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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Next in the Freya/Mal saga after Resolution. Feedback, whether good or bad, will be much appreciated ...
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1967 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
Freya reached inside the small gap, her fingers probing gingerly. “I can’t reach it.”
Kaylee, up to her elbow in a similar port on the other side of the engine room, grinned. “Try to the left.”
Freya grimaced slightly as she felt oil drip down the back of her hand, but she moved slightly. “Ah. Yes, got it. How come they made it so awkward?”
Kaylee laughed. “Next time I talk to the designers I’ll ask. Though I think most of ‘em are probably dust by now. Okay, on my mark. Three, two, one, mark.”
They both pressed identical small nodules, and the engines went from whining to humming. Kaylee sat up, very pleased. “That’s my girl.” She patted the bulkhead lovingly.
Malcolm Reynolds stepped into the engine room, a small cream envelope in his hand, Jayne crowding in behind him. He held out the envelope. “Freya, small guy on a big horse just delivered this for you.”
Freya stood up, picking up a rag to wipe her hands. “What is it?”
“How should I know?” He waved the envelope at her.
Freya held up her right hand, indicating the oil stains. “Just tell me, Mal.”
He tried to look innocent. “What makes you think I’d read your private correspondence?”
“Because it’s addressed to me personally, the flap is open, and I know you.”
Jayne laughed and Mal, with a pained expression, gave in. “All right, it’s an invitation to attend a ball from a Dominic Vine.”
Freya raised her eyebrow. “Dominic? Interesting. I wonder how he knew I was here.”
Mal tried to sound disinterested. “So who is he?”
“Dominic? He’s an old …”
“Lover?” Kaylee suggested.
Mal countered with, “Friend?”
Until Jayne trumped with, “Arms dealer?”
Freya laughed. “Enemy, actually. But he’s always been very civilised about it.”
“Are you going to go?” Even to himself Mal sounded like the father figure he really didn’t want to be.
“Of course. It would be rude not to.”
“Then I'm going with you.”
“It doesn’t say with guest. Or escort. Or boss. Or lover,” she pointed out.
“How do you know? You haven’t read it.”
“Because you wouldn’t have said otherwise.” She finished cleaning her hand and took the envelope.
“I don’t want you going on this date.” Mal crossed his arms. He’d only just gotten used to having her in his bed: he wasn't just going to let her go out with any strange man.
“It’s not a date, Mal. It’s business.”
“And how do you know that?” Mal asked.
“Because Dominic has never been interested in me in that way.”
“You’re sure about that?” Mal asked, then nodded as she gave him that look. “Yeah, well, maybe you are. But I still ain't happy ‘bout this. Where’s this ball he’s taking you to?”
Freya pulled the single sheet of heavy paper from the envelope and smiled. “It’s not really a ball,” she said, glancing up at him. “More like a party. Greenleaf doesn’t exactly have the cachet of some of the Core planets. But I should be able to do a little bit of business, maybe find us a cargo.”
“Well, that would be good,” Mal admitted. “But –“
“No buts, Mal,” she interrupted. “I’m going.”
A small hover landed outside the bulk of Serenity, and a thin, gangly man climbed out.
Mal, hanging around the cargo bay for just this purpose, decided this probably wasn't the man himself, and asked instead, “Yes?”
“I am here to collect Miss Freya Nordstrom on behalf of Mr Vine.”
Mal smiled at his own perspicacity and spoke over his shoulder. “Jayne, let Freya know he’s here.”
Jayne lifted his head and shouted, “Freya, it’s for you!” Mal turned a pained face towards him, but Jayne was unrepentant.
A voice floated down. “How no-one’s asked you to be their social secretary, I’ll never know.” Dressed in heavy cream with a hint of many other colours, Freya stood at the railing, looking down. The dress, if you could call it that rather than a work of art, was figure-hugging in a way that should have been illegal. It hung from a single dropped shoulder, curved around her, fitted in all the right places, and then fell in a mass of soft folds at her feet.
“Wow!” Kaylee was speechless, amazed at the difference to the normal look of her friend. Why couldn’t she ever look like that, she wondered. She gripped Simon’s hand tightly, totally unaware that he wanted her the way she was, not all dressed up.
“You like?” Freya asked, smiled down at her friend.
“Thanks.” Freya descended the stairs, the smile on her face playful, stopping in front of Mal.
He looked her up and down before saying, grudgingly, “You look … nice.”
“Why, thank you.”
Jayne, lounging against the bulkhead, offered his opinion. “Hell, even I’d take you to bed.”
Freya looked at him from under her eyebrows, a flash of her normal asperity in her gaze. “Not even in your wildest dreams.” She turned back to Mal. “I think it may be a little chilly out there; would you mind?” She handed him a cape.
“No problem. You should – whoa.” Freya had turned around, revealing the absolute glory of the back of the dress. Her multi-colour tattoo was fully visible, at least to the swell of her hips, the dress cut to expose every inch. It fitted like a second skin. Mal suddenly felt a little warm himself, and his body began to respond as he stared slack-jawed at the flames and sigils he loved to kiss and taste. To cover his arousal he said, “You can’t go out looking like that!” He hurriedly draped the cape around her shoulders, which was just long enough to hide the blaze of colours on her back and get his mind back from where it had inadvertently gone.
“Why not?” she asked innocently.
“You’ll get arrested!”
“It’s perfectly legal. It’s just an ordinary dress.”
“Ordinary it ain’t.” Even Jayne was finding himself a little overcome.
“Where did it come from?” Mal asked. “Thought you didn’t own anything like … that.”
“Oh, I have a few secrets.” She didn’t say she’d hurried out that afternoon and been lucky enough to find something in the first shop she tried.
Mal stepped closer, and asked, in spite of himself, “How do you keep it up?”
“Personal magnetism. I must be going – don’t want to keep him waiting.”
Mal felt he had to say something else. “Have a good time. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do,” he added, a little awkwardly.
Freya turned slightly, her eyes twinkling. “What, drink too much, start a fight and generally be as obnoxious as possible? I’ll try. Don’t wait up.”
Kaylee gazed after her, and Simon could feel she was trembling slightly. He spoke. “She did look amazing. She’d even give Inara a run for her money.”
Mal snorted. “She looked okay.”
“You said she looked nice!" Kaylee was outraged.
“I was being polite.” He turned and walked towards the communal room. Simon glanced at Kaylee, who nodded slightly. Jayne just looked bored.
“Captain Reynolds?” The man on the screen, somewhat older than Mal, was fleshily handsome, his hair still jet black, his lips mobile. Only his eyes were cold.
“Yes. What can I do for you?” Mal asked, all friendly-like.
“I am Dominic Vine.”
Mal was surprised. Somehow he hadn’t envisaged Freya’s ‘date’ in quite this fashion. But he was experienced enough not to show it. He sat back in the seat. “Mr Vine. How can we help you?”
“Is Miss Nordstrom there?” Vine looked – not angry, more troubled.
A strange feeling began creeping down Mal’s back as the hair on his neck stood on end, and he leaned forward again. “No. Your man picked her up some time back. Is there a problem?”
Vine’s concern became more prominent. “She hasn’t arrived, and I can’t contact my driver.”
Mal checked the shipboard clock. “She left here over an hour ago.”
Vine signalled to someone off screen. “I am concerned. There are thieves and brigands about these days. Can you follow the road they would have taken, and I will do the same from this end?”
“On our way.”
They used the old mule, trundling along, since the newer one would have gone past anything they might see before they could see it. They moved slowly as the night was dark, and the beams of the torches made little dent in it.
Suddenly Simon gripped Mal’s shoulder. “Over there.”
Mal swung his light around. It hit something lying off the track, half hidden in undergrowth, and his stomach tightened. Jayne pulled the mule to one side, and they jumped off. Hurrying down the slope, they came to the figure. It was the driver, shot through the head.
Without another word Mal, Zoe, Simon and Jayne started to search the undergrowth. River just sat on the mule, trying to feel where Freya was.
It was dark, Freya knew that. On the other hand, whether this was simply because she was unable to open her eyes was another matter. Gradually feeling began to creep back into her body, and she was aware her hands were high, in front of her, and she was sitting on hard ground, her legs drawn up beneath her. There was pain, too, not just from the unnatural position, but also from a point on her neck, just below her left ear. She was also cold.
At last will power opened her eyes, and a lifetime later she was able to lift her head. As her vision cleared, she realised she was in a small room, more like a cell, a single light in the ceiling, the manacles that held her wrists set into the wall.
“Wuh duh ma huh ta duh fung-kwong duh wai-shong doh,” she said loudly.
Mal was exasperated. No, more than that. He was rapidly reaching the end of his very short tether. He turned on Simon. “Come on. Your sister is supposed to be this great telepath. Get her to tell us where Freya is.”
“She’s trying her best.”
“It’s not good enough.” He strode away to glare at the tracks Jayne had found.
Simon spoke to his sister, quietly, gently, as was his habit now. “River, where is she?”
“I don’t know. In a small room, that was all I got, until she faded out again.” River shook her head. “There was a man with her. I couldn’t see him, but she was angry with him.” She looked up. “He was … he sounded like Badger.”
Simon glanced round at Mal, still engrossed in the marks on the ground. “Badger?”
“But I don’t think it was him. She didn’t know him. And he wouldn’t leave Persephone.”
“Can you talk to her?”
“No. It’s strange, Simon. It’s as if she isn’t there, just a shadow.”
“You’ll make a pretty price in the market.” The man crouched down next to her, running a calloused and dirty finger down her cheek.
“I'm not a slave.”
“No. But a Companion always gets good money.”
Freya stared at him. “I'm not a Companion either.”
“Now, now, Inara, that’s no –“
“Inara? I'm not Inara.”
“Of course you are. You came off that ship, Serenity.” The man continued to touch her, and she tried hard not to squirm out of his way.
“My name is Freya. I'm not Inara.”
“No? Are you sure?” He peered hard into her face. “Well, well, looks like I've had some bad information. Never mind. You’re pretty enough, or at least you will be when we get that paint off your back.”
“It’s not paint.”
He ran his hand down her spine, then inspected his palm. “Well, blow me. Neither it is. Some kind of tattoo, is it?”
“Still, shouldn’t drop your price that much. Who knows, maybe someone will be willing to take you on for the express purpose of getting that off. Now, back to bye-byes for you.” He lifted the dirty hypo again.
Freya tried now to move out of his way. “No – wait …” But the manacles were too tight.
Dominic Vine stood in the centre of the cargo bay, his face thunderous. “Are you sure?” he asked.
Mal nodded, his thumbs in his gunbelt. “Found the body of your driver out by the road. No sign of Freya, or your hover.”
“I don’t care about the hover,” Vine said, dismissing the expensive bit of equipment with a wave of his hand, and Mal felt something approaching alliance with this man. “But Nevins was a good man, and Freya …”
“Right.” Mal looked the other man up and down. “Got any ideas?”
“Well, like I said, there are brigands and thieves around here –“For some reason he glanced around the cargo bay before continuing, “ – and we’ve been having more than a little trouble with slavers.”
“Slavers?” Mal felt the old anger bubbling up inside him. “And you let Freya travel with just one man?”
“Nevins was good. There must have been a whole gang of them for him not to have been able to deal with them.”
That didn’t matter to Mal. All he could see was Freya chained up in the hold of a ship, one amongst many being taken off to market, like a slab of meat. “Can you find out which one took her?”
Vine nodded. “Already working on it.” He shook his head. “I'm sorry. I didn’t intend the evening to end quite like this.”
“Doubt Freya did either,” Mal added quietly.
There were other women around. She couldn’t see too well, something was wrong with her eyes, and her extremities felt like they belonged to someone else. But she could hear them talking, or screaming, although that didn’t last long once the men had come in. She thought she could feel the sound of an engine, its low thrum vibrating through her bones, but she wasn't sure. She wasn’t even sure she knew who she was.
“Captain!” Zoe called from the bridge, and Mal was up out of his chair and along the corridor quick as a wink.
“What?” he asked as he jumped up the steps.
Mal looked into the vid. “Well?” he asked.
Vine smiled grimly. “It wasn't easy, Captain Reynolds, but I've found them. A market on Santo. It’s not permanent, moves from moon to moon, but that’s where they’ve taken Freya.”
Mal nodded. “We’re on our way.”
“My men will meet you there.”
“Ain’t necessary. We can take care of it,” Mal said firmly.
“Oh, I don’t doubt that, Captain,” Vine nodded, but went on, “This is just insurance. Humour me.”
Mal thought for a moment, then nodded once. “Okay.”
“Oh, and Captain? My men are going to put it around that anyone bidding on Freya will answer to me. I suggest you use that.” He signed off and the vid went to static.
Mal wondered what he meant, then it hit him. Of course. A smile lifted the corner of his mouth. Not a bad idea for an old man, he thought.
She didn’t know how long she’d been there, whether it was hour or days, or even years. She was naked: at least she thought she could feel the wall at her back and the floor beneath her.
The men had hosed them down at some point, and she had almost been able to think, but immediately after they’d dosed the women up again, and the impenetrable fog had descended into her mind again. She hadn’t been able to stop them, no strength even to knock their hands away. It was as if the connection between her mind and body was broken, and all she was left with were pieces.
She couldn’t even read the other women in the cell – their minds weren’t there, or maybe she didn’t exist. Whatever it was, when the men came back and took them away one by one, she couldn’t do anything about it.
The slave market, temporary as it was, had set up its tents outside of the main town, giving an illusion of opulence to the trade of buying and selling human souls. It was packed with prospective buyers, all ages, shapes and sizes, but all with one thing in common – money. Whatever they wanted, they bought, be it women, goods or power. There had been a lot of money changing hands as different lots were brought forward, and Mal, in his one good suit, was beginning to get angry. Well, more angry than he already was. He’d had to borrow money from everyone on board Serenity, even Inara, to even get past the door, but now he was here, and itching to get his hands on the men responsible.
The auctioneer clapped his hands. “Right, gentlemen, here is the one you’ve obviously been waiting for. A nice little worker, for whatever your pleasure.” He leered.
The curtain pulled back, and a naked female figure, supported by two thugs, one on either side, was revealed. Simon put a warning hand on Mal’s arm, who had stiffened, but he didn’t move. Freya was obviously drugged, her head on one side, her eyes glazed.
“Now, who’ll start the bid at five thousand?”
Vine’s men had done their work well, and only one man held up a hand.
“Thank you, sir. Any advance?”
“Six,” Mal’s voice rang out.
“Thank you, sir. And seven?”
The other bidder went to raise his hand again, but inexplicably dropped it and shook his head. Well, maybe not inexplicably. It might well have had something to do with Jayne’s gun thrust into his ribs.
“No? Come on, there must be someone else.” The auctioneer searched the crowd, but no-one was making eye contact. “No? Well, I wouldn’t have believed it. Very well. Sold, to the gentleman at the back.” He brought the hammer down with a bang.
“Your new purchase.” The auctioneer stood to one side, his hand held out, as if he were showing Mal the hover he’d just bought.
“I want to be alone.”
“Course, sir. Wouldn’t be right if you didn’t view the merchandise.” He glanced into Mal’s face. “And payment?”
“Get out.” Mal’s tone was quiet, but the auctioneer mistook his anger for passion of an altogether different kind.
“Yes sir. After.” The auctioneer backed away. It didn’t matter if the buyer wanted to try the goods before he paid up. There were enough armed men around to make sure he didn’t try to run. He smiled obsequiously and closed the door behind him.
Mal stood looking at Freya, still naked, swaying slightly. After a moment he leaned over and picked up a brocade throw, holding it up as he stepped towards her. Freya managed to focus a little.
“Mal?” she murmured.
Mal wrapped the blanket around her and she fell against him, supported only by his arms. Gently he lowered her to the floor until she was resting on his thighs. She smiled slightly, her eyes closed. “Shh. You’re safe now.”
For a long time he held her, while the sounds of fighting outside came to a crescendo and died, until Simon came in followed swiftly by Jayne and Zoe, and they took Freya home.
“It’s a drug called Naxom. It’s used to control aggressive patients, generally those in high security wards. It’s also highly addictive.” Simon glanced at Freya on the infirmary bed. She was sweating, her head rolling as she moaned. "Freya’s going through withdrawal. It won’t be pleasant.”
River, sitting cross-legged on the other bed, nodded. “She’s in a bad place. Hurting.”
The muscles in Mal’s jaw tightened. “How long?”
“I can ease it, help. But it will take weeks before it’s totally out of her system. She may never be free of the craving.”
Mal wished silently it had been him who had killed the slaver, instead of Zoe. He would have taken his time. “Do what you need to.” He took hold of Freya’s hand. “Can she hear me?”
In response, Freya opened her eyes and looked directly at him. “Mal. It hurts. My skin burns.” Mal went to let go of her hand, but she gripped it tighter. “No. Hold on. Don’t let me go.”
Mal climbed the ladder to the very top of Serenity, a small maintenance platform that jutted out over the cargo bay. There, hunched over, was Freya, her skin an unhealthy grey compared to her normal colour. “River,” he said in response to her unasked question. “She told me where you’d be.”
“I had somewhere like this on my ship. When I was there, everyone knew not to disturb me.”
“You want me to go?”
“No. Please stay.”
Mal climbed onto the platform and sat down next to her, his hands on his knees. “So how are you feeling?” he asked, then realised just how a stupid thing it was to say.
“Simon says I’ll be fine.”
“That’s not what I asked.”
Freya looked at him, and he was shocked by the pain in her eyes. “I crave, Mal. I crave for something I didn’t want. A bit like love, really, don’t you think?”
“Can’t say I've thought too much about it.”
“I have.” She ran trembling hands through her hair. “Why did you come for me?”
Mal was surprised. “Did you think I wouldn’t?”
“I didn’t know.”
“You’re my crew, Freya.”
“Is that all?”
“I know. Don’t answer.”
“No, Freya.” He turned slightly and took her hands in his. “That’s not what I meant. Can’t you tell?”
Freya smiled just a little. “Apart from the fact that I don’t read my friends, I can’t anyway, even if I wanted. It’s a side effect of the Naxom, according to Simon. It may or may not come back, but right now my mind is blank.”
Mal was disconcerted. Freya seemed … lost, not the woman he knew at all. He wanted to hold her, keep her safe. “Freya, I don’t know where this is going to take us. I don’t even know if this is the right thing to do. But right now, I can’t think of anyone I’d rather be with.”
“No-one.” Mal was emphatic. He gently disengaged his hands to hold her face, to bring her lips close to his. They kissed, gently at first, then more intensely. Finally Mal pulled away, just a little. “Now, my ass is going to sleep. So are you going to come down?”
“You want to come to my room?”
“You want to come and be with me?”
Mal held out his hand. “Come on then.”
Thursday, September 28, 2006 5:22 AM
Thursday, September 28, 2006 6:47 AM
Thursday, September 28, 2006 7:56 AM
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