin everythin on board. We were fine without her and there's gonna be more trouble—and just not from me—if she stays. Mark my word."

With that, he turned and started toward his cabin. Zoe watched him go, not realizing that she was holding her breath.

Jayne made it to his ladder, pushing it open with his foot—

And at that moment—just as Zoe had subconsciously feared—Murphy's Law put in an appearance—

The lock on the Bridge hatch 'clacked'—

Jayne hesitated with one foot on the rung—

The hatch came open—

Everybody including River came to their feet in the Dining Area—

Zoe held her breath—

Mal came into the hatchway, his hands on both sides of the frame—

The blood on his face—

Jayne actually smiled. "What the di yu happened to you? Did the peace and love and everybody's all friends thing fail?"

"Doctor," Zoe said over her shoulder as she was already moving, she was down the passageway before Jayne had finished his statement. She was trying not to think what she was about to find but she knew one thing—don't let Jayne see—

"So how about it Mal? Did she teach you a lesson?"

Zoe couldn't help but grimace. Jayne was right behind her, coming up the ladder after her. "Jayne," she said back over her shoulder intending to tell him—

"Not a chance Zoe," he interrupted her. "Wild horses couldn't keep me from seein this."

"Jayne," at the tone in Mal's voice, Zoe came to a stop even though she was only an arm length down the ladder from him, "this ain't your business." That part stopped Jayne, as did the fact that the Merc was now close enough to see the look in the Captains eyes. Jayne remembered that look only too well, the look Mal had given him through the window in the Cargo Bay airlock door as he had felt the air go cold and thin as Serenity climbed out of the atmo of Ariel. Mal's next words sealed the deal—

"And unless you want business with me, you'll let it be."

The Merc took an involuntary step back down the ladder raising his hands if deference, "okay Mal, no sweat, whatever you want."

Mal's eyes then lifted to look down on the rest of those aboard, gathered in a tight group just back of the foot of the ladder—

All of them looking up at him with angry accusing eyes—except for the Shepherds who were deeply disturbed and disappointed.

"Where's Lady?" Kaylee called at him in a worried/angry tone.

The Captain of Serenity was once again less than happy. Waking to find Lady out cold had not been part of his plan—not that he'd had a plan—but it made him look more the villain than he had anticipated with Lady's idea of creating a situation which would defuse Jayne. Even though it was clear that it had worked as Lady had hoped; that Jayne had immediately accepted the outcome, everyone else's reactions toward him personally appeared to be even worse that he had feared if he had come out of the fracas looking unharmed.

Mal weakly jerked his thumb back into toward the Bridge—"she's—"

Before he could get another word out, Simon, River, Kaylee and Wash were storming up past him.

"Hey!" he yelled, thrusting out one hand to stop the charge—

Only to have Zoe grab and defect his arm with a warning look screaming from her eyes.

Her eyes held his as the others rushed past him onto the Bridge.

"LADY!" came Kaylee's voice from inside—

"What the HELL happened to MY Bridge?" Wash's cried just as loud.

Mal closed his eyes, his mental pain matching at the moment his physical pain—

His eyes (well, just like Lady, at the moment it was almost 'eye' because of the one rapidly swelling closed) then opened.

Zoe gave him a smoking look before releasing his arm to move up past him onto the Bridge. That left Mal with only two people to look at.

Jayne had a huge smirk on his face that was about to break out into a full blown grin—

Well Mal thought, I guess that part of it worked better than expected. That'd be a good thing.

And the Shepherd—

While Books look was still very heavy with 'disapproval', there was something else there as well. It took Mal a moment to pin it down.

It was questioning disbelief.

The Shepherds not buyin it Mal realized. Can only hope that'd be a good thing as well.

There was no indication of such thoughts in the Shepherds voice however when Book said, "it seems as if the good Doctor will be...occupied for some time Captain. Why don't you allow be to tend to that...scratch on your face?"


You're getting to know the sight of this overhead way too well.

Lady reflected on this for a moment as she lay on her back on the Infirmary table staring up at the ceiling above her.

But, going back to the first time you saw it when you originally woke up here, you know that you've spent a real healthy—or would it be UNhealthy—amount of time inside various hospitals, infirmaries and sick bays. Of course you can only see so much of it right now through the one eye—

For the eye below where she had busted her head against the co-pilots chair was now screwed tightly closed, a hot-poker fist of rock-hard pain among all the other various injuries her body was currently telling her about.

Of course, that hot point was not being affected by the chilly sub-zero atmosphere that currently filled the Infirmary.

The Doctor was not at all happy—

His Sister was even less happy than that—

The Shepherd who had just joined them after apparently tending to the Captain was definitely not pleased—

The Engineer was most assuredly not delighted by the turn of events—

Not that you're especially joyous about having a pretty good sized wound on your eyebrow/forehead sutured without anesthesia—

But at the same time—

She grimaced as she turned her head slightly to the side—

Only to have the Doctor reach over, grip the sides of her head firmly and move her head back toward the upright position.

"Why are you moving like that?" he asked her in a testy tone. "You're going too—"

"When my head is straight," she shot back just as testy, "it's lying on the wound on the back of my head and that hurts worse than my neck does!"

"Oh," Simon's face was suddenly self-conscious. He also sounded very apologetic, "I'm sorry, I'd forgotten about that one from when you fell last night."

Lady looked like she was silently counting to ten before she replied, "that's alright Doctor. I don't expect you to be able to keep track of everything I manage to do to myself if it's not actually bleeding at the moment."

"The rest of it shouldn't of happened," she heard Kaylee say in an 'almost whisper' which could only be called 'surly'.

"Please Kaylee—" Lady's tone was still testy. The Engineer jumped at that tone. She'd forgotten and hadn't expected Lady to hear the comment but her internal ire caused her to go ahead, come out and say what was on her mind.

"It's true! I don't care how mad he was! He had no call to hurt you as bad as this."

Lady weighed her mental options for a moment, then said tiredly, "two things Kaylee; considering what I did to him he had every right to wish to do things much worse than what has happened and…he is not purposely responsible for some my injuries."

Kaylee blinked, clearly not understanding.

"Most of what you see I...let the Captain do in order to satisfy his anger. I deserved it and I neither blame him or begrudge him for it—and I would please beg you not to do so either." Lady then turned her head further in order to look directly at the Engineer— "the rest of what you see here I did to myself—and there was a specific reason for that."

Now Kaylee's mouth was hanging open. "You did—you did something like this to—to yourself —"

However, both Zoe and Book nodded their heads as if they understood.

"Was that specific reason because of Jayne?" Zoe asked.

"Yes," Lady replied because despite her thick lips and swollen tongue, it was still less painful than nodding her head.

Kaylee looked first at the Shepherd than back to Lady with a startled expression. At the same time River was staring at Lady as if the young girl was trying to see through the woman's skull. Then the young girl nodded murmuring, "remarkable," as if finally understanding something long suspected.

"What?" Kaylee was about all she managed to say. She wasn't sure how or why Jayne had just entered the conversation and what she could guess she didn't like the taste of. Trying to gain a better understanding she looked over at Simon to see if he could give her a clue but he was looking at Lady with an incredulous stare.

Book in the meantime, crossed his arms into a contemplating pose before asking, "did you plan it this way from the beginning?"

"I contemplated it as a part of several different options right from the beginning," was Lady's slow painful/tired reply. "It wasn't until I actually saw how the Captain was reacting in the Dining Area upon my return that I made my decision."

Book shook his head. "You are a strange and unusual woman," was his comment.

Kaylee still wasn't really getting it—or maybe it was that she didn't want to get it. "Will someone please—" she started only to stop when Zoe laid a hand on her arm. The First Mate didn't say anything but the gentle but forceful look she game the Engineer caused Kaylee to subside for the moment.

Then—

"If you understand," Lady said, taking pains to talk through the pain clearly and with as much force as she could, "then please take it into account in your dealings with the Captain." She tried her best to meet everyone's eyes with her eye. "Remember what I said about what happened being the fault of the both of us. And from a personal viewpoint, the results are well worth whatever pain and discomfort I am currently experiencing as long as Cobb continues to think the way he apparently does now." She then looked directly at both Kaylee and River. "Remember, what the Shepherd just said is correct. I am a strange and unusual woman. As such, something tells me that at times I have intentionally placed myself in the way of physical harm because I know that if whatever it was didn't kill me, there is more than a good chance that I will survive the event and eventually heal. And if doing so; if intentionally taking damage accomplishes my goal, so much the better."

Zoe, Book and River all nodded their heads at this. Simon looked appalled; Kaylee still unbelieving. Book then asked, "has something come back to you then in as far as your healing ability?"

Both of the Tam siblings eyebrows went up.

"Only things like what I just said," Lady told them all. "That's it's something that I can actually use as a tool at times; that I can risk and take damage and injury that 'normal's' cannot as an option to attain a goal—that and the fact that my healing ability is the result of a voluntary life choice on my part. Some kind of...directly imposed mutation of the body."

Both Simon and River looked at her, clearly startled/surprised/wondering—

"A mutation?" asked Simon—

"But you said it was voluntary—" River said. "Both of those facts imply that it could be done to others as well."

"Do you know what part of the body is mutated?" Simon sounded like he wanted to beg for the answer.

Lady raised one of her hands to stop any further questions. "Sorry. Didn't mean to temp you with a taste of the fruit and all but that's really all that's come back to me at the moment."

Both of the Tam siblings looked a little crushed. Simon was so crushed that he hadn't realized just how 'clear and cognizant' River had sounded at that moment.

"But," Zoe mused out loud. "It allows you to take chances with injury that—you used the term 'normal's', that bein normal people like us—injury's and such that we might not otherwise be able to take." She thought another moment then one eyebrow shot up—

"That's why you were able to do that…thing in the bar fight—dislocate your shoulder in order to get away—you did it without thinkin maybe. Because you knew it wouldn't be a lasting thing."

Lady looked surprised as if that incident hadn't occurred to her but after her own moment she looked to Zoe saying, "I do believe that could very well be right. Something tells me that that is something I would do if necessary."

Book shook his head again, "so it allows you to take injury and recover—and that recovery is so completely that you don't even have any scars to show in the end." He shifted his arms about as he mentally wrestled with something before, "does that last part have...unexpected consequences?"

Kaylee, Simon and River all looked a little confused with that question—

Lady on the other hand—

"Yes it does Shepherd." She raised her head slightly so she could look down toward where he was beyond the foot of the bed. "I suspect by that statement that you are well aware of how visible scars—wounds from battle—might play within a culture where war and/or violence is a primary part of someone's life—how scars can be a 'badge of honor' or 'marks of experience' which can be accepted and turned into a form of respect by some people." She eased her head back down. "Something tells me from what little I remember of my early training that my 'clan' did not believe in such machismo but many of the mercenary units that I worked with did lend weight to such things—which could cause problems for me as...discretion toward my mutation was required for reasons which have yet to come back to me."

Everyone present kind of looked at each other as this was new information to everyone but Zoe. Seeing the looks on their faces, Lady snorted, "okay, let's just say that my...discussion with the Captain brought back a fair amount of memories about one portion of my life—but it is only a portion and not a pleasant one at that. But in as far as my 'mutation'; something does tell me that where I come from, despite the fact that the change is a voluntary one (she was looking at River as she said this) that could be done to anyone, very few undergo it. Something tells me that there are significant drawbacks and side effects along with...social and cultural issues like what the Shepherd and I just mentioned with the mercenaries." She took a deep breath before finishing with, "so in the end, it's not for everyone—nor should it be."

"Yyeesssss," Book mused. "I can well see some of those…problems that would come to pass given that kind of situation."

"Regardless," Lady told them, "I beg that you both minimize your anger toward the Captain and be aware of Cobb."

Kaylee looked decidedly unhappy again. "What is it that you think Jayne—?"

Zoe held up a stopping hand. "If you don't mind Kaylee, we'll talk about it later." When the Engineer gurglingly nodded her accepting not to continue with it for the moment, the First Mate then looked to Lady, "I take it that if we let the Captain totally off the hook then maybe Jayne would figure out that he's being...led down the garden path?"

Lady simply nodded. Zoe then looked around at everyone present, "so that means that we all should still give him—the Captain—a bit of a cold shoulder—"

"I won't need to pretend to give him a cold shoulder," River muttered. "He's been stupid about this whole thing all along."

"River—" Simon told her in a warning tone.

"Well he has," she shot back at him.

"Again I say, peace little one."

River's eyes dropped down to Lady who had turned her head more to the side to give her a steady stare with her one good eye. River once again experience that strange (for her) feeling that Lady was peeling the top of her head open to look inside of her brain—

Once again since the start of their relationship, River had to reflect on this new feeling. Prior to her meeting Lady, the very idea of someone being able to sense her thoughts and feelings so deeply would have sent River over the edge into screams and panic—such a sensation made her think about—she couldn't remember all the times THEY had 'looked into her brain' but she—

Which was the weird part because River knew that Lady could not actually see into her mind, thoughts or emotions—it just felt that way and River was only beginning to understand why. At least with Lady as with her brother, River was able to handle that kind of intimacy towards her psyche because she knew that there was no malice inside of either of them. But with Lady, River was becoming aware of a different sensation. With her brother, River had to deal with his love as well as his frustration, his concern along with his impatience, his caring along with his worry. At the same time, there were bits and pieces of their sibling relationship remaining—pieces that made River; the younger but smarter little sister want to tease, taunt and rebel against her brother regardless of her love, concern and caring for him and his for her.

Lady was something else and as had been said, River was only now starting to understand the mechanics of it. With both her actions and desires, River had repeatedly run smack into/rebounded off of the solid wall of experience/responsibility/dedication/drive that lived at the core of Lady beyond the memories that were misplaced. All of those together had merged into something River had never truly experienced before. Prior to the Academy, River had been use to wrapping her parents, her brother and anyone else she came across around her little finger with little effort. Her own self integrity brought on by her knowledge of just how special she was had managed to keep her from becoming an incorrigible brat but that hadn't meant that she wouldn't do whatever she could to make sure she always got her own way because—well—she was special!

With Lady, all attempts at that had utterly failed. River had come to the realization that any give or concession that Lady granted to her wishes or complaints came only after deep, searching consideration on Lady's part and those that were not granted never would be unless she could mount against Lady a compelling and convincing counter argument—if even then. Through these...events, River had managed to get 'glimpses' at the depth of Lady—and it both awed and frightened her. At the current moment, the fact that Lady had aggressively confronted and purposely gone after Captain Reynolds with no holds barred in-his-face ferocity while at the same time actively anticipating and/or consciously encouraging having the Captain to physically beat her to achieve a balance of power between two Alpha Dogs given Captain Reynolds own well-known ferocity; that Lady would voluntarily invite such injury to her own person to accomplish a stated goal showed a ruthlessness and a self-confidence that left the girl breathless. That was what River had thought 'remarkable'.

River longed for that self-confidence—

And hoped that she would never have to be that ruthless—with anyone else but those who deserved it.

But at the moment River dipped her head in acknowledgement to the correction given to her by Lady. She then glanced up at her brother as she read within him his dislike that she was obeying Lady rather than him. The 'little sister' in her caused her to gave him just the smallest bit of an evil smirk.

Simon glared back at his sister for a moment before looking down at Lady, "is this what you wanted to have everyone here for?" he asked is a very…neutral tone.

"Yes," Lady replied.

"Then if that is all," he announced in a long-suffering tone, "I would like to finish without an audience."

With that, he shooed his sister and the rest of them out of the Infirmary, closing the doors against any listening—hoping that his sister didn't hang around close enough to 'read' what he was about to do—

Simon came back to the exam table with a cold pack which he lay down over Lady's closed eye—

"Just what is going on between you and my sister?"

Simon's tone couldn't have been more 'normal' but—

"Nothing that you need to worry about Doctor," Lady replied evenly. "She is curious about my issues and has provided some help in clarifying some hazy memories that she was able to read." Lady's good eye which had been closed when he'd placed the cold pack opened, looking up at him with a steady gaze. "It goes without saying from everything I've heard about from all aboard as well as my own observations of the two of you that I would be mad if I attempted to interpose myself between you and her. I may be strange and unusual Doctor but I'm not crazy. I am well aware of what could happen if you think I am a threat to her or to your relationship with her."

He was less than convinced. "Then why—what's this 'little one' thing and why does she react to you the way she does?"

"You're her brother," Lady said that as if it was a 'duh'. "Also—if I may be so humble—I probably have more than a little bit of experience dealing with marginalized persons than you have outside of an emergency room. Also, because she can 'see' so deeply into me due to my present condition there's an…honesty between us that unfortunately goes beyond your sibling bond Doctor." Lady's eye narrowed, "that's not meant as an insult to your relationship with her Doctor. It's just a simple statement of fact and I would hope that you are mature enough to deal with it."

Simon's eyes had gone cold and distant. "I might be able to deal with it if I knew just what you are, but I don't. And everything I've speculated on could—in one way or another—spell trouble for me, her or us. If I can't trust you, why should I allow you to get close to my sister?"

"Given that statement," was Lady's very neutral reply, "why haven't you tried to keep us apart before this? If you fear me, why haven't you warned River away from me?"

"I just might have to do that—"

Lady's eye narrowed further. She considered for a moment—

"Doctor," her tone had gone just a degree cooler, "I've just been through what could lightly be described as a 'battle royal' with the Captain over our different ways of doing things. I really don't feel like getting into another war at the moment and I really don't think you wish to see me as the Captain saw me a short time ago—a very angry woman. It may be difficult for you to do so but given the last couple of months you are way beyond even being able to realistically stop any relationship between your sister and myself. And the two of us getting into a 'pissing contest' over it is at the moment a very bad idea as well."

Simon came completely upright in reaction to that statement—but he didn't back up and his expression didn't back off.

Lady went on in the same level tone. "As I said a moment ago, I have no intention of coming between you and River—but at the same time I have no intention of holding River away from me if she comes to me—which she has. We've talked quite a bit and there are things within me that she is curious about. Being that it is not possible for me to shield the things she senses—the things she can 'read' within me—anymore than you or anybody else on board can shield themselves, I have been answering her questions as truthfully as I can."

"Questions about what?"

Lady waited a moment before, "I do believe that that is between the young lady and myself."

Simon swelled visibly but before he could open his mouth—

"Spare me Doctor!" she snapped at him, clearly becoming annoyed. "Yes, you are her brother. You are also her Doctor and her Guardian but you are NOT her mother!"

"And what makes you—" Simon started.

"I said spare me Doctor!"

Now Simon took a half step back for the look in Lady's one good eye and turned—black.

Then the eye closed. It looked to Simon as if Lady was trying to keep her temper under control—

Which he was all for considering was Mal had looked like.

"Yes Doctor Tam—" Lady's tone was tight and clipped, "to anticipate your next broadside, I am not a doctor! But while I may not have managed to graduate from medical school, something tells me that I have graduated from not one but several military academies—apparently with honors if my impressions are right—so once again I will submit to you that I am not stupid." Her eye came open with a hot gaze that pinned him solid. "At the same time Doctor, I also apparently am a career combat veteran who has been both a senior enlisted man and an officer who has had extensive training and experience in dealing with wounded, crippled and damaged soldiers and YES you sister is damaged! Considering that, do you think that I would do something as asinine as—"

"That's the problem," he snapped back at her. "Regardless of anything you say—none of which you can prove—the fact of the matter is that I don't know what you are—"

"Don't you trust your sister?"

That stopped Simon cold.

"Well—yes—but—" he stammered as he tried to get his mental feet under him.

"I think that it would suffice to say," Lady seemed to be saying for him, "that you would trust her within limits. Those limits being whatever you feel regarding as to whether she is lucid about a subject or not."

After a moment Simon had to nod that that. But—

"But," he continued verbally, "that lucidity is also subject to the condition; is she truly lucid or is it a dream or hallucination that seems lucid; is lucid to her but may not be to anyone else."

Lady's eye narrowed. After a moment she nodded, "okay, I'll have to admit that you have me on that one. But I have to ask you, did you notice your sister during the discussion? The part dealing with my voluntary mutation?"

Now it was Simon's turn to narrow his eyes. "No, I'll admit that I didn't notice anything."

Lady snorted at that thinking is this another case of someone who can't see or simply won't see something they don't want to see.

"I would submit to you Doctor that you need to step back and look to see if there are moments when your sister seems exceptionally normal and when and how those moments are triggered." She noted his skeptical/guarded look which made her decide not to hold the other stroke back. "I would also submit to you Doctor that you also need to look into the possibility that as far as your sister is concerned—you can't see the forest for the trees. Because you are her brother and guardian in addition to her doctor. You are too close to this 'patient' Simon Tam and it is blinding you to some things which are there to be seen."

An angry glint came to Simon's eyes. But he took a very long moment as if considering—

"You know," he told Lady in a very cool, very neutral tone, "I would almost expect someone who is trying to drive a wedge between me and my sister to say something like that." He turned and kind of sauntered around the exam table as he talked. "I'm sure the scenario is well known in the vids and e-novels. Infiltrate, gain everyone's confidence, then slowly start to separate the target from its support network—

"But you don't believe that's what's happening here," Lady replied in an equally neutral tone as her eye was once again on the ceiling. "Because if you had, you wouldn't be spinning this 'scenario' to me. In fact, I'd probably already be staring at that handgun you've got stuck under the sterilizer on the counter if you thought that was really happening."

Simon was startled that she knew about the gun—then felt himself the fool. Of course she knew about it just as she had known about every other hidden weapon on board before she had gone after Reynolds. He was glad he wasn't facing her so he tried to cover his agitation over the moment by snorting and saying, "you don't pull a bluff worth a gorram—"

"I don't 'bluff' at all—"

Simon turned to meet her one good eye which was now looking at him. There he saw the truth in those words...and he involuntarily shivered at the steel and cold resolve that existed behind them. In another attempt to hide his discomfort he snorted again saying, "must make you a poor poker player."

A hint of a smile touched one corner of Lady's mouth; it was belied by the continuing hard look in her eye. "For poker I trust to luck. For everything else I trust my abilities, my wits, my friends and most importantly my family—now that I remember that I have one."

Simon watched her for another moment before, "so you're saying that I should trust my family—that being River. And because she trusts you to talk about things that she won't talk to me about—I should trust you?"

Lady held his eyes steady with her one, "I would hope that you would. And as a part of that trust, I will promise to you that I will pass along anything that I discover within your sister or am told by her that I righteously believe that River's Doctor or Guardian should know about."

Simon processed this a moment, then he looked at her with what could only be an 'unfriendly eye', "but if you think that it's something that I should know as her brother, you would withhold it from me."

"Without hesitation" she said firmly.

Simon considered this a moment before—

"I would grant you," he told her in a tight tone, "that you would probably be able to recognize what 'the Doctor' would have to know. But—how would you decide what is Guardian and what is Brother? What experience do you have—"

"I was raised," Lady told him in an authoritative tone, "in a martial clan Doctor that trained its young people by totally immersing them in the martial life at age eight. Both sexes living and working together with all the accompanying growth, social interaction and conflict—good and bad—that such a situation could possibly create. Although I lost my own older brother and sister very early in my life, I had growing up literally tens of 'brothers' and 'sisters' to interact with. I know how the dynamic works. And as our instructors had to keep a very close eye on such an unruly lot, I also saw elite expert Guardians at work." She waited a moment before she added, "remember Doctor, I said a martial clan. WE were children growing up into teenagers—meaning that toward the end of our training we were going through puberty with everything that implies considering both sexes were living together in the same small camp—who had live functioning lethal weapons in our personal possession as well as deadly physical combat skills—our Guardians HAD to know what they were doing."

For a moment a host of expressions crossed Simon's face as he processed each part of this burst of information. Considering his own life and upbringing, he was having a hard time even partially conceptualizing what she was telling him which forced him to voice the only part of it that made any sense to him, "you lost a brother and sister?"

"Both were killed in an assassination attempt aimed at our father. As I was only three and had spent my first two years on my mother's homeworld I barely knew them—"

"I'm sorry," Simon told her with a sudden awkward bow even as he tried to get his mental feet going again.

Lady waved one hand at him, "ancient history Doctor." She snorted, "although I suppose that I shouldn't complain as that is a memory that has returned that isn't a nightmare." She then turned her head to look at him with her one eye. "So what's it to be Doctor. As the Captain just found out, I can be exceptionally—well I suppose the word stubborn would be appropriate—about things that I believe in. And I believe in your sister and I also believe that the 'brother' in you might be stifling some aspects of her personality. I would think—all things considered—that if I am what I think I am, that I might be better qualified to deal with some of the aspects of her damage than you are."

Simon's eyes got hard again. She saw this, closed her eye, brought her head back upright—

"Fine," she stated in a tired voice. "What-the fuck-ever Doctor. Have it your way. Don't ever say that I didn't at least offer to help."

Simon kind of 'jerked' at her profanity. But that didn't stop him from feeling a certain satisfaction.

"I'm only doing what I think is best for my sister," he told Lady with as 'rock certain' a tone he could manage. "Not that I appreciate your concern—but she needs to be handled by a professional."

Not that you are one he said to himself. At least not a mental health one. But I will not place any part of River's well being in anybody else's hands.

"So—I trust that you'll stop talking to River—"

With biting force she responded, "as I AM a Professional with FIFTY years of experience I don't intend to stop talking to your sister Doctor. No more than you can possibly think that River won't continue to 'read' things within me and try to make sense of them." Lady's head then snapped over fixing him with a glare. "Maybe that's what you should be doing River Tam's Doctor and Guardian; stop ignoring that your sister is a reader and help her deal with it. At least help her interpret some of what it is that she senses."

Simon shook his head in confusion. "What do you mean? How can I help her interpret—"

Despite the fact that she didn't move from the exam table, Lady's look/tone was right in Simon's face. "I heard the story about that village which captured the two of you and what happened with they wanted to burn your sister 'the witch'. I understand the gist of what it is that she said to them that led them to believe that she was a 'witch'. Lady's eye turned accusing. "Did you ever sit down with River and talk over the validity and probably meanings of what she 'read' in that village elder—how he became the head elder because he probably murdered the previous one? Did you ever walk her through the incident—you can't tell me that your ER Staff and emergency medical responders don't 'debrief' when a major cluster happens—which was probably as raw and confusing to her as anything she had experienced at that point? Did you ever help her try to make sense of it? Did you every attempt to help her understand what happened?"

Lady's eye grew narrower. Simon had a sudden flashback to a very angry University Professor—his mentor—after the one and only time he had totally and unnecessarily screwed something up; that was the look in Lady's eye. "Did you ever attempt to show her just how dangerous that entire event was because she couldn't/didn't censor her words leading the villagers to accuse her of being a witch—or did you just wrap the blankets of cotton back around her, making like it never happened and walked her away from it all without looking back?" Her look got even more accusing as she added, "AND did you ever try to go deeper with her in as far as what happened on that criminal's space platform when she killed the three men without having to look at them? Did you even TALK to her about it or any other incident she's experienced or is all of it just something that you hope will go away if you just completely ignore it?"

Simon was seething. It took him a moment to be able to ask, "who told you—?"

Lady gave him a grim smile. "As the lot of you discuss every little bit about me, let's just say that I'm equally good at ferreting out the odd piece of information. And considering my relationship with your sister and the fact that I really am trying to help her, I have been extremely curious about her history and how she interacts with the world at large."

Simon closed his eyes, fighting to control his anger, reaching up to pinch the bridge of his nose. Kaylee and Inara and Book and probably Wash and maybe Zoe—all of them—

Does that mean that I have to tell River she can't talk anybody on board?

Simon wasn't stupid. He could easily see the morass this was headed towards—

Forcing him to—at the moment—put a brake on his temper; acknowledge that the woman at on the exam table seemed poised to do things that would be difficult for him to counter without him taking his sister completely off of the boat—

As much as he had always longed to do that he also recognized how impossible it was.

That fact didn't change the way he was feeling at the moment. He was more than angry inside—but after all the months on board Serenity dealing with all the less than savory persons aboard her as well as the...interesting individuals they encountered in their travels—he had at least learned when to appear to back down—

He didn't want too—but at the same time—inside of himself there was a part of his mind/ego that recoiled from her words. He had somewhat admitted to himself in the months since the revelation which forced him to confront the possibility of his sister being psychic that it was something he really didn't want to deal with. Was he now going to pay the consequence for that refusal?

Another reason to back down. He couldn't deal with this at the moment. He'd have to find time to maybe think it out—

Maybe—

Simon shook his head, dropping his hand and opening up his eyes. "What did the Shepherd call you? A strange and unusual woman?"

"I think that is a given," was Lady's cool reply.

Simon waited a minute more before, thinking intently, trying to find a way which would give him the best chance to win this one or at least reach a draw in his favor. Finally, when no brilliant sparks of thought came to him, he had to settle on, "will you really tell me if there's something I need to know about?"

Lady gave him a very firm 'eye'. "You have my word Simon Tam."

He waited another moment before asking, "so, taking into account your...stubbornness which I assume means that you are not going to change from how you intend to deal with this, I guess that I'm going to have to agree to those terms at this time." He paused for a moment, the look on his face accenting the 'at this time' part. He then took a deep breath, "so—as a test of this new little agreement between the three of us—can you tell me if there is anything that you've discovered or have been told about my sister that you think Rivers Doctor or Guardian needs to know about?" At this point, if he could gain any information or insight about his sister that he could even marginally ponder, then he might be able to consider the whole incident a draw.

She gave him a very pointed look. "Only that River is smarter that you think she is even in her less-than-lucid periods. Did you ever consider that your last attempt at new medication failed because she took active steps to combat what she felt were its negative side effects?"

Simon was rooted in place, jaw hanging open—


Wash was finishing putting all of the cleaning supplies away when the airlock hatch at the forward end of the Cargo Bay suddenly groaned, coming open. He went about completing his task as there could only be one possibility as to who would be returning so late to the boat. Not that the information filled him with any sort of 'joy and gaiety'.

After the barely conscious form of Lady had been taken away, Wash had spent a considerable amount of time and effort in cleaning up the mess on his Bridge. He'd been surprised when his wife poked her head in though the hatch to announce that a dinner had been thrown together and he should come to get his share. During the meal he (and finally Kaylee) had been brought up to speed on all the various facets of what he could only think of as a 'really weird day'—perhaps the weirdest he could remember since signing aboard Serenity—which in and of itself was saying something.

Zoe had done most of the talking with Kaylee asking most of the questions. Lady had been absent of course as had Mal and Jayne (and Inara). Of the rest, Simon had been a little too quiet in Wash opinion. In fact he had spent most of the meal apparently trying not to look at his sister which had caused her to spend most of the time staring back at him. Book had only spoken when he thought some kind of clarification had been needed.

Now with it late and everyone else gone off to their separate quarters Wash worked at getting everything properly put away. With the movement of the hatch he was suddenly being more careful that usual for he was now stalling for time because he wanted to look 'busy' so the two men who staggered through the now open airlock door weren't tempted to come talk to him. With his peripheral vision, Wash could tell that Jayne was thoroughly drunk where Mal only looked 'somewhat'.

Not that Wash would normally 'care', but the idea of Mal going off because Jayne wanted to 'celebrate' Mal's 'trashing' of Lady had left him with a sour taste in his mouth. The fact that Lady had told those in the Infirmary that the whole thing had been planned that way by her left the Pilot with an even bigger case of indigestion. All in all it left him counting the minutes until he and his wife locked themselves up tight in their cabin at which time he intended to wrap himself up tightly around her and not let go.

Out of the side of his eyes, Wash saw the two of them talk for a moment before Jayne, slapped Mal hard enough on the back to cause Serenity's Captain to stumble slightly. The Merc then headed over to the ladder heading up into the forward companionway where hopefully he would head for him bunk.

Wash grimaced slightly when the Captain did not follow suit but turned and walked toward the back of the Cargo Bay as well as a certain Mr. Washburne.

Now Wash tried to hurry without making it too obvious—but it was also obvious to him that he was trapped in his own trap to which he might as well just surrender gracefully. Hopefully he would just have to nod to Mal as Serenity's Captain went on past him back into the Lounge. Maybe he's just going to the Infirmary to get a pain pill was the Pilot's semi-pleading thought.

"Hey—" Mal said in greeting as he walked up.

So much for hope Wash thought. He nodded a reply to the greeting as he worked at getting the last of the cleaning stuff stowed away.

Mal stood as if patiently waiting while Wash did so. Wash noted that the injured side of his face looked like hell but that he was apparently dealing with any pain from it.

The Pilot finally closed the locker door, turning to face with Captain with a look of expectation.

Mal's face was level and serious.

As was his voice, "is everything okay on board?"

Wash raised an eyebrow. "Isn't that something you should be asking my wife?"

Mal had the good sense to look a little uncomfortable. "I'm not quite ready to get my skin stripped off by Zoe—I've had a bad enough day as it is."

Wash considered this a moment then nodded in understanding. "Are you okay?" the Pilot asked.

Mal nodded even as he looked away with something akin to embarrassment. "Thanks for askin," he said. He then looked back at Wash, the prior asked question still in his eyes.

The Pilot shrugged. "Everyone's as well as can be expected." He hesitated, not sure if Mal would really want to know about—

"Lady's—okay?" Serenity's Captain asked. Wash could see a multitude of thoughts running behinds Mal's eyes.

"The Doc says she'll be fine."

Mal nodded at this.

He then stood there—

And continued to stand—

All the while most definitely not looking at Wash—

Who finally had no choice but to ask—

"Something the matter?"

Mal took a deep breath—

"Kinda hard to ask." He then looked up at the Pilot. "Need your opinion on somethin."

Wash felt more than a little worried about that. Despite little incidents like being mutually tortured by Niska, Mal and he had never really spent much time one-on-one discussing 'opinions' on any subject except something having to do with the ship. Not that Wash was afraid of offering his opinion during a gathering of the whole crew but he knew Mal really didn't share his feelings with too many other people other than his wife. He also recognized that despite what had happened with Niska, that he was still far out in left field as far as having level ground to base any closer personal relationship with Serenity's Captain. With that in mind, he again he said, "wouldn't it be better to ask Zoe? I mean—"

Mal waved that off with a hand. "Look, I know we normally don't…do things like this but—" with that his eyes were on the Pilot, the look was very 'honest'. "As I said, your wife is more'n probably not very happy with me right now. I also don't need a sermon from the Shepherd or a lecture from the Doctor."

Wash couldn't help but snort with amusement. "So I'm all that's left?"

Mal nodded, "seems so."

Wash took a deep breath of his own, "okay. In that case; what can I do for you?"

Mal's eyes dropped again—a long moment passed—then his eyes came back up—

"Do I kick Lady offa the boat?"

Both of Wash's eyebrows went up. But he didn't reply—at least not yet.

Mal's eyes had gone back down, the tone of his voice was angry, confused, unsure, "Jayne was harpin on it real hard—course he would considerin the bad blood between them—and more than a part of me agrees 'cause of what she done to me." Mal stopped there; Wash was startled to see—to be able to see the emotions behind Mal's eyes—something he had not often seen in the Captain in the way he was seeing them now.

Wash considered this. Given his own feeling from a moment before he could probably count on one hand with five fingers left over the number of times that he and Mal had had prior discussion like this. But again, Wash knew that when it came to the many 'group' discussions among those aboard Serenity that his role had often been 'the only sane man' of the group—the one who would keep things calm and talk caution when something crazy was being planned. So he could only assume that Mal was interested in his 'cautious' view of the dilemma that was Lady.

So, in a 'cautious' tone, he stated, "I'm not gonna ask just what it was that she did. But given what Zoe said in the Dining Area at dinner, I'd guess that as far as Lady is concerned, you did somethin to her and she…replied in kind." Wash waited a beat, looking for a reaction from Mal regarding that statement; when he didn't get one he asked, "did or did not the two of you reach an understanding when you were on the Bridge? Is it still festering… for either or the both of you or is it done?"

Mal looked…unhappy but he grunted, "it's done. Neither of us is happy but—" he left it at that.

Wash snorted. "So then I guess that's your answer."

Mal looked at the Pilot, clearly not getting what Wash had just said.

Wash smiled. "Look, as far as I know, just the fact that you're dithering about this is your answer. As long as I've known you Mal, something you don't do is 'dither' when it comes to deciding how to do things. When you do…it's cause you know what it is that you want, but you're not sure if you should, because for one thing or another you can't be certain what would really happen even though you're pretty certain of what that would be." Wash made a gesture with his hands talking in the ship and those aboard it. "You don't worry about yourself but you do about the rest of us and you don't want us to 'have to take a chance' on something you're not absolutely positive about—which is stupid considering that most of the time we're doing so anyway based on whatever it was that you did to get us into some crazy situation in the first place."

Mal considered this for a moment before looking at Wash with a less-than-happy face, "meanin that I already screwed things up when I took Lady on board in the first place."

Wash shook his head. "That's not what I'm saying. What I'm saying is that you did something before—right or wrong—but most likely right, and now your second guessing it because it's not what you originally thought it was." Wash stopped for a moment, weighing several thoughts before, "Mal, it's really really obvious that you and Lady butted heads harder than anyone else you've done that with since I've known you. But considering who and what Lady is—or at least probably is, a Captain or Commander with lots and lots of experience in somebody's military—what did you expect? It would be impossible for you two not to come into conflict at some point—" Wash hesitated at this moment before adding—

"Don't get mad at me for this Mal, but you've got to understand that you're not the…easiest man to deal with sometimes and that there are things that you do—I guess the best word would be instinctively—with people…like lying or at least not telling the truth about something those people might consider important." Wash waited a beat taking in the glare that Mal was giving him before adding, "I know that you've done that to a whole bunch of people Mal—Badger is more than a good example not that I really give a rat about him but you know that it's come back around to bite you more than once. Now replace the picture of Badger with Lady; he's a business man who might have to suck something up at the moment but will come around and shove the knife in your back sometime later. She's a woman who seems to breathe the fact that she doesn't take any goe se from anyone, not now, not ever and where do you end up?"

"You're not answerin the question," Mal growled.

Wash raised an eyebrow, "I think I am."

Mal continued to glower at the Pilot. Finally Wash shrugged. "Mal, you're an irresistible force that encountered Lady's immovable object. That's…upset you since you're use to getting your own way most of the time. Whatever she did to you it was in response to something you did to her and I'm guessing that neither of you could be a poster child for measured restraint in the best of circumstances."

Wash then squared his shoulders looking straight at Mal. "Regardless, the fact that Lady's still on board—that you haven't already kicked her off—makes it clear that you don't intend too." Wash shook his head as if in wonder, "In all my time knowing you Mal I've never known you not to make a decision on something right then if it was something that needed deciding on. The fact that you haven't means to me that you're not going to kick Lady off but it also means that you're angry and grumpy and maybe embarrassed that she got you as well as she did—"

"Wash—" Mal started in a dangerous tone.

"Am I lying?" he asked waving his arms about in emphasis.

The glare was back in Mal's eyes but he didn't say anything.

Wash just returned to look without saying anything more.

So they just stood there looking at each other for long moment—

Wash sighed before saying, "let me try it this way."

Mal continued to look at him.

Wash looked right back. "Why is Jayne still on board?"

Mal blinked. "What?"

Wash looked very serious. "Why is a big, ugly mercenary who turned on his last crew for something as cheap and simple as his own bunk and cabin for God's sake—who has never made it a secret that he'll be gone just as soon as a 'better' offer come along—why is it that you keep him on?"

Mal opened his mouth—

Nothing came out of it.

"Let's not add," Wash went on, "that if Dobson had made a better offer that we might all be dead or in prison right now. Let's not add that all the rest of us know that something happened when Jayne took Simon and River into the hospital on Ariel even if we don't know what that something was. Maybe Jayne got another offer and turned it down—which would be mighty nice of him—or maybe he just didn't have a chance to carry it through."

Wash's look now got very hard. "All I know is that when I took off from Ariel, the ramp didn't come up, it stayed down with that big amber warning light glaring on my panel. Like any good pilot, I would want to know why before doing anything rash like closing the ramp by remote and as the monitoring camera just happened to be working that time, I got an eyeful of Jayne hanging on for dear life out there while talkin to someone through the window."

Mal's glare was back but he said nothing.

"Now," Wash went on calmly, "from what I know, something hit Jayne in the back of his head cause that night the Doc had to stitch him up back there so maybe he was just delirious or something and locked himself out there." Wash smiled, "but someone let him back in—and he's been real quiet about taking any better deals recently."

Mal looked away.

Which didn't stop Wash for a moment. "Even if Jayne has gotten comfortable about being here, even if he likes us all now and really doesn't think about moving on or getting a better deal—you can't think for a second that if someone in the Feds or even one of the big companies—if they really made him a big offer or if he got caught at some point and it looked like it was gonna be his death unless he could roll over like a big dog—"

Wash waited a beat before, "I can understand why you invited him over in the first place; him and his buddies had you and Zoe cold. You needed to get him or any one of them over to our side in order to get outta that scrape." Wash's look turned cold. "But you know as well as I do that there are others out here, other Ship Captains, that would do the same thing to get out of a tight spot and as soon as Jayne's guard was down they'd abandon him in a port somewhere."

Wash snorted and continued with, "after what almost happened with Dobson, you and I both know other Captains who wouldn't take any chances with their safety or security; at the first chance they'd put Jayne back out on that ramp and left him there!"

Mal growled angrily. "I don't do that!"

Wash raised one eyebrow. "I know you don't. And that's why you aren't dumping Lady."

Mal stared at his Pilot.

Wash snorted again. "None of us know what it is that Lady did to you Mal. But we know it was personal. And we all know how you deal with 'personal'." Wash waited a moment before, "Whatever it was ticked you off Mal. But that's not what's causing your problem."

Mal let his look ask the question.

Wash gave him a grim smile. "You are—how Kaylee puts it—scary in certain ways for each of us on board. For Kaylee it's your temper. For the Doctor it's how you'll do anything to keep flying regardless of what it might do to him or his sister. For the Shepherd—other than his fear for your eternal soul—it's how you'll do anything to yourself to keep flying. Jayne knows you can kick his behind from here to the Andromeda galaxy. You scare me because some of my flying doesn't scare you—in fact you make suggestions for things that aren't physically possible and I scare me because I do those things for you. We all know that despite his bluster, Badger is terrified of you and that's why he's such an ass—that and he knows you drive a hard bargain."

Mal's glare was harder, "just what's the point of all this?"

Wash gave him a real smile. "Because simply put, Lady is not nor is she ever going to be scared of you—and that bothers you—your ego or something."

Mal just stared for a moment. "You're serious?"

Wash just looked at him.

Mal shook his head tiredly.

"You've met your match Mal" Wash told him with a slight smirk. "And as I said, that bothers you. It just might be that bruised ego which is keeping you from making that instant decisive decision about Lady that you normally would—just like the decision you made to take Lady aboard when we found her in the pod."

"I wanted to leave her! I was about to shoot her!" Mal hollered!

Wash's look was grim again. "If you had really wanted too, you'd of done it. In front of the Shepherd, in front of the Doctor, in front of Kaylee, you'd of shot her dead—unconscious, helpless and all—if you really thought you had to do it to keep flying." The smile returned to the Pilots face. "You didn't do that. But what you did do was after Lady woke up, you invited her to become a member of your crew. Just like you invited Jayne, just like you invited Simon and River despite all the problems she had including stabbing Jayne. You took Lady in—and when you take someone in Captain Reynolds you don't kick them out unless they actually manage to betray you and even then you would wait until you were positive with proof and it wasn't just a mistake or a setup on somebody's else's part. That's why you haven't kicked out Jayne even though he's a potential threat that could stab any and all of us in the back without warning. That's why you haven't kicked out Simon and River even though the whole humping Alliance is looking for them. And that's why you don't want to kick Lady off."

The smile left Wash's face and his look was understanding. "But you're hesitating because your mad and maybe embarrassed (Mal was glaring again). Jayne, Simon and River involve general threats that would come at us from outside of the boat. Lady is different; she did something personal to you, got through your armor (the glare got worse)—"

Wash held up a warding hand. "Tell me I'm wrong then. The point is that she got you and I guess you got her and the both of you are sore about it but if my guess is right part of the reason you're so mad about it is that it was so easy for her to get you however she did it and she did it in a way where she was the one calling the shots and running the show." He waved his arms around again. "Hell, Mal, she ran the show with the rest of us dancing to her tune in getting us to do the 'death' thing. But to us it's just another example of how good she is with everything she does even if it also shows that she can be as ruthless as hell along with being dangerous—"

Wash then gave Mal a hard look. "You know that the same can be said for you. So I guess the rest of us can say that we all are used to living with someone like that so we're not really bent out of shape over it. But because you two seem so alike regarding 'ruthless' and 'dangerous', what happened bent you ego—"

"Enough—" Mal growled.

Which completely confirmed to Wash that his guesses had been right.

"The point is," Wash went on undeterred, "is that with Lady what's going on is personal whereas it's not with Jayne and the Tam's. And that's where you're having a problem because you know your thinking about kicking her off it's only because your angry and you really don't want to do it that way."

Mal stood and steamed for a minute. Wash gave him that minute before—

"None of us know and the fact is that none of us care what happened between you two other than the fact that we're worried about you both. As I said before, we know how you take personal and it seems as if Lady's the same way. But you told me a minute ago that it's done between the two of you even if there's still hard feelings. I think that means that you two will get beyond it given time. I mean if Lady was willing to do what she did, let herself get hurt like that just to buffalo Jayne—"

"She told you that?" Mal asked, wonder on his face.

Wash's face fell, "oopps!"

A long quiet moment passed with far too many thoughts to count crossing Mal's face. Finally he blew out a tired breath looking away from the Pilot. A moment later he muttered, "whatever." His eyes then slid to give Wash a sideways look, "I'm not sure that I'm even close with agreein with what you're sayin but it's the least I can do to say thanks for listenin."

Wash simply nodded, his face still red from his gaff.

Mal then took a another deep breath before saying, "well, I best get some sleep." He turned around to head to the main gangway. "It's been a hell of a day."

Wash snorted. "I guess you could say that."

Mal stopped, looking back over his shoulder, a bewildered look on his face. "You don't know the half of it," he told the Pilot. "Jayne wanted to buy me a whole round of drinks for takin care of Lady but he had to ask for his pay from me before he could do it."

Don't make a sound Wash—DO NOT LAUGH!

"Yeah, that'd be hard," is what the Pilot managed to say.

Mal waved a hand in acknowledgement as he headed toward the gangway.


A/N: Wanted to say sorry about the delay in getting this chapter up but I was on vacation for a period of time visiting the lovely (and wet) Pacific Northwest where my wife and I Lewis & Clarked ourselves to death. But while there a couple of changes to this chapter which suggested themselves to me while up there and as I do not log into public Wi-Fi's, the changes to this chapter and its subsequent posting had to wait until I got home. So I hope that all who read enjoy.

Only two chapters left after this one to Book One. As it winds down I would hope that a few of you might give me some opinions as to how it is going. Any input would be appreciated.

Until Then

I Will Remain

Your Humble and Devoted Servant

The Wise Duck