Blue Sun Rising
Methos sighed as he hefted the small canvas bag that now held all his essentials. He had a funny feeling he might need to be quick on his feet when he left Serenity. The question was, did he really want to leave?
He wasn’t exactly sure why he felt so torn, maybe it was the desperate hope he had seen in River’s eyes when she had asked him to stay or the quiet distrust he had read in Zoe’s face… although why that had struck so hard, he didn’t want to examine too closely. The only thing he knew for certain was that they were going to hit dirtside in less than an hour, and he had a decision to make.
And it was harder decision to make than it should have been.
In the last few days he’d been hunted by one of his own kind, had to leave the life he had spent nearly a decade creating on Persephone, been chased by a small fleet of Alliance battleships, and attacked by Reavers. It was enough excitement to last a century.
So why was he considering staying? What was it about this crew that attracted him so much? Cursing under his breath, he threw the canvas bag onto his bed and looked around the sparse room. “Getting lonely in your old age, old man?” he thought, a flicker of amusement rising within him.
He didn’t know much about their destination. Whitefall was one of Athena’s moons and had only the most basic form of terraforming. It was a backwater in anybody’s book, and Methos liked his comforts so it never really interested him enough to investigate it further.
Until now, he hadn’t really cared about where he ended up; he had just wanted to get off Serenity. But now, he wasn’t so sure…”Yeah right, admit it, you’re just looking for an excuse to stay.”
He frowned at his own indecision. The smart thing to do would be to leave. So what if Whitefall was a backwater? All he had to do was wait until another ship landed and then he could book passage to greener pastures.
Yes, that was the smart thing to do.
A hiss came from the ship’s com and Methos stiffened. “Okay, folks, we’ve reached Whitefall. You know the drill; we’re going to land a mile outside town. We don’t want make it too easy for Patience to get the drop on us again.”
Again? That didn’t sound good. Muttering under his breath, he slid the door open and looked out into the deserted corridor. Not that he expected to see anybody there. He knew the rest of the crew were probably in the mess…and he also knew that he wasn’t welcome there. He had got thr message loud and clear over the last couple of days, when every time he had joined them for a meal, the conversation dried up.
But he was damned if he was going to walk into another situation without all the facts. He needed answers, and he needed them fast. Sighing, he made his way into the belly of the ship, they may not trust him, but he was a paying passenger and he was entitled to some answers…
“She’s going to try and stiff us again, you know that. Patience really hates your guts.”
Methos halted in his tracks as Zoe’s voice echoed down the narrow corridor, and tried to pinpoint where it was coming from.
“And I’m guessing that the Alliance knows that too. If they’re still trying to track us, it’ll be the last place they’ll look.”
“Mal, the last time you two met, you dropped a dead horse on her. We’ll be lucky if she doesn’t try to put a bullet between your eyes the moment she sees you.”
“Yeah, well, you and Jayne will have to make sure she doesn’t succeed, don’t you.”
Methos’s eyes narrowed as he eyed the steps ahead; they had no clue he was below them, that was clear.
“Sooner or later, our luck is going to run out, Mal.”
“Luck? I haven’t had that since Serenity, Zoe, I think we both know that.”
Methos blinked as the import of the words sank in. Well, that explained a few things… including the name of the ship. That he had named her after that particularly bloody battle also gave him an insight into the man that was Serenity’s captain…one that gave him pause.
The metal steps shivered under the weight of a footfall and Methos hastily made his way past the stairwell and down the corridor. Something told him that it wouldn’t be very good for his health to be caught eavesdropping.
Methos’s mind turned as he digested what the Captain and Zoe had said. If Serenity’s crew weren’t very welcome on Whitefall, it didn’t say much of his chances of landing on his feet there. The fact that he’d arrived on Serenity would already mark him with suspicion. Great, that’s just great.
Sighing, he stepped into the mess, nodding absently at Simon and Inara, who were sharing a pot of tea and ignoring Jayne, who seemed to be oiling yet another piece of his extensive arsenal. Someone should really explain to him the meaning of overkill.
“Mr Caruthers,” Inara said, her voice carefully courteous. “Would you care to join us for a cup of tea?”
Methos paused, while the companion had not been as openly distrustful of him as the rest of the crew, she had not gone out of her way to strike up a conversation with him since he’d boarded; which made her sudden, genteel offering rather suspicious. She was up to something. “I don’t mind if I do,” Methos eventually said. Perhaps he would learn something.
“Pardon me for saying so, but you do seem a bit…distracted,” she said. “Honey?”
Methos kept his amusement from his face as he nodded. “Please.” He watched as she spooned a generous dollop of the precious commodity into his cup. “All the better to sweeten the interrogation, my dear,” he thought cynically. He wondered if the Captain had put her up to this, or if she was doing it on her own initiative.
“The last few days must have been very trying for you,” she said, her cheeks dimpling as she offered him the cup.
“Indeed,” he said, sampling the tea. Earl Grey, very nice…and formidably expensive this far from the core.
Inara nodded in understanding, looking for all the world as if he had said something pithy and wise. She was really rather good, even for a companion. “I understand,” she said, from underneath her eyelashes. “We live in troubled times, of course, and sometimes…well, things happen…”
The pause seemed to go on forever, and Methos wondered how many people, eager to fill up the lengthening silence and gain approval in her eyes, had fallen for this trick. “As you say,” he said, smiling as he took another sip of the tea.
Inara raised an eyebrow, recognition flaring in her eyes. “But of course you already know this,” she said sweetly. Ah, a change of tactics, she was no longer the comforting shoulder but now the flatterer. Damn, she was good.
A little too good, what the hell was she doing on this ship?
“Simon was just telling me that his sister seems very fond of you.”
Methos stiffened in his chair, but kept the sudden wariness out of his voice. “She is a very…unusual girl,” he offered.
“Yes, she is, and some people may not understand that…or worse, try to use her to their own ends.”
Methos relaxed slightly in his seat. Their fears were very real and he understood why they would be wary of him being privy to her abilities. He was a stranger, after all. “River has nothing to fear from me,” he said. “And if she did, don’t you think she’d already know that? She is a reader, after all.”
“She’s also a young, impressionable girl, Mr Caruthers,” Inara pointed out gently.
Methos laughed out loud, unable to stop himself. “I do hope you’re not inferring what I think you are,” he said, shaking his head. “Because, if you are, then you’re not as astute as I thought you were. I prefer my women to be…well, women.”
“Nevertheless, she seems very taken with you.”
Methos hesitated, there was an element of truth in what Inara said, just not for the reasons the companion suspected; but without all the facts, he could hardly blame her for her conclusions. “I think it would be more accurate to say that she is intrigued by me,” he allowed carefully. “She finds me interesting, yes, but not in that manner.”
“Can you be so sure of that?” she asked.
Methos’s mind flitted back to their conversation in his berth and the look of hope on River’s face. Yes, he could be sure, but maybe what River wanted from him was more dangerous than anything Inara suspected. She was right to be wary, she’d just got the details wrong. Methos sighed; short of telling Inara the truth, there was really only one answer to give. “Yes, I’m positive.”
“I see,” Inara said. “Well, I’m sure that takes a lot of worry off her brother’s mind, doesn’t it, Simon?”
Methos eyed the doctor, who had been silent through the whole exchange, and noted his stiff nod. Once again, Methos felt himself reconsidering the point of this “conversation”. Oh, that Inara had been worried about River’s seeming attraction to him was obvious, but Methos suddenly wondered if she’d really entertained the possibility that they were lovers. She was a companion, after all, and trained to spot such things…
Jayne shifted in his chair, and Methos turned to look at him. Was it really such a coincidence that he had been in the room, gun in hand, while this conversation had taken place. Had this been a test? Had he passed?
“Well, it has been so nice talking to you, Mr Caruthers,” Inara said, “If you’ll excuse me, I have a few things to attend to before we land.
Automatically, Methos got to his feet as she stood, and Inara bowed her head in acknowledgement of the courtesy before she left the mess. Letting out a long breath, Methos sank back into his seat, and took another sip of his tea. He might as well enjoy it; he had a funny feeling that luxuries were rare on Serenity.
Just like trust.
“How did it go?” Zoe asked, as Inara stepped into the bridge.
“Much as I thought it would,” Inara said, shrugging. “He is a hard man to rattle. I even tried inferring that there was a relationship between the two to see if he’d let anything slip. It didn’t work.”
“What? A man immune to your wiles?” Mal drawled. “I never thought I’d see the day.”
Inara threw him a dark look and Zoe suppressed a sigh. One of these days, she was going to throw them into an airlock and keep them there until they both came to their senses. She had once thought that the way they kept dancing around each other was cute but, since Wash had died, she had become more than aware of how brief happiness can be. If these two weren’t careful, it might pass them by completely. “Can we keep on the subject, please?”
Mal threw her a surprised look, and Zoe realised that she had spoken more sharply than she’d meant. “Sorry, I’m a bit on edge.”
“No, you’re right,” he said gruffly.
“Has she said anything else about our passenger,” Inara said, nodding at the other end of the bridge, where River sat on the controls.
“Not a word,” Zoe said glumly.
“Damn it, I was hoping to have this resolved before we landed,” Mal sighed. “Things are going to be complicated enough without having an unknown in the mix.”
“Maybe we can work the situation in our favour,” Inara suggested. “Team River up with him when we land and see how he handles it.”
“I don’t know,” Mal said unsurely. “What if something goes wrong? I don’t like the thought of him guarding the back of one of my crew, even if she is more than capable of looking after herself.”
“So I’ll stay with them,” Zoe said. “Make sure he doesn’t do anything…stupid.”
“Like running to the Alliance the first chance he gets,” Mal said, understanding.
“So we have a plan,” Inara said. “Good, now all we have to worry about is Patience.”
Mal groaned at the thought. “Don’t remind me.”
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