Title: Somewhere Down the Crazy River (part 3 of 10)
Pairing: Canon, if any
Word Count: 4800ish
Disclaimer: Firefly/Serenity do not belong to me.
Description: Inara visits the Sheriff's office to get Mal, Zoe, and Jayne released. Simon comes up with a plan.
A/N: Sorry for the delay. I really tried to keep on a schedule with this story but life intervened. Big thanks to Gilliebeans for all her help.
Such was her ire with certain members of the crew that if that lousy bar with the deceiving name of Nick’s Café had had a decent door, Kaylee would have slammed it shut on her way out. Nobody treats my boyfriend like he’s a gorramn leech. Kicking a stone, she tromped over to the mule where Simon sat in the front passenger seat glaring at the “medical” building that so offended him.
“They better get happier after this job or I swear…” Everyone thought she was little Miss Perky Lou all the time but if they kept acting like jackasses, they’d see a whole other side of Kaylee; the side that had inspired genuine fear in her little brothers.
“Just who do they think they are?” Crossing her arms, she glared at Simon, so angry on his behalf. “It’d serve them right, one of them gettin’ hurt…” Appalled, her fingers flew to her mouth, trying to take back her careless words.
Simon grinned. “That’s okay. Just awhile ago I was wishing a broken leg on Jayne.” Taking her hands, he pulled her to him. “But then I realized his mouth would still be working.”
Delighted at his uncharitable thoughts, Kaylee wound her arms around his neck. “Can’t you, Dr. Three Percent, do somethin’ ‘bout that?” She smiled coyly, beckoning him to kiss her. When he did, she settled between his knees for a long kiss, humming as they partook of a little steetside necking. She was impressed that Simon was game for such a public display. She, herself, greatly enjoyed public kissing. Liked it even more as it turned to public tonguey kissing.
Until…Simon pulled away. Kaylee was about to playfully thump him on the head when she saw his alarmed expression. Turning, she watched, her dread rising, as three men ran from the Sheriff’s office toward Nick’s Café.
“You don’t think?” Simon asked.
“Course not.” But Kaylee wasn’t confident. The way their luck had been as of late…
The barroom door banged open again, people spilled out onto the street, talking and gesturing angrily to each other. The crowd parted, allowing four men carrying an unconscious man to get through. Kaylee tensed. She knew that great big hulking man that required the combined effort of all four men. Her heart sunk and her anger flared. “That gorramn Jayne! Knew he was stupid as a tick but this? He’s bent on messin’ up everything for us!”
Kaylee started to go find the Captain and Zoë but stopped as she saw another man being carried out. This man required only two but the brown coat that dragged on the dusty road screamed Captain! Shaking her head, she looked helplessly at Simon.
Sliding out of the mule, he stood behind her. “Oh, no. Oh, no, no no.”
“Stay here, Simon!” Kaylee rushed toward the bar just as Zoë emerged. Blood oozed from her nose and mouth. Her hair was disheveled, her hands shackled behind her back.
“Zoë!” Kaylee called out jogging alongside the men who roughly led Zoë to the jail. “Zoë! What happened?” Zoë didn’t look at her but kept her gaze straight in front of her. Needing Zoë’s attention, Kaylee tried to get closer but the lawman she had run into earlier pushed her aside.
“No visitors ‘til she’s bound proper.” His grip tightened on Zoë, pulling her along.
“Out of the way, missy. What’d I tell you ‘bout loiterin’?”
Kaylee stopped outside the jail. Several men who followed the lawman inside bumped her rudely. Undaunted, she started inside but someone grabbed her arm.
“I’m not sure that’s a good idea.” Simon looked worriedly at the jail.
“We have to do somethin’!” Shrugging him off, she walked into the building. The small office was crowded, the brawlers standing around looking pained and sheepish. She couldn’t walk further into the room and had to be content to squish up against the wall.
Her eyes immediately found Zoë and her heart nearly broke. On a wooden chair next to the desk, Zoë sat alone. Her eyes were steely but Kaylee could see something that looked suspiciously like…desperation. Wanting to get to her, Kaylee elbowed her way through the crowd. “Zoë!” But Zoë couldn’t hear, the noise in the small room had grown chaotically loud as everyone began shouting explanations.
“That woman!” “…went off on him…” “Crazy is what she is!”
“Shut up!” The lawman hollered, slamming Zoë’s Mare’s Leg on his desk.
Everyone in the room slowly shushed, except for one big man standing next to Kaylee.
“Wang, what the hell we gotta come in for? Clear as day that she started it! Look at Little Bill there.”
Kaylee looked around until saw a young man sitting on the floor, slumped against the wall. His face was hidden behind a bloody towel and Kaylee knew it would be a solid mess underneath it. Someone tending to him shouted, “Gorramn nose is broke!” This news prompted the man standing next to Kaylee to hurl himself at Zoë.
Zoë rose so quickly her chair fell over backward. Even with her hands still shackled behind her back, Zoë’s stance was menacing, the look in her eye wild and challenging. Bewildered and frightened, Kaylee shrank back against the wall.
“Settle down, the lot of you!” Wang yelled. Grabbing a hold of the man who had made to attack Zoë he shoved him against the wall. “One more peep outta ya and I’m lockin’ you up as well.”
Wang looked disgustedly around the room. “Everybody out now! If any tarry, you’ll be bound!”
“But—“ Kaylee said.
“Now!” Wang glared at her. “I’m countin’ ta 10. One…”
With a last helpless glance at Zoë, Kaylee followed the crowd out of the office. As she burst outside, she grabbed Simon’s hand pulling him into a run behind her.
“What are we going to do?” Simon asked when they reached the mule.
“We’re gettin’ Inara is what we’re doing.” She jumped into the driver’s seat, angrily reving the engine far more than she should have. Simon barely had time to sit down before she gunned it.
* * * * * * * *
Inara swept into the sheriff’s office looking as fine as she could make herself on the mad dash from Serenity. An older man looked up from his desk at her entrance. At the sight of her, his pen dropped on top of a stack of forms.
“Are ya lost, miss?” he asked, blinking in confusion.
Inara noted the star on his chest and smiled. In the seconds since she entered the room her calculating gaze took in every detail of the man. His clothes were clean and pressed, a well worn ring adorned the fourth finger on his left hand. From what Kaylee had told her, this man was a stickler for the law. Conclusion: long married man with, by the looks of the picture on his desk, grandchildren. Enchanting seductress was not the role for this man.
“No, I’m not lost but I do have a small problem I’m hoping you could help me with.” Her smile was sweet, innocent; the smile a daughter would bestow on a much loved father.
He rose, his chest puffing out in importance. “That’s what I’m here for, Miss…?”
“Rodriguez. Monica Rodriguez.” Inara smiled again, modestly lowering her eyes. “We’re travelling through your part of the world on…” She paused, meekly nibbling her lower lip as if struck by a wave of bashfulness. “…on a humanitarian mission.”
“Yes, we are reuniting some children with their parents that were thought to be lost in the war.” Her voice trailed off, sadness clouding her eyes.
He gave her an understanding smile. “Heard of many that got displaced. It’s good work you’re doin’.”
“Thank you.” Inara was a picture of modesty. “It is gratifying to be able to right wrongs that have afflicted the innocent.”
“What do you need from me?”
“Well, some members of our crew recently…were engaged in an altercation…”
He frowned, a spark of suspicion flaring in his eyes. “You mean the lot that rabble roused at Nick’s?”
Taking a deep breath, Inara went out on a limb relying on the fact that most Rim citizens were sympathetic to the Browncoat cause. “Unfortunately, yes. Two of them are…were…Independents and …well, you must know how challenging life can be for them.”
“Ain’t no ‘Liance folk here to egg them on.”
“Oh, no! It’s just that…it’s difficult for them. I felt it was my duty to aid these…” her voice dropped to a confidential whisper “…heroes the best I can.”
Inara didn’t miss the slight nod of approval from the man. Her eyes flitted over him again, noting the homemade cross that peeked up from below his collar.
“I believe the Lord helps those that help themselves and they just need a little nudge in the right direction.” She stepped closer and even though they were the same height, she managed to appear as if she was looking up at him. “An opportunity to get back on their feet which is why I employed them in the first place.”
“That’s rightly kindly of you Miss Rodriguez. They got the short end of the stick that’s for sure. Real sorry for them and for them kids but the law is the law.”
She nodded quickly, her eyes downcast. “I really do hate to impose and I wouldn’t dream of begging for such a kindness if it weren’t really important.” Taking a deep breath, she looked into his eyes, her own bright with unshed tears. “But one of the parents, I fear, doesn’t have long to live and time is of the essence.”
He patted her arm in consolation. “Honey, that’s a sad tale to be sure but I ain’t got no authority to let them go. You’ll have to take that up with the sheriff.”
Inara’s eyes cleared instantly. “You’re not the sheriff?”
“That would be me.”
Inara turned to see the speaker and her heart sank as she met the steady, amused gaze of the woman who was clearly in charge here. Tall and lithe, the formidable woman’s gray and black hair was cut very short, cropped against her head. She appeared aged but not weak. She wore no gun, but stood confidently as if she had no need for weapons to clarify her position in the community.
Inara fought the sigh welling within her as she realized the woman reminded her of Zoë. This wasn’t going to be an easy sell and she had already backed herself into a corner with a sad sack story that she strongly suspected would not work on this woman who appeared to have a low tolerance for nonsense.
“Deputy Wang was just filling out their paperwork before you interrupted him with your…touching story.”
“Oh, yes, Sheriff…?”
“Alavega. Dody Alavega.” The woman approached, taking Inara’s hand in a firm grip, shaking it vigorously. “Don’t get many ladies such as yourself in these parts.”
“I was just telling…Deputy Wang that we had to stop for repairs on our way to ---“
“Delivering orphans? Or was it picking them up?”
“Don’t matter what you were doing,” Alavega interrupted, dropping Inara’s hand. “What matters is that I have no lenience for strangers causing a ruckus in my town.”
Inara’s mind raced trying to find an angle to sway this woman. She was coming up with nothing. “I’m sure it was an accident,” she offered, cringing slightly at the lameness of her excuse.
Alavega’s eyes narrowed. “Your people accidentally assault others on a regular basis, do they?”
“Well, no. There must have been some sort of provocation.”
The sheriff crossed her arms, looking down at Inara. Inara refused to give in to temptation to avert her eyes from the knowing stare.
“What do they do for your…operation?” Alavega asked.
“They are my pilot and co-pilot,” Inara said. “And cook.”
“Feel a need to arm your pilots, do ya? And your cook?”
“You know how it is…strangers in a strange land. One can never be certain what to expect.” Inara shrugged, looking helplessly at the deputy who still looked completely taken in by her. The sheriff, however, did not. “It’s really very important that we get going. We have ….” The orphan story began sounding stupider and stupider. Inara shed her pretense. “Business that needs our immediate attention.”
“And what kind of business would that be?”
Inara met the sheriff’s unblinking but still amused gaze and decided she needed to keep as close to the truth as possible. “Just a cargo exchange.”
“Cargo?” The woman’s amusement vanished. “All pickups are run through Robert’s Town. And there are no deliveries scheduled until next week.”
“The exchange isn’t here. We were just passing through. Repairs—“
“Are you selling orphans?”
Alavega’s grin was cynical. “Yeah, okay, I get it. Town’s my jurisdiction and that’s enough to keep me busy so my eye is blind to some of the other…happenings.”
And there was the opening Inara was looking for. “Maybe we could work out something.”
* * * * * * * *
Simon and River waited anxiously. Actually, Simon was far more anxious than River who looked completely unconcerned by the situation. They sat outside Serenity. Simon kept his gaze on the horizon. River looked up at the sky.
“I see a…a…” she squinted. “…I think I see a giraffe. Yes, that is a giraffe. Her name is Miss Giraffe.”
Simon glanced at her, alarmed that she was hallucinating.
“The clouds.” River gave him her patented disgusted look.
“Oh, right.” But his gaze returned to the horizon.
“You should have taken me to town.”
“Yes because you would never get in a bar fight.”
She looked at him, shocked and angry until she saw his grin.
Simon laughed. “I’m not the only easy mark,” he told her, patting her hand.
She smiled back. “Did you have a nice time?”
Simon studied her carefully, seeing her olive branch. The fact that she was offering him one pleased him. While he regretted his sharp words to her, he didn’t regret his desire to have a little…grown up time.
“We did. Until…”
“Until it all went to hell. We shouldn’t be surprised,” River said. “But I’m confident Inara will free them. She’s very talented with people, you know.”
“So I’ve heard.”
“Except the Captain, of course.”
They grinned at each other until River affected a pretty pout.
“I’m still mad at you.”
Simon assumed a nonchalant yet pouty look of his own. “Maybe I’m still mad at you.”
Simon quelled a smile at her perplexed look. His gaze returned to the empty horizon. “Maybe more like irritated.”
“Ok. Maybe irked.”
“But you love me even though I irritate, aggravate and irk you.”
He looked tenderly at her before responding. “I always have, River.”
“A wave!” She jumped up, running inside Serenity.
“Wait! Don’t…” He called after her. Rushing up the stairs, he reached the bridge in time to find her answering the hail. Pushing her out of the way, Simon greeted the caller.
“This is Ser---“ he stopped, unsure of the proper protocol for answering Serenity’s waves. “May I ask who is calling?”
The face that appeared on the screen looked at Simon in surprise. A sneer soon appeared over his features. “May I ask who the hell are you?”
“I’m…uh...on Captain Reynolds crew.”
“He’s away for the moment.”
“Away? He’s expectin’ my gorramn wave!”
“Yes, well, he’s busy preparing for the job.”
That explanation seemed to pacify the man. “Yeah, okay. I got the coordinates for the meet. Transmitting now.”
A brief flurry of numbers appeared on the bottom of the screen soon replaced by a map with a flashing dot. “Okay. We’ve got it.”
“Meet’s at dusk. Prefer the light of day for this job so don’t be late.”
“Uh…” While Simon preferred to be confident that Inara would succeed in springing them, he was always the realist. “Is it possible to reschedule our appointment?”
“Reschedule?” The man looked thunderstruck at the very idea. “Things are in motion, greenhorn. In motion. You know the effort we went to set this up? Reschedule! You better be jokin’.”
Simon looked at the man steadily. “I just meant what time is dusk around here?”
“Oh. Sevenish local time. Take you ‘bout an hour to get there from where you are.”
Nodding, Simon said, “He’ll be there.”
“He better or there’ll be trouble.” With a last sneer to Simon, the man signed off.
“Isn’t there always?” Simon asked the now blank screen.
River put her hand on Simon’s shoulder. “I’m hungry.”
* * * * * * * *
“Tell me something you need and I’m sure we can fulfill that for you,” Inara said smiling confidently at the Sheriff.
Alavega stared at Inara for a moment before bursting out laughing. “Oh, honey, I’m sure you are used to getting what you want but not today.” Her laughter faded. “Not with me.”
Inara’s smile vanished. “There must be something we can do to work this out.”
“There is. Your…employees…will just have to stay put until the magistrate can see them.”
“When will that be?”
Alavega shrugged. “He’s on a hunting trip. When he returns depends on what he bags.”
The door banged open. A well-dressed gentleman sauntered inside, glaring at Sheriff Alavega.
“Alavega, what the hell are you gonna do about ----“ He stopped abruptly when his eyes discovered Inara. His confrontational demeanor instantly changed to one of masculine interest. “Well, hello! What have we here?”
“She’s just leaving,” Alavega said.
Ignoring her, the man studied Inara. His eyes were warm, curious, and predatory. Inara smiled at him. Maybe there still was a chance. The man reeked local power. Enchanting Seductress would work quite well with this man. “Hello, there.”
“I am Young Faron. And who might you be?”
“Friend to the woman that smashed your kid’s face.”
Instead of responding to the Sheriff the man approached Inara. “Oh, I have a hard time believing that…”
“Unfortunately, it’s true. My name is…Monica.”
“Well, Monica, I wouldn’t worry too much about my boy.” Faron took her hand, placing a lingering kiss on her soft skin. “Between you and me he could use a good thunk now and then. Makes him more of a…man.”
“More’n just a thunk, Young,” Alavega said.
Still holding her hand, he took a step closer to Inara. “I’m sure this is all a dreadful misunderstanding. Perhaps you would care to discuss this situation further? Dine with me this evening? Not in this town, of course.” He looked dismissively at the Sheriff. “I have a hacienda not too far from here. With a cook who makes the best Strogonoff this side of Verbena.”
Inara met his smile with a seductive one of her own. From the corner of her eye she could see the confusion on the deputy’s face. Ignoring the twinge of guilt, she squeezed Young’s hand. “That sounds delightful but I’m afraid with my employees incarcerated I won’t be able to attend.”
He put his hand over his heart as if her words pained his him greatly. “Nonsense! This matter can be cleared up---“
“No, Young, it can’t.” Alavega removed Inara’s hand from his grasp. Standing between him and Inara she looked him in the eye. “You might be the richest man in these parts but that don’t give you leave to circumvent the law.”
He glared at her. “My son will not press charges.”
“Ain’t up to him. Nor you.” Alavega smiled triumphantly. “And, by and by, have you seen him? Like I said, boy wasn’t just thunked. He’s been pounded and I mean for the perpetrator to fill her sentence.”
“Which is what exactly?” Inara asked.
Alavega shrugged, still staring at Young. “Depends on what the magistrate says.”
“What about bail?”
“Allow me to take care of that for you.” Young moved to grasp her hand again but Inara moved away from him.
“Bail’ll be up to the magistrate.” Alavega continued glaring at Faron.
“Who is unavailable,” Inara stated.
“That’s the way it is, sweetie.”
Faron smiled, trying to get Inara’s attention again. “Since you’ll be here awhile, how about that dinner?”
Giving him a dismissive look, Inara craned her neck as delicately as possible hoping for a glimpse of Mal, Jayne or Zoë but she couldn’t see beyond the door to the jail cells she suspected were in the back.
“May I see them?”
“No. Visiting hours are over.”
“Do they need medical assistance?”
“I don’t understand why they are the only ones still in jail.”
“When the magistrate comes, the whole lot’ll come in. Reason the others aren’t our guests is that I know ever last one of those little pr---“ she glanced at Young. “those young men. And I know they won’t skip town.” She turned to Inara. “But I don’t know her and them. Got it?”
She gently pushed Inara toward the door. “No need to stop by, they’ll be along when they can.” With a distracted smile, Sheriff Alavega closed the door in Inara’s face.
* * * * * * * *
Simon and River looked through the woefully bare pantry. The main offering consisted of many cans of beets. River bit her lip, fear rising in her. This wasn’t how she wanted her family to be. Desperate and living on beets. She hated beets, purple juice and squishy food.
“No beets,” she said.
Simon held up his hand. “I know. I know.”
He opened a few more bins finally locating a snack bar. Looking at the packaging, he handed it to her with an apologetic shrug. A Fruity-Oaty bar.
“The octopus is not mandatory,” River said tearing open the wrapper.
Simon leaned against the counter watching her eat. “What does that mean exactly?”
River thought about the question as she ate. Was she the octopus? As she fought the Reavers, she was very much like an octopus. Her two arms had turned to eight. Or was it six plus her legs? But if she was the octopus why wasn’t she mandatory?
Swallowing the last of the bar, River glanced down at her chest. “I’m not bursting out of my blouse.” Wadding up the wrapper, she defiantly tossed it into the empty food bin.
Frowning at her, Simon retrieved the trash. “We don’t do that. Ever.” He opened the trash compartment dropping the wrapper in. “That’s Jayne’s job.”
As he slammed the door shut, they heard the sound of the mule entering the cargo bay. Rushing down to the hold, they were disappointed to see only Kaylee and Inara.
“No luck.” Kaylee said, hopping out of the mule.
River wandered over the open cargo doors. Looking up at the sky, she said, “Miss Giraffe’s neck floated away.”
“Gāi sǐ!” Simon said. “What about bail?”
“Can’t!” Kaylee shook her head. “Cap’n don’t believe in bail. Get popped either break out or do your time. Don’t pay ‘em nothin’.”
“In this instance, he may just have to forgo that---“
“No, really, Simon. We got money for the job is all. Spend money on bail and we’re short. Short ain’t good in these situations.”
“Bail isn’t even an option at this juncture” Inara said.
River watched the body of the giraffe stretch before completely disintegrating. Turning back, she looked at the worried faces of Simon, Inara and Kaylee. They stood silently in the hold looking at each other helplessly.
“Are we contemplating breaking them out?” Simon finally asked.
“No, we’re not,” Inara said.
“This is bad,” Simon stated.
“Could be worse,” Kaylee said trying for a hopeful smile.
“You’re right,” River agreed excitedly. “We could be chained in a hole with tentacles connected to our veins to keep us alive. Our enemies could keep us bound, our ears plugged up with chewing gum, our eyes covered by beets. We wouldn’t be able to see or hear anything just feel ----“
“Thank you, River.” Simon walked away from them, his head down as if deep in thought.
“We could be dead,” River said.
“River!” Inara and Kaylee both exclaimed.
“It’s true. That’s the worst---“
“I can get money,” Inara said. “Maybe we could sneak it in Mal’s bunk and make it seem like he forgot it.”
“Who forgets money?” Kaylee looked doubtfully at Inara.
River watched Simon walk slowly around the hold, his hand massaging his forehead. She knew that look, Simon was doing serious thinking. After a few minutes, he looked up at River, smiling at her before approaching Kaylee and Inara. “Excuse me,” Simon said.
Kaylee and Inara continued to debate how to make money mysteriously appear.
“Excuse me,” Simon repeated a little louder. When they finally stopped talking, he said, “We have two options. Break them out or go on the job.”
“We can’t break them out,” Inara said. “That’s just…not possible.”
“I agree.” He looked at each of them before speaking again. “So, that leaves the job.”
Kaylee and Inara stared at him blankly, not comprehending what he was suggesting.
“I’ll go to the meet.” Simon said quietly.
His offer was met with stunned silence before Inara and Kaylee began speaking at once. “No!” “Simon, have you lost your mind?” “That’s jīng shén cuò luàn!”
“We might have the money but there are no jobs on the horizon,” he said. “That money can only last so long and the way I understand the situation to be is if we can’t get this job, the Captain will resort to desperate measures. I’ve seen what desperation can do to the Captain and it’s not something I care to revisit.”
“Can’t argue with that,” Kaylee said.
Simon exhaled loudly. “I’ll suppose I’ll need a gun.”
“Simon, this is insanity,” Inara said. “You can’t do this.”
“I have to do this.”
River understood perfectly. Simon’s honor would not allow him to sit idly by if there was anything in his power he could do to help. Risking his life and his precious freedom to help her, shelter her, keep her safe, the Captain had done far more for them than anyone else. She looked at Simon, her heart swelling with love and admiration at his commitment to attempting to repay the Captain for everything he’s done for them.
“I’ll go with you,” River said.
“No!” Simon vehemently shook his head.
“She is the best qualified of all of us for this kind of work,” Kaylee said.
Simon gave her a hard look. “Absolutely not. We’ll speak no more about this.”
“Then, I’ll go with you,” Kaylee smiled her bravest smile.
“No. I’ll go.” Inara stepped forward. “You’re right, Simon, this job is important. This is the one they need to get back on their feet.”
“You just want to leave,” River said snidely.
Inara gave River a look before speaking to Simon and Kaylee. “It’s a business transaction, right? People have something to sell and we want to buy. How hard could it be?"