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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
"Wash finally accepts his place in the 'verse. River wants to mend a few broken bridges while Kaylee has a favour to ask of the Captain."
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1991 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
TITLE: "ETERNAL FLAME"
AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL
PAIRING: Simon/Kaylee. Mal. Inara.
STATUS: SEQUEL to "HALF HEARTACHE"
ARCHIVE: Yes. Just let me know where.
SUMMARY: "Wash finally accepts his place in the 'verse.
River wants to mend a few broken bridges while Kaylee has
a favour to ask of the Captain."
The usual disclaimers apply. The characters and 'Firefly'
are the property and gift of Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy.
No infringement of copyright is intended.
Written by Alison M. DOBELL
* * * * *
Fascinated, River watched them. Careful not to make it too obvious but taking pleasure in something so wonderful and magical that it made her mind sing in resonance with all the happy in her heart. Kaylee was rocking baby Charlotte, little Joshua sitting as close as he could without dislodging the baby, one hand holding the infant's tiny hand in his. Kaylee smiling so sweetly down at them that it made River want to cry but she didn't. Wouldn't. It would alarm and worry Kaylee. Besides, it wasn't her secret to tell. They were sitting on the couch just off from the commons room.
Joshua managed to hide the surprise and joy at the unexpectedly deep rumble warming his mind. *I thought you weren't comin' back?*
The boy could feel the humour like a warm pulse in his head. A much loved and trusted friend. It gave him a contentment beyond words. *I never left*
That surprised Joshua. *Wo bu dong, I couldn't feel you*
*Because you weren't meant to*
Instead of answering Book asked him a question. *Do you know what happens to high wire artists who always work with a net?*
*They become dependent on it. Won't move on or tackle anythin' else without one. It binds them, limits them*
*Makes them weak?*
*Not exactly but they become fixed in place, unable to move, to grow*
The boy was gazing down at Charlotte Anne, the nearness of her becalming him like a drug. Joshua didn't need to speak to the baby or have her conscious and looking at him. Touch was the only thing he needed. It amplified a connection so precious he could hardly stand to be out of reach of her. It amused Kaylee but the Shepherd was concerned. What a child can get away with a young man can't. And with the division of souls in the balance the time had come.
*You mustn't spend all your time with the baby*
*But she's my sister*
That startled the boy so much it hurt. Joshua blinked but did not look up, not wanting Kaylee to wonder if something was wrong. Vaguely aware of Kaylee singing softly to her child. *What d'you mean?*
*In this life she is not your sister just as you are not your father, dong ma?*
*Is this gonna give me a headache?*
The rich laughter filled the boy's mind as the man he was hovered like an anxious but loving shadow over this new life. It made him feel like two people, or two halves of one soul hovering over the same vehicle. Disputed territory but without tanks. No weapons, no violence, no aggression, just the subtle strains of an emotional tug or war that neither wants to win at the cost of the other. A benign conflict. Where does Wash end and Joshua begin? He didn't know and was more than a little reluctant to find out. Not sure how he would handle the answer. How he would cope. Each half wanting to be the one to occupy the driving seat of the body destined to walk this time in the 'verse. When the two were in coincidence the adult child became both sides of the equation but now the predominant consciouness of Wash was coming to realise that this situation could not continue without consequences more painful than he could have imagined.
To remain while the child grew and developed into his own separate personality was the path to mental illness. Wash needed to let go and enable Joshua to move on and embrace this life. Without Shepherd Book's understanding and gentle guidance Wash was sure he would not have been able to do it, but while he loved and adored being a child to Zoe and all the wealth of feelings both new and old that engendered, he also wanted to be the father. To watch over and see his son grow, to witness the miracle of a new life carrying all their hopes and wishes into the next century. Wash's time had come and gone, this gift of a new life had been a precious savouring of something beyond joy and passion. It made him weak with gratitude and love and appreciation. Book had given him a choice, to live again through his son or to do the harder more selfless act of moving on. Allowing the son he and Zoe had longed to bring into the world to have his own life, separate but always part of the creative force that had brought him into being. The strands of his DNA forever part of the magical spiral of life that was his parents' gift.
Wash understood now. If he didn't learn to let go he would risk the future. Not for himself but for his son. It frightened and excited him in equal measure. *You know what you have to do*
*Qu, Book, but it's so hard* Wash paused. *Now that I've seen, heard, tasted, felt, been part of this how do I give it up? Yet how can I knowing what I now know refuse to let my son have his own destiny rather than selfishly living out a desire to extend mine? And Charlie...* Wash's thoughts fragmented in love and grief, but love was stronger. *You know we were gonna call our first girl child Charlotte Anne?*
*Yes. A fine name*
Wash agreed. *Did you see Zoe's reaction when she heard the baby's name?* Book nodded but his thoughts were silent. Wash had to do this himself. Without prompting. It would be the greatest gift he could give to his son. He paused before making his decision, watching Joshua hanging on to little Charlotte as if she were the most precious thing in the 'verse. It made him all manner of emotional but also very proud. He loved them all so very much. *Will I still be able to see him?*
*Qu, you can visit them often. In fact you can visit whoever you like as often as you like providing they accept*
That surprised him. *Accept? They won't even know I'm there*
*I didn't realise you wanted to be a peeping Tom. My education has failed me*
*Bu qu, didn't mean that an' you know it. It's just...*
*Wash, why do you knock on a door when you visit people? It's manners, dui? Even loved ones need moments of privacy and if you think there is not other work awaiting you then you are much mistaken*
*Work? Book I'm dead, what can I do? Or are you gonna give me wings an' teach me to play the harp? Have to warn you I can sing but only if you count a cat wailin' with its' tail on fire*
*It's not like that but before you can go on to the possibilities ahead of you there is a little matter of consolidating the past. Embrace what you have had Wash then let go, pass on the torch and be ready for the next part to unfold*
Wash began to withdraw almost without realising it, his emotions touched by awe as his separating spirit saw the dimmed light of his son flare brighter. *Wow" Is that...?*
*Yes, Wash, that is Joshua's spirit*
*Spirit not soul?*
*But I thought when you let me come back, you know, be my son that it was a one time deal. No going back. I took the place of Joshua's soul.* Wash broke off, guilt and regret making him want to weep for his weakness. How could he have been so selfish? *What happened to the displaced soul? Didn't that go to Charlie?* If he had still had a physical head it would have hurt.
*Not in the way you think. Do you remember when Zoe was sick a year or so ago?*
*Wo bu dong*
Very gently Book explained. *Zoe wasn't sick, she had a miscarriage, Wash*
*Shenme? Why didn't she tell me? I'm the husband, I had a right to know*
*She didn't want to hurt you. Besides it was early into the pregnancy, she hadn't begun to show. You thought it was something she had eaten*
*Simon must have known*
*Doctor/Patient confidentiality, Wash* Book paused. *The foetus was female*
*Then Kaylee's little girl...*
*Has Charlotte's soul*
A new emotion dazzled Wash, all the unhappy a distant memory. *Wow.* He took a moment to let that all sink in, using Joshua's eyes to drink in the sight of the sleeping baby. He had assumed that Joshua's displaced soul had gone to the new baby, Charlotte. But if Charlotte was the lost baby's soul reborn what had happened with him and Josh? Another thought was also nagging at him. *There's something I don't understand. Well, one of many things actually. What I want to know is how come Charlotte Anne gets to come back, okay not to Zoe an' me but to Kaylee an' Simon, an' I can't?*
*You did but the point is that the foetus should not have died, the baby should have gone to full term and lived. But there was a complication, the biological imperative that drives the human body is full of fail safes. That is why the baby aborted or as you would view it, died. That soul has been waiting for another vehicle to complete the life she should have had*
*He will grow up with a deep abiding love for his father. Knowing you in his heart and accepting that, it will guide him through the rest of his life. There will be no bitterness if that is what you're worryin' about, just a little sadness*
*This is hard*
*Everything that is worthwhile always is*
*I thought if something was good it would be easy*
*That's because you're confusin' what you want with what you need*
Something, instinct perhaps, alerted Joshua that he and Kaylee are no longer alone. In the ether Wash and Book looked on with interest. Tilting his head so he could look over Kaylee's shoulder, Joshua spotted River and grinned. He really liked River. Wash got a sudden flash of understanding. *She knows*
Wash stared, fascinated by the way in which River was looking at Joshua. Then the genius gave Joshua a smile before putting a finger to her lips as if hushing him. Joshua blinked then she was gone. A little shaken the boy looked up to find Kaylee had stopped singing. The maze of thoughts and feelings that had crowded Joshua's head for so long had gone, leaving his own consciousness to make sense of this rich and vibrant 'verse. He felt he should remember something but it was gone yet instead of loss he felt a deep contentment. Kaylee dipped her head to get a good look at him. The boy was way too quiet. "You okay, Josh? On'y ya look a mite peaky."
Joshua shook his head. "Bu qu, just she's so tiny." It wasn't a lie but it's all he can think of. Even when he has the truth in his hands he doesn't quite know what to do with it.
Kaylee's moment of concern was immolated in a blazing smile. Joshua thought she could outshine any sun in the gorram 'verse. He was unaware of his father standing on the outside looking in. *That she could*
The Shepherd chided Wash gently. *It's time*
No more grumbling, not even a remnant of sorrow just a feeling of heartfelt gratitude and content. The sense of having been touched by something holy. The torch had been passed, a brief brush of shared existence for the measure of a heartbeat and yet while that heartbeat lasted it was eternity. The 'verse in a grain of sand. The spark of life an eternal flame. Another beat passed and Joshua blinked. No echo of Wash lingering, Joshua's mind acclimatising to simpler thoughts. Feelings less intense but no less real for being set in childhood. The world of the Here and Now so solid and real. The boy released Charlotte's hand and looked expectently at a bemused Kaylee. His fascination with the new arrival already being eclipsed by another biological imperative. "I'm hungry."
Kaylee laughed and dropped a kiss of sunlight on his upturned face. "Best go find ya mama, Josh, then we can all eat."
Watching his son go Wash did not follow, his eyes fastened on the sleeping child in Kaylee's arms. *You're gonna explain to me the difference between spirits an' souls, Book*
He could feel the Shepherd's ethereal laughter ringing through his consciousness like a bell. Not harsh or jarring but with a resonance that eased and delighted him in ways too numerous to count. It warmed him to feel Book's gentle humour beaming back at him. A beautiful golden light that pulsed and radiated all around him, telling him how much he was loved. *Ah, I can hardly wait*
In the briefest flash of consciousness they were gone, the Shepherd taking Wash to a higher plane. In the life eternal death was but a doorway into a wider room. *In my father's house there are many mansions* Book thought, not projecting his musing to Wash but hoping with all his heart that he would be the one chosen to show his friend every one of them. It didn't matter how long it took. A day, a lifetime, an eternity. The Shepherd had much to attone for and was blessed with a way of doing so that weighed nothing at all. Humilty made his light shine all the brighter, love and friendship helping to heal his friend as they took that first step together.
It was a weird ass feeling but try as he might Jayne could not put a finger on what was wrong. It was as if everybody was singing from a different song sheet only not so obvious. Subtle, that's the word. But what the *diyu* were they singing and why in the nine hells were all the sweet notes sounding like a rutting funeral dirge?
Jayne paused in his lift, breathed deep then put the weight on the rest and slid out from his bench. Glistening with sweat he frowned at the slim waif-like girl and reached for the hand towel to wipe his face and neck. "You're enough to confuse anyone, crazy girl."
She shook her head. "Not me, you."
"What I got to be confused 'bout, 'less it's figurin' out what in the nine hells you're talkin' about?"
"It's all about the timing."
He waited for her to continue but when it became obvious she was not going to Jayne huffed. "Huh, might'a figured ya'd make no sense."
Her smile was sweet but her look distracted, as if she wasn't really with him. "Gone now." Sadness seemed to swamp her suddenly and Jayne froze, just staring at the girl as if afraid she was going to come totally unglued. He didn't want the Captain blaming him or Simon plotting revenge next time he got to patch him up. Though the doc had said he was safe under his knife, something about some hypocritical oath or somesuch. It wouldn't stop the Captain getting all mean with him though and if he upset the Captain then Zoe would be a hundred times pissed as well and that was trouble he didn't need or want.
River blinked and seemed to come back to herself but the mercenary remained wary. Wouldn't pay to let down his guard until the loony girl left. The girl shook her head, coherence flooding back in an instant. "Nobody now. Was before but not now. Time to move on."
The mercenary just stared at her as River left, her bare feet making no sound on the softly murmuring metal. Jayne wondered about whether he should tell anyone then shook it off. It wasn't like he was concerned or nothing. Not like he was going soft. With a huff he put the towel down and lay down on the bench, carefully lining himself up beneath the lifting bar. A few more lifts should work up a mighty fine appetite for whatever *goushi* they would be eating. Still, it was like his mama said, you didn't live to eat you ate to live. Didn't matter a good gorram to your body what the food tasted like, it was just fuel. It was why he shovelled it down, didn't have to taste it that way. But sometimes, just every now and then, he got all reflective and got to missing the Shepherd. Man sure had a way of turning that *lese* protein into something that didn't make his gorram stomach clench. Ignoring the way his heart hitched at the memory, Jayne settled his hands around the bar, measured his breathing then lifted. Yep, wasn't like he was worried about the crazy girl at all.
He wasn't hiding. Really. He wasn't. Zoe gave Malcolm Reynolds one of those looks that told him he wasn't fooling her but didn't call her on it. Instead he looked up from his paper littered desk as she stepped off the ladder into his bunk. Maybe he should have locked his gorram door?
"You want somethin'?"
"Just wondered how long you were gonna stay down here, sir."
"*Weishenme*? Just doing the paperwork, Zoe. Makin' the best of this quiet time."
Zoe hesitated and the Captain's look sharpened. She wanted to call him on it, find out what he was thinking then get him to act before it was too late. But Inara and Mal had always been stubborn, the dance they did all kinds of abrasive like dysfunctional siblings only there was also that other tension. The one that bespoke of hearts trying to deny what fate entitled them to. She wanted to knock their fool heads together. Gorramit, wasn't her losing Wash enough to shake some sense into them? There were only so many tomorrows in every lifetime and she didn't want to see her Captain and friend waste any more of them. But Mal wasn't Wash and Inara would never be like her own self. It kind of depressed her like some self fulfilling prophecy of impending doom.
When Zoe didn't say anything else the Captain put his pen down. "*Shenme shi*? Spit it out 'cause I know I ain't gonna get any peace 'til you get whatever the good gorram's botherin' you off your chest."
"Sir, Mal..." She trailed off for a moment, her look closing up as she hunted for the right words. "About Inara..."
"Ain't nothin' to say on that score, Zoe, an' not your business to be pryin'. You wanna talk about 'Nara you go to her not me, *dong ma*?"
Seeing his expression set into battle lines, Zoe knew when to pull back. A tactical retreat was not defeat. She changed topics, slipping back into the role of first mate with all the ease of long practice. "How long we gonna stay here, sir?"
"Until little albatross gives us the all clear."
For long seconds neither spoke. Zoe didn't look too happy but her voice was quiet and pretty near emotionless when she spoke. "What if she don't give the all clear?"
"Well now, then we make a decision the old fashioned way."
Zoe's eyebrows crept up towards the hairline, her dark eyes questioning his sanity. Mal grinned though there was a weariness behind it. She knew he hadn't been sleeping but that was another thing he wouldn't want to talk about. Another concern she would not mention - for now.
"I have a pile of *fei hua* paperwork to be fillin' in so best you leave me to it."
With a nod the first mate did just that. Only when the hatch clanged shut behind her did the Captain abandon the fiction that he was working and put his head in his hands. Inara. What in the nine hells was he going to do about their Registered Companion? Gorramit, it wasn't as if she hadn't warned him about not servicing crew. Rutting *diyu* he didn't want her to service him, he wanted her to love him. Was that so much to ask? With a sigh he rubbed a weary hand over his face and picked up the pen. Apparently it was.
Kaylee looked up as Simon joined her, sleeves rolled up and a smile on his face. He bent his head to give her a kiss, their lips lingering as their eyes spoke volumes. Simon pulled away gently and dropped a soft kiss on his daughter's brow. "She looks like you."
"Naw, she's got her daddy's eyes."
"Kaylee, all baby's eyes are blue when they're born..."
"So? Ya think that stops 'em bein' yours?"
He stared at her, stunned. There were times when words utterly failed him. Luckily Kaylee preferred actions to words. "There really is no answer to that."
She beamed and tilted her head. "What ya been cookin'? You was an age with your head in them cupboards."
"Um, we're kind of low on protein. No herbs to speak off. The tinned goods don't have labels and the fresh produce is... gone."
He nodded, feeling oddly guilty although it wasn't his fault. It wasn't anyone's fault. They needed to resupply and soon. "We need supplies."
"This mean we ain't eatin'?"
"No, no, that's not what I meant just that it... it isn't goin' to be much more than a protein mash."
Kaylee thought about that. "That ain't so bad."
Simon kissed her cheek and took the baby in his arms so Kaylee could get up without jostling her. "Tell me that after you've eaten it."
By the time they got to table Jayne was taking a seat. Inara came in next and sat at the far end of the table. Kaylee smiled at her friend and moved to sit next to her, the tension frittered away the moment Inara laid eyes on their newest crew member. Heads together they cooed and talked softly over the baby and to each other. Zoe came in next with Joshua breaking into a run when he saw Simon turn from the stove with a big pan. Jayne put out a long arm and caught Joshua up around his waist. "Slow down, short stuff. Might be when ya taste it ya won't be so eager."
Zoe glared at him. "Jayne!"
"What? It's what we're all thinkin'. Grey mash is grey mash."
Simon banged the pan on the table just as his sister joined them. River went over to Kaylee and Inara and made a fuss of baby Charlotte before taking her place at the table. The mashed protein looked unappetising but at least they still had a few bread rolls. Pretty hard by now but Simon had wet the rolls and put them in the oven to soften and warm them through. As Jayne reached to grab one River snatched it and brought the roll to her mouth. Laughing at Jayne as her teeth sank in. Jayne growled at her.
"You're lucky it ain't the last roll, moonbrain."
She spoke with her mouth full, something River and Simon's parents would have been apalled to see, laughter in her voice. "Will be when it's gone."
As everybody settled and helped themselves to some food, Simon glanced around the table. "Where's the Captain?"
"Doin' paperwork. *Fang xin*, he knows food's on the table."
At the other end of the table, Inara pretended not to hear the exchange. She didn't like the feeling of discomfort settling over her, nor the little stab of guilt that she was the cause but then she hadn't promised him anything, had she? Was it her fault that the *wangu shenjingbing* Captain had expected something she wasn't prepared to give? You didn't always get what you wanted in life. It was a lesson Serenity's Captain should have learnt by now. Somehow the thought was no comfort at all to the Companion.
The Captain didn't show up for dinner. Simon put a roll and some food aside for him, River jumping up to help him clear the table. Joshua ran to Jayne and tugged at his pant leg.
"What you wantin', short stuff?"
"Play with me."
Jayne raised his eyebrows, a mock stern look upon his face. "Why in the nine hells would I wanna do that?"
Zoe tried to hide a smile. "I can hurt you, Jayne."
"That ain't fair, ya can't order me to be your gorram babysitter."
"Ain't a baby, Jayne." Retorted Joshua with a touch of the sulks.
The Captain's voice interrupted any reply the mercenary would have made as he entered the room. "Don't mind Jayne, Josh, he ain't house broke yet."
Affronted, Jayne glared at Mal. "*Wei*, I heard that!"
The Captain took the proferred plate from Simon with a nod of thanks and settled in his place at the head of the table. Seemingly oblivious to the fact that everyone else had finished their meal. "Hearin's good though."
Zoe smirked and turned to say something to Inara only to see the back of her as the Companion left. Trying to hide her concern and annoyance Zoe wondered how they were going to get passed this. Lost in thought she didn't notice River slip out in Inara's wake. The Captain did not look up from his plate but Zoe knew he had noticed. Hated the tiny flinch that was the only sign he was hurting. Gorramit, she would give them another week and if the two of them didn't sort it out by then she would do it herself. Kaylee carried the baby over to where Simon was elbow deep in soap suds. He paused to smile at her then bent his head as the mechanic whispered something in his ear. Zoe wasn't really noticing, her own mood darkening even as Joshua managed to drag Jayne out of his chair.
Deep in thought it was a surprise when Kaylee made her request. Zoe stared, the Captain looked up and as Jayne swung Joshua up on to his shoulders he paused. Simon wiped his hands and stood beside his wife. The Captain stared and finally managed to get his mouth to work. "You wanna what?"
Kaylee turned her brightest smile on the Captain and moved close enough that he could reach out and touch the baby. Such a little thing. The sight of his *mei mei* as a mother, and such a good one, was more affecting that he liked to admit. Kind'a wrung his heart in impossible directions but in a way he wouldn't change for anything in the 'verse and gorramit if she didn't know it. "I wanna go home, Cap'n. See my ma an' pa. Reckon it's time they got to meet their newest grand daughter."
The Captain blinked, emotion blinding him for a moment. Zoe held her breath and looked around, noticing that River was no longer in the room. She frowned slightly. Mal was thinking, turning the notion over in his head with slow and careful deliberation. "You know we're hidin' for a reason, *dui*?"
"Yeah, Cap'n, I know but we been here a week an' ain't nothin' happened. Anyone as is lookin' for us ain't gonna be hangin' 'round this old rock."
He felt unsettled but the girl had a point. They were all staring at the Captain now and there could be no denying they were out of most all supplies including medical. Plus with the Fryes having the workshop at the back of the farm it would give Kaylee a chance to pick up spares for the ship. Not to mention they were all going a little stir crazy. With a nod he decided it was doable and it wasn't like Kaylee didn't deserve it. "*Qu*, providin' everythin' looks good we'll set course for Carousel in the mornin'."
Kaylee beamed and kissed his cheek. "I love my Cap'n!"
The Captain didn't say anything, just grinned back. Once the room emptied and he rose to wash his plate the happy vanished, consumed by sadness like a shadow over his heart. Then Mal straightened and pushed those thoughts to the back of his mind. First thing tomorrow he would give Martin Frye a wave. The thought brought a smile to his face. He shook his head, happy that at least one relationship was working out as it should on his boat. It would be good to see the Fryes again plus he couldn't wait to see the look on their faces when they saw the baby. Mayhap it would ease the shock of finding their daughter newly wed. His smile faltered. Gorramit, he hoped they would forgive him for marrying the pair of them out in the Black. With luck they would be so enamoured of the new arrival that Kaylee's ma wouldn't tan his hide for him. But even if she did and he couldn't sit down for a gorram week at least he would have a full belly. Not nobody in the 'verse could out-cook Kaylee's mama. *Diyu*. Maybe this was a good decision after all.
CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)
*weishenme bu* = why not? *dong ma* = understand? *qu* = yes (lit. go)
*bu qu* = no (lit. no go) *dui* = correct *wo bu dong* = I don't understand
*shenme* = what *diyu* = hell *goushi* = crap/dog shit *lese* = crappy
*weishenme* = why *shenme shi* = what's the matter? *wei* = hey!
*fang xin* = don't worry (lit. ease your heart) *fei hua* = rubbish talk/garbage
*wangu* = stubborn *shenjingbing* = crazy *mei mei* = little sister
Wednesday, June 28, 2006 7:51 PM
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