A/N: I found this on my hard-drive. According to the date on the file, I started writing this TEN YEARS ago! It doesn't seem that long and I always did intend to come back and finish it. I figured now was as good a time as any. If it gets any readers, I'll be amazed, but I made a deal with myself that it will be completed this go around (I seem to remember trying to get it going at least three times before!) and posting it is a good way to ensure I follow through on that deal. So, here goes...
Disclaimer: All recognisable characters from Firefly belong to Joss Whedon and other folks who aren't me. Any new characters belong to me (Ultrawoman).
Chapter 1 - Who Are You?
Laughter wasn't always something associated with the crew of Serenity, least not when they was planet-side, in the middle of new and exciting crime. Still, today was a little different, because the job had actually gone smooth. One of the Captain's plans had come together, strange as it seemed, and all was right with the 'verse. It had meant the crew meeting up with another band of smugglers similar to themselves, passing on goods and getting paid their share. That hadn't gone quite so well, as the Alliance almost caught them in the act. The two gangs had to work together to escape, but all had done so, and with the minimum of harm caused.
The fray over with, Captain Boyd of the ship Saber, had invited Captain Reynolds to bring his crew for a round of drinks at the local watering hole, celebrate another victory won against the Alliance, however small. Feeling his crew needed the break, Mal had gratefully accepted the kind offer and here they all were, laughing at war stories and such around a poker table, hands of cards and mugs of beer occupying every hand.
Of course, not everyone was a card player. Mostly the girls chose just to watch, except for Zoe, of course, who was almost wishing her own husband had sat out on the game given how badly he was doing. Her man was good at a whole lot of things, but poker really weren't one of them. Simon had been dealt in, only because Kaylee and River had given him so much encouragement. So far he was astonishing everyone with how well he could actually play.
As the night grew darker, and the two groups of men and women grew equal parts sleepier and more drunk, the stakes of the poker game started to get a little crazy. Zoe had stopped playing just to get her husband to do the same, and a couple of the Saber's crew had grown bored of losing so much of their newly earned coin. All that remained was Mal, Jayne, and Simon, plus Captain Boyd and two more of his men.
"I fold," said Simon, backing his chair up from the table and at the same moment looking pale.
"Oh, honey, I think you're about to do more than that," Kaylee sympathised, helping him towards the bathroom just as fast a she could manage.
"I'm in," said Jayne around the cigar he was smoking, throwing more cash into the centre of the table.
"I'm out," said his opposite number, his shipmate also deciding to fold too.
It seemed that this might be the last hand, as those who were out decided to leave the table and call it a night entirely. The only ones who now remained were Mal and Jayne, alongside Captain Boyd, who had yet to declare his position.
"What do you say, Jin?" asked his fellow captain. "Wanna keep on goin'?"
"Sure, Mal." He grinned too widely, showing off his lack of back teeth. "But how 'bout we make these stakes a little more... interestin'?" he suggested.
"Could do that." Mal nodded along. "What'd you have in mind?"
"Mighty fine ship you got there." Jin smiled.
Immediately, his opponent shook his head. "'Fraid you're gettin' into territory I ain't drunk enough for," said Mal definitely. "Coin I got to spare right now. Play for the shirt on my back if'n I thought it was worth the gamble, but ain't a person in the 'verse gonna get me to bet my home on no two-bit poker game."
Mal dumped his cards on the table then, pulled his cash towards him and got packed up to leave.
"Hey, don't be that way, Mal," Jin urged him. "It was only an idea."
"Well, it was a dumb one," he said definitely, looking to Jayne as he shoved his money into his inside pocket and got up from the table too. "Now we had a mighty nice evenin' and I got no reason to quarrel with you. We'll just call it a night now, go on our way," he said civilly, holding out a hand.
Captain Boyd eyed him a moment and honestly Mal was glad he'd offered his left hand to the man, his right hovering near the holster strapped to his body. Always had to be ready for someone to make a different move to what you expect or want them to. Thankfully, tonight was a good night, and Jin Boyd just smiled, eventually taking a hold of Mal's hand and shaking it with gusto.
"You're a decent man, Malcolm Reynolds," he told him, much to the relief of both crews in the bar looking on, neither much wanting another brawl tonight. "In fact, I tell you what I'm gonna do. Me and my boys, we got some real decent booze, special recipe one of the womenfolk cooked up for us," he told the other captain in a low voice. "Call it a kinda apology for my goin' too far, and for fightin' at our side in that Alliance brawl earlier on. Coulda turned tail, but you didn't."
"Ain't in my nature to do so," said Mal with a wry smile, "but you don't really have to... Okay, apparently we accept your gift," he changed tack when he realised the two large bottles had already been handed over to Zoe and Jayne, the latter of which had the top off and was taking a healthy swig before anyone could hardly blink.
"Mighty fine of you," said Captain Boyd with a chuckle as he slapped Mal across the back, and the two crews finally parted ways.
The short walk back to Serenity seemed to sober Simon up some, if nothing else. Kaylee had promised the fresh air would help and she hadn't been wrong. Wash and Zoe headed up the ramp with their arms around each other, and Inara escorting River somewhere behind Jayne and Mal.
"Mighty glad we left the preacher at the abbey for his meditatin' afore this trip started," said Jayne, listing to the left some as they headed inside and Mal closed up the ramp door. "Pretty sure he'd have all kinds to say 'bout us gettin' drunk and disorderly."
"I, for one, am neither drunk nor disorderly," stated Inara with mild-disgust but also a little amusement, "but I'm fairly certain you're doing enough of both for all of us, Jayne."
"This hooch is gorram mi-raculous stuff, Mal," the merc told the Captain, not even paying attention to the girls giggling about his state of drunkenness. "Oughta try it. Don't taste like nothin' I ever had before."
"Smells like fruit punch kinda" Kaylee frowned as she leaned in closer to get a whiff. "Strange for liquor to smell so good, ain't it?"
"A lot of alcohol comes from various fruits and even vegetables," noted Simon as they all climbed the stairs headed towards the galley.
"I could stand a night cap, once I get us up in the air and all," said Wash, winking at Zoe who seemed to agree to the plan.
It wasn't long before the whole crew were sat round the dinner table with various cups and glasses in their hands, Mal pouring out a healthy measure of this strange looking, fruity smellin' moonshine for every person present. Simon looked somewhat put-out that River was grinning so much over her share of the booze, but just this once he couldn't see it doing her any harm. Besides, he was still a little drunk himself and perhaps not thinking so very clearly.
"So, here's to a job well done today," said Mal as he got back to the head of the table and raised his glass. "Good work, people."
Various calls of 'cheers', 'good health', and such were made as the group of eight downed their liquor at various rates. Reactions varied, but all were pretty fierce. The heat and strength of the stuff set all the girls coughing and though Simon and Wash did their best not to follow suit, they winced terribly at the strength of the alcohol.
Mal shook his head a little to clear the immediate headache that hit him and though Jayne had been sipping the drink from the get go, downing a whole glass in one was even a little much for him to handle, proven by the way his face twisted into a grimace.
"Well, ain't that somethin?'" said Zoe, the only girl not coughing up her lungs right about now, but looking as if she felt a little breathless, truth be told.
Though everyone agreed, and were sure they'd suffer something terrible for the drinking of it, not one amongst the crew declined when offered another glass. Why Mal even suggested it made little or no sense and yet another round was poured and duly swallowed down by all.
It was within mere seconds of this that the darkness began to creep up on each member of Serenity's crew, and within the space of not more than a minute, they were all sound asleep.
Four men and four women sat together around a large dining table, all beginning to wake from a deep and peaceful slumber at more or less the same moment. Eight pairs of eyes all fluttered open, and eight pairs of ears pricked up, as these people took in the sights and sounds of their wholly unfamiliar environment.
"What the...?" the man at the head of the table said, shaking his head a little to clear the apparent fog within. "I don't..." he started again as he shifted his weight some and the head on his shoulder popped up, the dark-skinned woman peering at him with suspicious eyes.
"Who are you?" she asked, with some severity to her tone, immediately putting the guy on the defensive, hands raised in some kind of surrender.
"I'm... Well, I..." Thinking long and hard brought no name to mind and the poor man could only shake his head one more time in confusion.
"Where am I?" asked a little voice down the end of the table, a girl in green dungarees pulling her knees up into her chest and looking all kinds of scared.
"Hey, there's no panic here, little lady," the man at the head of the table assured her. "Least, I don't reckon so. Anyone here sure on their names or where we all are?" he asked hopefully but only received seven blank looks in return.
"Drooled on you, apologies," said the youngest of the bunch, as she brushed her hand over the upper arm of the large man beside her, mindful of any mess she'd caused whilst she had slept all snuggled up against him.
"Don't worry on it," he told her, as the odd looking couple shared a smile.
"So this is, what? Group amnesia?" asked the man in the crazy shirt from across the table. "'Cause I never heard that one before..."
"I have," answered the final man, dressed much smarter than all the rest and blushing profusely when all attention was turned to him. "I think?" he added sheepishly, unsure that he could explain further, even if he wished to.
"I am certain we should all know a great many things and yet for some reason we know nothing, not even our own identifies," said the elegant lady sat at the other end of the table, eyeing the strange bottles of alcohol a distance from her. "I wonder if this might be the reason why?"
She rose up at the same moment as the man sat at the far end and neither looked pleased that the other might want to take charge.
"Let's start from the front then," the man suggested. "Let's get us folks some names figured out at least."
The woman across the way only stared a moment, looking a little affronted to have words taken from her mouth in such a way.
"An excellent idea," she was forced to agree. "Does anyone have any identification cards or documents perhaps?" she asked the assembled group of so far nameless individuals, as the ship they did not realise was called Serenity sailed on through the black.
To Be Continued...