Secrets of Serenity
By Michael Weyer
It was hardly the first time Mal Reynolds had awoken naked in a strange bed. It wasn't the first time for Richard Castle either. And to have a naked woman next to him was hardly the rarest sensation either. But this…was different. As his eyes focused on the gorgeous face of Kate Beckett sleeping next to him, Mal felt an amazing sense of peace come over him. He propped himself up to study her, how serene she looked, her brown hair falling loosely about her face. He slowly pulled the cover down to admire that toned body, still in great shape after all this time. Mal rubbed a hand down her back, causing Kate to stir with a sigh.
"Morning," she murmured as her eyes opened. "It is morning, right?"
"It is," Mal confirmed as he looked her down. His fingers trailed over her spine, frowning at a scar at her back. "That new?"
"Took a knife during a grab gone bad a few years back," Kate answered. She was looking at him, seeing his own scars. "Damn. You have been busy?"
"Comes with the territory," Mal remarked. He showed her his side. "Took a bad shrapnel wound in my first tour, had to get a whole nerve cluster moved."
"Ouch," she intoned. She suddenly giggled. "Oh, God, listen to us. I remember you running around with that stupid vest with 'WRITER' on the front."
Mal smiled. "Yeah, things change." It faded softly. "Lots of things."
Kate propped herself up on an arm. "Regrets?"
"Don't know about regrets. A few times the universe acted inconveniently."
Beckett sighed. "Don't be going maudlin on me again, Castle. It really doesn't suit you."
"My style of suits has changed considerably."
"I can tell," she replied. "You a smuggler...That is an odd choice…"
"Life happens. Who knows, maybe I got a soldier spirit in me from somewhere in my family."
"You as a pirate….Oddly, that kinda makes sense." She smiled. "You with that crew of yours…Soldiers, mercenary, whatever that kid River is and a Companion…"
Mal raised an eyebrow. "That a jealous streak I hear in your voice?"
"Just curious. Still my nature."
"Just business with us. And not the kind what she takes part in."
Mal grinned. "I'll be damned…You are jealous!"
"I am not!"
"We are naked in bed together after a night of passion where, if I may toot my own horn, I was damn good and you're jealous of Inara!"
"I am not jealous, Castle!"
"You are! Damn, who would have-"
They both felt it at once, the sixth sense imbued by years of combat coming to both of them. Beckett was rolling off the bed, grabbing her gun belt and pulling her weapon out as Mal kicked the covers back, grabbing a pair of pants to slide on. He'd just done so as the door burst open and a pair of men in dark suits and bearing large guns stormed in. Beckett was already firing her weapon, the bullets cutting down one man. Mal grabbed at the other, punching him in the face twice and then a knee to his gut. He grabbed the man's gun, firing a bullet through him and tossing him back, firing another bullet at his body for good measure."
"A bit of overkill there?" Beckett demanded.
"No such thing as overkill. Underkill and just enough kill." He paused to see her and then chuckled. "And you mocked me for that bit of you in Heat Wave."
Realizing she was stark naked with a gun, Beckett rolled her eyes before quickly grabbing her pants. Castle threw on his own boots and shirt as they heard the sound of boots racing up stairs. "Got more!" he yelled out.
Beckett had gotten herself dressed except for shoes as she slung her gun belt around her waist and checked her ammo. "Stairs are too tight," she noted.
"Get creative then." With that, Mal moved to the nearby window, shoving it open. He glanced about before leaping onto the metal catwalk just underneath. Beckett was right behind him, gun in one hand, boots in the other. Glancing down, Mal pulled back. "Watch it!" he yelled as a burst of gunfire ripped up from below, sparks flying around them. Beckett fired a few rounds at the men below to scatter them. "Up!" Mal yelled as he climbed up the ladder leading toward the roof, Beckett right behind him.
They paused on the roof, surveying their surroundings. "Boat's just a few buildings down," Mal said, nodding toward the docking bay not far off. "Cut over the roofs, get there fast."
Beckett nodded as they quickly moved, she pulling on her shoes, he his coat, both checking their guns, making sure their ammo was set. Then, impulsively, Mal pulled her into a long wet kiss that she returned. They broke apart as Beckett took a running start before leaping off the rooftop, landing on the adjourning roof, rolling to her feet. She had her gun up as Mal raced after her, firing a few rounds past him at the gunmen coming to the roof behind him. He landed next to her, whirling to shoot his own gun off, catching one man and pushing the rest back. They continued to run, making their way to the ship ahead of the strange pursuers.
The interior of the kitchen was quiet for this morning, the Rani sipping her coffee as she examined the papers before her. She supposed it was "old school" to borrow an Earth term but she rather preferred paper at times to solve a puzzle and this was a key one. Images of River's brain covered one paper, another filled with various equations that would take a high level Earth genius months to even begin to understand. The Rani scribbled away as she examined the readings she'd taken, circling a piece of cloud in one lobe.
"Interesting reading." She glanced up to see Book enter, the man as impeccable as ever as he came into the kitchen.
"Nothing of your interest," the Rani stated.
"On the contrary," Book said. "If it concerns River, it is my interest." He stepped forward, his eyes harder. "If that girl is hurt because of you…I will not be happy."
The Rani met his gaze with amusement. "Doesn't your Bible look down upon violence?"
"Specific on no killing but a little fuzzy on the area of shooting them in the kneecaps."
"Hmmm," the Rani sipped her coffee. "Tell me, just how long were you with the Alliance?"
To his credit, Book didn't deny it or appear too shocked. "Long enough."
"No. High-ranking spy for the Browncoats. Sadly, it didn't quite work as well as I'd hoped."
"Soldier to a man of God. Rather a cliché."
"You don't believe in God, I take it?"
"Religion, my dear sir, has caused more sheer destruction and chaos than any tyrant could hope to achieve." She sipped her drink. "I place my faith in science and hard facts, not delusions."
Book appeared not to take that as an insult. "I think I understand you."
The Rani let out a short laugh. "Oh, really?"
He nodded. "Yes. You've caused a lot of death in your time, a past you don't care to look back on…"
"Not out of guilt," she was quick to state. "Merely that it wastes time and energy better used elsewhere. Believe me when I say I have a unique perspective on the power of the past and how to use it."
"So you're a survivor. I recognize that as well."
"Always have been."
"Surviving is all well and good. Captain Reynolds is one too." He leaned in. "But there is a difference between surviving…and living."
The Rani sniffed. "Trite and lack of insight. You and the Doctor would get along well."
Before Book could reply, the sound of rushing footsteps came from the hallway as Mal charged past the kitchen, Beckett behind him. "Wash!" he yelled out. "Fire up the engines and get us the niou-se out of here!"
He burst into the cockpit to find Wash and Zoe pulling off the chair, his second in command with her shirt open. "Ai ya women wanle and you two are making out!" he yelled.
Wash was fast to start hitting buttons and bringing the engines on line as Mal yanked the radio off its resting spot. "Kaylee, need some speed now and don't give me anything about the engines!"
Hearing the whine, Beckett closed her eyes. "God, this ship always this jing-tzahng mei yong-duh?"
"Mal?" Jayne's voice yelled out from below. "You aware we got guys shooting at us?"
"Update appreciated, Jayne!" Mal yelled back as Serenity began to lift off. Wash pulled the controls to send them into orbit. "Anyone on us?"
"Scope's clear," Wash stated as he fired the engines up to send the ship off at high speed. "We have a destination in mind or just wandering?"
"Wander for now, decide a location later as the mood strikes," Mal sighed.
Inara burst into the cockpit at that moment, her face angry. "Captain," she snapped. "I was preparing for an appointment. I really do not appreciate my business being taken away like this."
"Prefer your life to be the one taken?" Mal fired back at her. "Cause those guys chasing us weren't placing your needs high on their list of concerns."
"And whose fault is that?" Inara took a moment to examine him, then Beckett, her eyes widening. "Oh for…You two spent the night together?"
"Not quite your business," Mal snapped.
"Really?" Inara said, crossing her arms. "We're put in the crosshairs because you can't keep it in your pants?"
Mal snorted. "Oh for…You are raising yourself on the high horse when it comes to someone's sex life? That's rich." He turned on Zoe. "And you'd best be not throwing your two cents in considering how I just found you here."
He moved to the door as Inara stepped in his way. "Mal," she said, her voice quiet but eyes still intense. "This woman is putting us all in danger."
"Excuse me?" Beckett marched forward. "From what I can tell, you were deep in shit before I ever came on board!"
"At least we could depend on each other," Inara retorted. "Now with you as a distraction and throwing yourself at Mal.."
"Oh, really?" Beckett snapped. "Just because you never had the guts to try to make a move yourself…"
"My interest in the Captain is just professional.."
"Yeah, like the rest of your profession, which is the oldest."
"Says the meh lien duh jyah jee."
Beckett growled as she began to move forward, fist clenched.
Mal had to admit this was a highly erotic situation to enjoy watching but felt it best to defuse it fast. "Ladies, can we put this aside now?" He pushed past them both to head toward the galley. "I need some coffee in me fast."
"Oh, typical Castle, avoid the topic totally!" Kate yelled as she followed him, Zoe and Inara behind her, Zoe making sure to put herself between the two women.
"You mean he's always been like this?" Inara asked.
"You have no idea."
Mal entered the galley to find Kaylee, Jayne, Book and Simon already there, watching with looks that indicated they had been listening in. River was nearby but sitting to a corner as the Rani kept working at her table. "Enjoying the show?" Mal sardonically asked.
"Yeah, we are," Jayne had to say. Mal glared before grabbing a cup of coffee to pour.
Beckett was glaring herself at Inara. "Castle-Mal can make his own decisions on who he can be with."
"They affect us."
"Us? Or you?"
"My feelings for the Captain…"
"Are as clear as day and don't pretend otherwise."
"I don't let that get in the way of my job. Unlike some people who can't resist…"
"I swear, I will punch you in a minute."
"Damn, this is getting good," Jayne said with a grin.
The Doctor chose that moment to enter the galley, clutching some papers of his own. "Captain, may I have a word?"
"Nee ta ma duh. Tyen-shia suo-yo duh run doh gai si!" Mal groaned. "Can a man not enjoy a coffee in some peace?"
The Doctor frowned as he looked about at everyone present. "Am I interrupting something?"
A silence came over the room that was broken by the Rani, taking a deep breath as she removed her glasses. "Reynolds and Beckett spent the night in bed fornicating together, paying off on what was quite obviously long-held feelings between them both. This upsets Inara as, despite her protests, her feelings for Reynolds are beyond professional but it doesn't matter as he feels more for Beckett than he does for Inara so Inara has no real reason to be upset. Meanwhile, Kaylee is in love with Simon here while Book used to work for the Alliance at some point before he decided to find a God somewhere and pretend to be a better man, Wash bears an amazing resemblence to Alpha which explains much of my animosity toward him, River is an utter mess and yet fascinating company to be with, Jayne remains a Neanderthal and me, I wish I was on Skaro."
The Doctor blinked. "Right, that's a bit to take in all at once."
Mal whirled on Book. "Alliance?"
"Not quite," the man defended himself. "It's rather complicated."
"How…" Mal shook his head. "No, you know what? I don't much care right now."
The Rani slipped her glasses back on as Simon stared at a blushing Kaylee. "You love me?"
The Rani's head shot up, her jaw open. "Oh, my God, you've got to be kidding me."
"I…I gotta go," Kaylee gasped as she ran out of the room, Simon just staring after her. The Rani leaned in, gazing at him. "How can you not know? Seriously, I just met you, I have no human empathy and I could see it!"
Simon just stammered as Jayne smirked. "Right, moving as far off this course as we can," Mal began. "I am headed to my cabin. I intend to be there alone for a time to gather thoughts to our future course of action." He downed the rest of his coffee. "If there is any untoward interruption, I shall not be held in account of my actions." He stormed out, rubbing his temples as he went.
Kate muttered under her breath as she stormed out. "Stubborn asshole. Still that way."
Inara became aware of a stare and turned to see Jayne just smirking at her. She gave him a hard glare before walking out of the room, the man chuckling as he left to head to his own quarters. With a tired sigh, Book followed them, wondering once more how his
Simon was just standing there, staring out as River moved over to him and lightly smacked him across the head. He glanced at her in surprise and she shrugged. "Deserved." She then sat right back down like nothing had happened. With his own embarrassed look, Simon left the galley himself.
The Doctor was glancing through his papers, putting one down as the Rani glanced at it off-handed. She stopped and did a double take, reaching to grab it and lift it up. "Where did you get this?" She held up a drawn image of planets in a spiral design with lines crisscrossing.
"It's what I was getting from the readings I was making of the planet systems," the Doctor answered with a frown. "Why?"
The Rani moved to rummage through her own papers, finally pulling one out to show a computerized printout matching that design. "This was among the images I managed to get from River's brainwave scans. This was in her head, one of those parts I had trouble accessing."
The Doctor looked at the image carefully. "Hmmm…" He held the two images up, studying them both. His eyes widened suddenly as he slapped them both down and laid them on top of each other. "What does this look like to you?"
The Rani looked at it, peering over her own glasses. "Wait…" Her fingers trailed over the lines before her. "Gravity lines…Spatial lines…" She looked up at him, reaching to pull her glasses off. "But no time lines."
"Which should be impossible," the Doctor pressed, his smile growing. "Unless…."
"Unless…we're not in time." The Rani's jaw dropped. "Of course. Of course!" She raced through the papers, finding another image showing links of orbs together. "It explains it all, the reason for no alien life, the stories of this Earth-That-Was…"
"Yes, but the power needed to do it…"
"It's not impossible, we both know that. It would require someone of great strength but it can be done."
"Which means a central base…Which is why the Alliance…"
"Creating an entire civil war to enhance it, that is truly brilliant."
"You know now." They both turned to see River staring at them, a soft and sad smile on her face. "You know the truth. You know why he wants us, doesn't want his board messed with or his pieces out of place."
"Who?" the Rani pressed. "Who wants this?"
River shook her head as she moved to walk out. "You'll know soon. And when you do…the Game really begins."
She left as the two Time Lords looked to each other with concern. "We need to talk to Reynolds," the Rani said. "He has to know now."
"Give him some time first," the Doctor said as he wrapped up the various papers. "Something tells me the man has some past demons to handle."
"Don't we all?"
Beckett was wandering the main hold of the ship, looking for something to punch or shoot if need be. Inara recognized the look but decided to risk it nonetheless as she followed her. "Hey!" she called out. "We're not finished yet!"
"You'd best be walking right now," Kate snapped at her, back turned. "Because my mood for civil conversation is rather fleeting."
Inara put her hands on her hips. "I want to know your intentions."
Beckett let out a short laugh as she turned to face the Companion. "You know, I've met Castle's mother and trust me, the resemblence between you both is nil."
Inara refused to back down. "Mal is…a friend. And I worry about-"
"You know what? Let's just cut the da bnian hua," Beckett cut her off. "You wanted Castle. Mal, whoever! You wanted him but you never had the guts to tell him that. Frankly, that is your problem, not mine, my sympathies are gone south." She leaned in to fix Inara with a hard glare. "I have known him longer than you. I have known Richard Castle way before you knew Mal Reynolds. And what we feel…is what we feel and if you have a problem with it, that is your problem so deal with it now or I swear to God, I will end you, dohn luh mah?"
Inara stared at her, the anger in her own eyes fading. "You love him," she softly said. "You're in love with him. You've been for years."
Beckett looked off, her own anger fading. "You don't know what it was like," she softly said. "Out of your time, out of your world…In a future where no one remembers Earth as it was or its history…I had to do a lot of things I'm not proud of." She looked to Inara. "And when I saw him…When I saw the one man I always thought of as a constant back home…" A mist came to her eyes. "That's when I finally accepted what I always knew. I love him. I need him. More than I ever did before."
She leaned on one of the crates, Inara just staring at her. After a moment, the Companion moved to lean against the crate herself, mulling over her own thoughts. She paused before speaking up. "Back on Earth…was he as capable as he liked to think he was? Or did he just leap into things first?"
Beckett laughed. "Oh, God, Castle putting extra thought into things? I can't tell you how many times we'd get a case and he'd take a few small clues and spin this insane yarn of conspiracy just to make a better story."
Inara smiled. "One time, he stumbles onto this party I'm working at, insults my date and next thing we know, he has one day to learn how to fence for a duel."
"Castle fencing?" Kate laughed loud at that. "Oh, God, I wish I'd seen that." She rubbed her face. "One case had us tracking down people at a bondage club and his look when I talked of having experience with it…"
Inara giggled at that. "Oh, under all that swagger, the man can be such a prude, can't he?"
"He can, he can," Beckett replied as the two began talking more, the bay soon filled with the sounds of sharp laughter.
Mal was almost to his cabin when he heard footsteps and turned to see Jayne coming up. "The likelihood of any response to your words being a bullet is quite high, Jayne."
"Just thought to touch on things," the smuggler said. "You and Beckett together…"
"Joining the chorus on how it's a bad idea?"
"Hey, no concern of mine who you spend your time ruttin' or not," Jayne said with a shrug. "I'm just saying, it can be dangerous with us, more so when you got a woman on the line."
"Nice to see your concern so high." Mal moved to open the door.
"Just saying…You best hold it tight, Mal. 'Cause that lady cares for you a lot. Hurt her now, after all she's already lost...Might be a bad hurt to get over."
Mal just stared in utter disbelief. "I have now heard quite all. Jayne Cobb lecturing me on the sensibilities of a woman."
Jayne shrugged again as he backed off. "Just my three cents, take or leave." He marched off as Mal opened the door to his room, tossing his jacket aside. He was about to remove his boots when a knock echoed. "Oh, tzao gao, I am armed!" he yelled out.
He stopped in place at the name that felt so strange to hear after all this time. He opened the door to see Kate there, smiling softly at him. "Hey," she said. "We, um…left a lot hanging. Earlier."
"Gunfire tends to ruin the post-colitial mood a tad," Mal said as he moved aside to let Beckett enter his cabin. "I'm of the sincere hope that Inara is not lying in a heap of blood somewhere."
"No, we talked it out," Kate told him. "It's…hard but…" She looked to him and shook her head. "Dammit, never the way with words you had." She leaned to kiss him as he returned it. They were moving at each other's clothes when the door knocked once more.
"Let me shoot them," Beckett hissed out.
"Nope, captain's prerogative," Mal replied as he yanked the door open to find the Doctor and the Rani standing before him. "Gohn shi, you are officially the most annoying pair I have ever met."
"We have that tendency," the Rani allowed.
"Captain," the Doctor stated in a somber tone. "We have to talk. Right now."
"And what subject is of such importance?"
"That your universe is not at all what you think it is. That for all intents and purposes…This entire galaxy is nothing but a grand fiction."
Mal looked at him, then slowly over to Beckett. "My life made a lick of sense once. I really should have cherished such a period."
"Now you know how I felt before you came into my life," Beckett had to smirk.
Building up now so all comments welcomed.