Unchained Melody

by Bonibaru

Written for the Literary Fanfiction Challenge.

Question: Who is the truest lover of all?

Required word: Bullet. Taboo word: Kiss

Disclaimer: Firefly and all its characters belong to Joss Whedon, Mutant Enemy, and Fox, even though Fox doesn't DESERVE them.

Many thanks to beta readers Zahra and Ivy, and to Devon for the in-depth chat about barrel lengths and clip size.

She's the closest you've ever come to having an emotional attachment with anything remotely female, and that's not something you take lightly.

She's sleek and she's cool, and she feels good in your hands, better than any woman ever has. The man you took her from died bloody, with a look of complete shock on his face, like he couldn't believe she'd let anyone get the better of him in a firefight. He'd been the best of that low-down disreputable lot, but you think she must've known a better deal when she saw one. Sure, Jiang had been a cold-blooded murdering piece of shit, but he'd also been greasy and unkempt, and he stank worse than Canton. He'd let her get all caked up with dirt and grease and blood, and that weren't no way to treat a lady. That hwoon dahn hadn't deserved Vera, and she'd known it. Every bullet she'd fired in your direction had missed its mark.

You've had bigger, of course. But an ounce of perseverance and a mite of skill will get a man through a complicated situation no matter what barrel size he's packing. Vera packs more of a punch than any other weapon you've owned, and that's saying something, because until she came along you felt pretty strongly that size mattered and under-compensation was for pussies. Most guys lucky enough to have a quality piece like Vera wouldn't know what to do with what they'd got, but you know in your heart that you were born to handle her.

You're more devoted to Vera than you've ever been to anything in your poor-ass excuse for a life. You can feel through your fingertips when she needs extra attention. You take her apart with gentle hands, reverently laying each piece out on the bed. You dip a cloth patch in cleaning solvent, fix it in place, then push the jag slowly into her barrel. You swirl it around, feeling your way down the tight length. The better you make it fit, the more firing residue you get out, so you make sure it's always as tight as you can get it because your life depends on a gun that fires clean. Ten times you slide the lubricating patches through in a firm, steady rhythm, loosening the copper fouling and making her insides all slick and shiny smooth again. In and out slowly ten times more with a clean, dry patch finishes her off and she shines like new when you put her back together again.

You love the way she handles for you after a good cleaning. She vibrates in your hands like a living thing, and barely twitches when you squeeze the trigger. You know just how much pressure she needs to go off and how many times in a row you can pull before she needs a break to cool down.

You almost betrayed Vera, once. You tried to give her away to Mal in exchange for a real woman, one that was deceptively soft and sweet-smellin'. You were lonely, because it had been so long since you'd had anything more than your own hands to take care of the tension that creeps up on you in the darkness of your bunk. You must have been really desperate, and not in your right mind, because she's saved your life a dozen times or more and that's something not easily cast aside. You'd known Mal would keep proper care of her; you would've done no less for the flesh-and-blood replacement. Hell, you'd have taken better care of Saffron than Mal had, even though you heard her tell him she'd rather be left on a strange planet than given to you. And you would've never fallen for that gorram sleep potion trick, professional whore or no, because her mouth would have been busy on another part of your body entirely.

You know that Vera forgave you that moment of insanity, 'cause she'd saved your ignorant ass that very same day - saved the whole ruttin' ship in fact. See, Vera? Dress yourself up, you get taken out somewhere fun. You're grateful every day that Mal turned you down, because Vera's honest, and has no secrets. Vera keeps things simple; treat her well, she returns it in kind. No woman of flesh and blood could be so true to her lover.

You don't take her on every job, but she's never left behind on the really important ones. On your last stopover on Persephone you bought a travel case for her, a hard-sided black carrier with a silky soft inner cushion. You'd been showing it to Mal and Book in the kitchen, and Book made a joke about something called a Stradivarius. You hadn't known what that was, and thought for a second you might have to punch the Shepherd in the mouth. Then Mal laughed and said it was true, the sound of Vera's bolt sliding into place was always music to his ears, so you took that to mean it wasn't a bad thing.

At night she hangs beside you while you sleep, within easy reach. You don't really think that you could fire her within Serenity; the tiniest crack in the outer hull would be one breach too many for a ship this small, and she's probably got enough kick to put one through the wall. But she's light enough to swing, and heavy enough to put a dent in the skull of anyone foolish enough to come at you in your own bunk.

One night you wake up on your back, one hand on Vera, your other hand on yourself, running your fingertips up and down the smooth barrel with long, slow strokes. The blood of every kill she's scored for you hums inside your veins. Its warmth gathers and pools, tingling out from your belly and across your thighs.

Your mind drifts, replaying the run on the space station: Mal inside somewhere, bound and tortured and maybe dead; Zoe at your back with pistolas and grenades; Wash looking and acting like the crazy son of a bitch you've long suspected he keeps locked away. Niska's men just keep coming and coming down those twisting, narrow corridors, but Vera hums in your memory as you watch yourself load the chamber with round after round and laugh in the face of death.

You imagine you can feel her hot barrel jerking against your arms as you fire over and over, adrenalin pumping through you and into her, bodies falling before you like limp dolls. You pump harder with your other fist, and the tingling warmth pulls back again, concentrating in one sweet spot between your legs until with a gasp you clutch at her, shuddering, and shoot all over your stomach.

When you've caught your breath, you get out of bed to wash your hands and dry them carefully. Vera wouldn't be happy if you got her all sticky. That ain't no way to treat a lady.

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