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Title: Never Runs Smooth


Series: Takes place in the Firefly Sushi!verse created by [livejournal.com profile] terimaru. Here is the list of fics in this 'verse so far.
Rating: PG-13 For Angst
Pairing: Mal/Inara
Word Count: 1,673
Summary: Third installment of my angst contribution to this delightful Sushi-verse. There's a reason why Mal doesn't believe in luck. Can Inara and the rest of the crew prove the Captain wrong? Or does Fate truly have a thing against him?
Disclaimer: Mr. Whedon and posse own all but the fish. Those are [livejournal.com profile] terimaru's.


Chapters: Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4, Chapter 5, Chapter 6, Chapter 7, Chapter 8



********************************************
Chapter 3



Abel didn’t bother to look back as Caribe’s engines fired and she broke atmosphere. All he could think of was that, even though all he’d wanted was to keep Malcolm and his crew safe, he could very well end up being the cause of his death as well. The familiarity of it; the sense of failure despite all his efforts resonated too deeply. He could barely think.

He’d been here before, and the feelings made him clench his jaw until his teeth ground together. He wasn’t a violent man by nature and never had been, but he sorely regretted not having killed Caribe’s captain himself.

When Ed had handed him Painter’s reigns, he had found himself unable to speak at the sympathy and understanding in the other man’s eyes.

“Go on and see to Malcolm. I’ll send Molly on by later with something for the crew to eat.”

Ed’s horse had sensed Abel’s urgency and broken into a run before Ed had even finished speaking, and although the trip only took a few minutes at most, it had seemed to last forever.

The vision of Mal shooting Daniel between the eyes even as he fell; the total disregard he’d had for his own safety even as he’d pushed them out of danger… It had unleashed something inside Abel, a roaring fear fueled by guilt and memories.

Had Daniel been aiming for him or Malcolm? He kicked himself for not forcing Daniel back onto the ship along with his crew after their first confrontation. At the time, he’d thought, along with some of the others, that it would do no harm to let Caribe’s captain drown his sorrows a while.

Painter skittered to a halt in front of Pete’s old office, and as he swung down Abel noted how the front door had been propped slightly open. Jayne sat outside, gun resting on his thighs as his eyes scanned the streets, watching for trouble. He nodded as Abel quickly tied off the reigns, but said nothing as he practically ran inside.

In the make-shift waiting room, Kaylee had snuggled up on the couch next to Inara, her head resting on the former Companion’s shoulder. Zoë squatted on the floor in front of Inara, speaking in low, earnest tones. Malcolm’s wife’s eyes had a glazed look to them, like she was still partially in shock, and it startled Inara and him both when Zoë reached forward and took Inara’s hand firmly in hers. There were streaks of blood on Zoë’s sleeves and on her vest, and Abel had to force himself to keep from staring at them.

“You hear me, Inara? Simon’s done stitching him up. The surgery’s over,” Zoë said, and Abel realized the first mate’s face was as expressive as he’d ever seen. So much he couldn’t understand was shared between these two women, and Abel marveled at Malcolm’s capacity to have relationships such as these. The surgery’s over…

“How is he?” Abel asked, discarding niceties even though he felt the intruder; desperate for any scrap of hope. Zoë turned her head, and the cool expression Abel was familiar with slid into to place even as she squeezed Inara’s hand and stood, nodding towards the corner of the room.

“The doctor did a fine job. The Captain’s stable for now, but if you know of anyone willing to donate some blood, he could use a refill,” Zoë replied. Suddenly reality shifted back into place, and time resumed its proper order in Abel’s mind. He had a second chance to make things right. Malcolm was still alive.

“I will, and I know of plenty others,” Abel answered.

“We’d be obliged,” she said.

“How…?” Abel struggled to ask through the lump in his throat. “How bad was the damage?”

“Bad enough. The bullet ricocheted a bit. He won’t be going anywhere for a while,” Zoë said, and Abel responded to her unspoken question immediately.

“Abigail’s already volunteered to house all of you, including Malcolm, once it’s safe enough to move him. She’s got plenty of room and has had many years experience with taking care of the ill and injured,” he said, relieved to even be able to remember that segment of his conversation with Ed.

A tiny part of him worried at how much he cared for Serenity’s wayward captain, but he knew the moment he committed his first haul of cargo to the man there’d be no turning back, and he had no intention of changing that now, either.

“How soon will you be needing that cargo of yours moved…?” Zoë asked, becoming all business, and Abel nearly recoiled in horror.

“When Malcolm can do it himself,” he said firmly, and wondered how much Zoë read from the depth of intensity in his voice. Her eyes were as assessing as ever, but still nearly impossible to read otherwise. “The job waits for as long as it needs to. It’s because of us that your Captain got hurt. We’ll do what it takes to make that right.”

Zoë nodded gratefully then glanced over her shoulder as Simon came out to join them, still drying his hands. He looked exhausted and slightly grey in the fading afternoon sun that still shone through the front windows, but his smile was kind as he locked eyes with Inara.

“We’ve got him settled, if you’d like to sit with him a while,” he said, and before he’d even finished, Inara was already crossing the room. Kaylee stood up hopefully as well, but plopped back down on the couch in disappointment at the faint shake of Simon’s head. Abel suspected he’d even heard her grumbling a bit under her breath about it, which oddly made him want to smile.

Xièxie nî, Simon,” Inara breathed, and followed Simon into the other room.

“Will the other ship’s crew be a problem?” Zoë asked Abel. He’d automatically fallen into step with her as she effortlessly led him out of the waiting room and past Jayne onto the boardwalk.

“No. Not at all. There was no love lost between the captain and crew,” Abel replied, and frowned. The barely suppressed glee that had shone in Daniel’s first mate’s eye at the sight of their Captain’s body had made Abel nauseous to witness.

“Is the first mate as beloved as the captain was?” Zoë asked, immediately sensing Abel’s train of thought. She was actually creepy with her capacity to read people, he realized. He jumped at the unexpected snort that sounded directly behind him and turned to see Simon’s sister watching the two of them with a faintly ironic smile.

“Is Inara okay?” Zoë asked her, effortlessly changing tack. River nodded.

“He’s drifting now, but she’ll help to remind him when he is,” the teenager replied cryptically. Abel frowned.

“You mean where?” he gently corrected. River turned her strange, piercing gaze to him and her smile widened.

“Actually I don’t,” she replied and drifted onto the street, heading towards the ship. Zoë’s eyes followed her for a few seconds before turning her attention back to Abel.

“Should I send someone to keep an eye on her while the doctor’s occupied?” he asked in concern. Zoë’s lip twitched in amusement.

“She’ll be along shortly, I imagine. There’s no need to concern yourself,” she said, and Abel turned his thoughts back to the captain.

“In answer to your question, no, I don’t imagine Caribe’s first mate is long for this world,” Abel said. Zoë nodded, satisfied.

“The Captain’ll be pleased to hear that,” she stated.

“When do you think it’ll be safe to move him to Abigail’s? I know firsthand how unpleasant that table is.”

“The doctor’s hoping he’ll come around in a few hours for a little, and make a call then,” she said. “In the meantime, if you could rustle up some potential donors?”

“Of course,” Abel responded, abashed. That should have been his first priority. Zoë put a hand to his forearm, stopping Abel before he rushed off to gather up other volunteers as well.

“He’s a tough wan ba dan,” she said, and he realized she was reassuring him.

“This should have never happened,” Abel said with a sad smile and turned to pass on the word. Not that he had to go far. Half the town appeared to have congregated in front of Lizzie’s and was watching the two of them closely.

Zoë turned to Jayne as Abel walked away, and he heard her say, “Did you get all that?”

Yúchûn shingjingbing manages to get himself shot on the most peaceful planet we’ve been on since Haven. I’m thinking it’s a damn good thing he doesn’t believe in luck,” he said, and with blinding reflexes, Zoë had Jayne pinned against the front of the clinic. Abel’s steps faltered as he stopped to stare in surprise.

“You don’t get to complain,” she hissed. “We’re alive, and we got the message out. You know of anyone else who could have pulled that off?”

“I’m not sayin’ nothing,” Jayne said, and Abel heard something unexpected in the mercenary’s voice; uncertainty.

“He’s gonna live, Jayne. Man doesn’t know how not to.” Abel stared as Zoë and the mercenary stared at each other, eye to eye, for a moment more. It was as if Zoë was looking for something, and only backed off when she saw it. Without another word, she released the lapels of Jayne’s shirt and went back inside.

Abel turned and hurried towards the others before the mercenary could notice him watching and puzzled over the exchange. After what he’d seen of how Caribe’s crew behaved around each other, the conversation he’d just witnessed no longer meant what just a few hours ago he might have thought it meant.

Instead of a first mate putting the ship mercenary in his place, Abel could have almost sworn it was Zoë’s way of reassuring the man. He shook his head as he realized he was thinking entirely too much, and had more important things to do. Finally there was something he could do to help.

****************************

Translations:
Xièxie nî - Thank you
wan ba dan - Bastard
Yúchûn shingjingbing - Stupid lunatic

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