BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

JANE0904

Interregnum
Sunday, October 8, 2006

Following Power and Passion ... how far can Mal go? Feedback is very much appreciated!


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1974    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

Mal watched as his crew efficiently dealt with all the people, herding them into one of the carriages. Jayne stood guard, ready to shoot if necessary, but that was highly unlikely. The passengers were scared, far too frightened to make any trouble with this big man.

“All secure,” Zoe said, rejoining Mal at the door into the last compartment, where their haul currently sat.

“Shiny,” he said, a grim smile on his face. He knocked with the butt of his gun on the door. “We’re coming in,” he called. “Best be standing in the middle of the room with your hands up, you don’t want to get shot.” He nodded to Zoe.

His first mate set the small charge on the lock, and they stood back. Ten seconds later there was a pop and the door swung inwards. Immediately a shot whined over their heads.

“Now, that was just what I said not to do,” Mal said tetchily.

Zoe tossed a smoke grenade into the carriage and pretty soon the compartment was filled with a grey fog that stung the eyes and choked the throat.

“Now, you gonna come out quiet, or do we have to come in there and kill you?” Mal asked, leaning back against the wall.

“I’m … I'm coming out!” came a voiced, wracked with coughing.

“Fine. Just make it with your hands up.”

An older man staggered to the door, surrounded by billowing smoke, tears rolling down his cheeks, a pistol in his hand. Mal raised his gun, his finger very close to the trigger.

“Sir,” Zoe said quietly, stepping forward and taking the man’s weapon from nerveless fingers.

Mal nodded and lowered his hand. “Best be getting the booty, then,” he said, pulling the kerchief he had tied around his neck into place. He headed into the compartment, coming out a few moments later with a box under his arm. “Call the ship,” he ordered.

His first mate nodded, watching her captain closely. ---

“He wouldn’t’a done it this way before, Jayne,” Kaylee said, stirring the soup dispiritedly. “He’d’a had some plan, got onto the train without having to scare all those folks.”

“Damn near shot the baggage car guard,” Jayne admitted. “That ain't like him. Me, now I coulda. But the Cap?”

“It’s Freya,” Inara said unhappily. “Since she left, he’s been like this.”

“Can’t we find her? Tell her to come home?” Kaylee asked in a small voice. “Maybe the Cap’d like that.”

“He might have, if he knew why she’d gone.” Inara idly noticed a loose thread on her over-gown as she sat at the table and she began to fiddle with it. “It was such a shock to him, and he doesn’t know how to deal with it.”

“It’s been three months, ‘Nara. And he’s getting worse.”

“I know,” Inara agreed, looking into Kaylee’s worried eyes. “If we knew where she was, maybe …”

“Got our own damn psychic and she can’t even tell us?” Jayne asked, picking up the end of a carrot and munching on it.

“I’ve tried,” Kaylee said. “So’s Simon, but she won’t say. All either of us could get out of her was that Freya was afraid of the dark.”

“Afraid of the dark?” Inara repeated, surprised.

“That was it. I didn’t know what she meant.”

“No. Neither do I,” Inara said quietly, but privately wondering if maybe she did.

“Can’t Zoe do something?” Jayne asked. “I mean, it ain't like I get treated any different, but …” The big man shook his head. “I ain't stupid,” he said. “Even I can see he’s headin’ for a fall.”

“We have to stop him,” Kaylee added.

Inara nodded in agreement. “It wouldn’t take much for that man to –“

“To what, Inara?” Mal asked from the doorway.

She stood up and looked at him. “For you to commit murder,” she said finally.

“No-one’s making you stay.” He looked around at them. “None of you. You wanna leave, then best get gone.”

“You don’t mean that,” Kaylee said, white faced.

“Can’t have a crew around me who ain't loyal,” Mal said, turning around and heading for his bunk. “If I can’t rely on them to be behind me one hundred percent, they ain’t worth the having.”

There was an appalled silence for a moment, then Kaylee looked at Inara. “He doesn’t mean it, does he?”

“Not really, mei-mei,” Inara said. “He doesn’t know what he’s saying, Kaylee.”

“Maybe not,” Jayne put in. “But he’s gonna end up getting us killed.” ---

River landed Serenity at the Eavesdown Docks, somewhat shakily, and Mal immediately took their stolen property to Badger.

“Pretty, ain't it?” the little man said, admiring the golden statue inside the fitted wooden case.

Mal shrugged. He didn’t care, one way or the other. He was getting paid, that was all that mattered. “Where’s our money?” he asked.

“No small talk?” Badger asked, closing the box and handing it to one of his men. “No banter about the war, ‘bout how much better I am than you?”

“Ain’t got the inclination,” Mal admitted.

Badger smiled. “Yeah, things ain’t exactly been going your way lately, have they?” He sat down behind the large desk again. “Heard you’re not so honourable now.”

Mal just stood, letting the man insult him. No purpose in getting angry about it. He could feel Jayne, to his left, bristling, but ignored it. “Just wanna get paid.”

Badger clicked his fingers and a lackey tossed Mal a small bag. He didn’t even open it, just handed it to Zoe. “Don’t even want to know if I've gypped you?” Badger asked, almost surprised.

“You know what’d happen if you did,” Mal said.

“Quite a comedown for you,” Badger said, shaking his head. “More like the rest of us.”

Inside a little voice was shouting at Mal, telling him that he wasn't like Badger, that he didn’t have to do this, but he pushed it down, away, until the shouting was mostly muffled. “Just working, Badger. Doing business. Keeping flyin’.”

“Well, I might have another job for you, won’t know until tomorrow. You hanging around until then?”

“Sure.”

“Don’t want to know what it is? Could be messy.”

“It’s a job.” The voice was adding stabbing pains in his guts too, but he ignored these as well.

“Well, ain't that a spectacle worth seeing,” Badger marvelled. “Come back ‘bout noon. See if I've got anything solid.”

“Shiny.” Mal turned and walked out, followed by Jayne and Zoe, all the while not listening to the voice in the back of his mind telling him he was going crazy. ---

“Simon?” Kaylee said quietly, standing in the doorway to his room.

“Lian ren,” he said, smiling, but the smile faltered when he saw her face. “What is it?”

“I …” She couldn’t speak.

“Kaylee, whatever it is, you can tell me.” He got up from where he was sitting and took her hand, leading her back to the bed.

“I got a job,” she said quickly.

“What?”

“A job. Well, been offered one. By Craddock.”

“The one with the Mongoose?”

Kaylee nodded. “He wants me to start straight away.”

“Oh.” Simon looked into her face. “Doesn’t that ship have a Capisson engine? Don’t they fall out of the sky?” he asked, trying to make her laugh. It didn’t work.

“Not if I kept her going.” She bit her lip. “If’n I take the job.”

“Are you going to?”

“I … I don’t know!” Kaylee said, bursting into tears.

“Hush, hush,” Simon said, taking her into his arms and cradling her. “Let’s talk about this.”

“I don’t want to go,” Kaylee said, holding onto him tightly. “I want to stay with my girl, with you, but the Cap’n … Jayne’s right, he’s gonna get us all killed, and I don’t want to be around to see that.”

“He’s grieving,” Simon said. “If Freya were dead he could get over it, but as she isn’t –“

Kaylee looked up into his face, her eyes wide. “You saying it would be better if she were dead?”

“No, no, not that at all,” Simon insisted. “Just that he … he doesn’t know how to deal with this. So he’s withdrawn inside.”

“No he ain't,” Kaylee said firmly. “There ain't nothing inside no more. Not even a little bit of him left. She took it all with her,” she added bitterly.

“Not her fault,” River said from the doorway, surprising them both. “She was afraid. Afraid of the dark.”

“You keep saying that,” Kaylee cried, “but you don’t say what it means!”

“Afraid she’d kill us all.” The young girl wafted away sadly, leaving Kaylee and Simon staring after her. “And it’s killing him,” she added on the air.

“You think that’s true?” Kaylee said. “That she might’ve killed us?”

“What the Alliance did to her …” Simon began, then paused. He’d never talked about this with Kaylee, but maybe now … “Without her tattoo, maybe she felt as if she was losing her grip on reality.”

“I don’t understand,” Kaylee moaned.

“It was her lifeline, her grasp on … I'm saying this badly, I know. But it shed light into her soul. Stopped her being crazy.”

“Freya wasn’t crazy!”

“She thought she was.” He tightened his grip. “And I think that tattoo had a lot to do with keeping the darkness at bay.”

“But she wouldn’t really have killed us, would she?”

“I don’t know, tian xin.” Simon smoothed the tears from her face. “I don’t know.” He lifted her chin. “Are you really thinking of leaving the ship?” he asked, his heart in his throat.

“I … if things don’t … if he …” Kaylee shook her head. “I don’t see as I have a choice. But I don’t want to leave you.”

“Leave me?” Simon asked, surprised. “Do you think I’d stay on board if you weren’t?”

“But River loves Serenity.”

“So do you.” He sighed. “But there’s no need to make a decision right now, is there? Won’t Craddock wait a few days?”

“Maybe,” Kaylee conceded, sniffing.

“Then tell him you need to think. Maybe things will change.”

“Don’t see how. Less’n she comes home.” ---

Zoe was sitting quietly on the bridge, staring out at the bright light of Persephone. She wasn’t looking, though, just thinking.

“Mind if I join you?” Inara asked.

Serenity’s first mate looked around. “Please.”

The Companion stepped over the sill and sat down in the co-pilot’s chair. “I didn’t know if you wanted to be disturbed – you looked pensive.”

“Just thinking on things.”

“Mal?”

“Mostly.”

Inara glanced out of the window. “You know Kaylee’s been offered another job.”

Zoe looked surprised. “No, I didn’t.”

“River told me. And if she goes, so will Simon. And River. And Jayne isn’t sure he’s staying, either.” She looked at the other woman. “He’s breaking up the family.”

“He’s breaking more than that.”

“I know. Isn’t there something we can do? Say?”

“Apart from lock him in his bunk until he comes to his senses, not really,” Zoe admitted. “And it would be a long wait.”

“Do you think Freya knew he’d be like this?”

Zoe shrugged. “I ain't got an idea, ‘Nara. Though my instinct says she must have.”

“Then why –“

“Because the alternative must have been worse.”

Inara stared at her friend. “That bad?”

“For her to leave, not say a word, yeah, I think it must.”

“If only the Shepherd were …” Inara trailed off.

“Yeah, he’d’ve had a few words to say, no doubting that. Might have made the Cap listen, too. At least they could have had an argument about it.”

“Yes, he won’t even do that, will he?” Inara agreed sadly.

“He could even have shouted at Wash, had a stand up row, might’ve cleared the air.”

Inara couldn’t help smiling just a little at the thought. “That would have been something to see.”

“That it would. Only now he just takes anything gets offered and doesn’t say a word.”

The smile disappeared from Inara’s face. “What do we do, Zoe?”

The dark woman looked back out of the window. “You got a choice, Inara. You only rent your shuttle, you can leave whenever you want. I can’t.”

Inara looked at her, but understood completely. He was her Captain, her Sergeant, and she was at his side, no matter how stupidly he was behaving. It didn’t make her have to like it, though. ---

Jayne had Vera in pieces on his bed, cleaning the barrel with a long, thin brush.

“Are you going?” River asked, stepping off the ladder in silent, bare feet.

“Jesus!” Jayne said, nearly dropping his tools. “You creep up like that, you’re likely to get hurt, girl.”

“Are you going?” she insisted. “Leaving?”

“Ain’t decided.” He went back to cleaning Vera.

“Can I help?” she asked, gliding across the floor to him.

“Nope. Don’t need no help.”

She reached out and stroked the barrel he was holding, creating a certain feeling of uncomfortableness in him. “Pretty,” she said. “But you’re not.” She smiled at him.

“Gorramit, River, go play with someone else!” Jayne said, feeling as if she was reading the thoughts off the back of his skull, in big ill-formed letters.

“She doesn’t want you,” the young psychic said suddenly. “She only wants one, and that’s not you.”

“What the hell are you talking about, girl?” For once he really didn’t have a clue.

River drifted back to the ladder. “Just wait,” she said, climbing back up, her toes curling around the rungs. “Just wait.” ---

Badger wasn’t right. He was still honourable, still a soldier, still something more. Lying there on his bunk, knowing the scent of her had finally gone from the blankets that lay across him, he fought with the demons inside. He knew what his crew were thinking, yet he couldn’t stop himself. He didn’t want to be like this, empty, hollow, like some shell of a man that only walked and talked because of sheer force of will. He couldn’t let this happen to him, but it was so easy, so easy to just close himself off from everyone and just let it all slip away …

“Mal.”

“Wha –“ Mal opened his eyes, struggling to escape sleep.

Freya was standing in the room, by the table, holding the capture he had been staring at for hours that evening. “You still have it,” she said, playing the image. Her voice came from it, laughing at something Kaylee had said while recording it.

“You’re a dream. You’re not real,” Mal insisted, sitting up on his bunk.

“You’re right. I am a dream. Or maybe you’re wrong and I'm not. Who knows what reality is?”

“I can’t be having with philosophy this time of night. Makes me too wakeful.”

“Then no philosophy.” She put the capture down and turned to him. “I wanted to …”

“What? Gloat? Make me feel even emptier than I was before?”

“No. To ask you to stop.”

“Stop what?”

“This.” She raised her arms.

“I'm still flying.”

“And that’s enough? You’re taking jobs you’d never have touched, and it’s marking you.”

“Freya, I'm not a good man, no matter what you seem to think of me. I drink, I lie, I kill. That’s no definition of goodness I can believe.”

“But you are. You don’t take advantage of the innocent, and I’ve known you protect the helpless. It took a good man to do what you did about Miranda.”

“No. It took an obstinate son of a bitch who wouldn’t lie down when he was killed.”

“Then that’s my definition of a good man.”

“You’re just a dream. What do you know?” he said bitterly.

“Not much,” Freya conceded. “But I know the way you’re heading, and …”

“What do you care?” Despite being certain none of this was real, Mal was getting angry. “Just let me get on with things. With my life.”

“So this is it, is it?” Freya asked. “Your life? How it’s going to be from now on? Pushing away your family? Because that’s what they are, your crew – Zoe, Kaylee, even Simon and River, Jayne. And they will leave. So you’ll end up an old man, captaining an increasingly decrepit ship, relying on what little help you can get, until the day comes you can’t fix her no more. Then what? You point Serenity out into the black and open the hatches? That gonna happen?” She turned from the table and fixed him with her dark eyes. “Don’t let it, Mal. I love you. That ain’t gonna change.”

“If you loved me you wouldn’t have left.”

“If I didn’t love you I wouldn’t have.”

“I don’t understand.”

“You will one day. But you have to promise me something. Don’t let them leave, Mal. Hold on. Just a little while longer.”

“Why? What good will it do?”

“You’ll be surprised, Mal. You will be surprised.” She crossed the floor and leaned over, laying her lips in a tender kiss on his.

He opened his eyes and jerked awake, sitting up. He looked around, reaching out for her, but the room was empty. He touched his lips: he could still taste her on them, feel her kiss like a benediction. And his body had responded to her presence, an aching replacing the emptiness inside him. He stood up and walked to the table: the capture, which he was sure he had placed face down, now lay face up, its image frozen on Freya’s smiling face, a small broken silver Firefly next to it. ---

Breakfast was a quiet affair, as it had become over the past few weeks, with everyone just eating, trying to get out of the dining area as quickly as possible. Only this time Mal wasn't sitting in his chair, glowering silently, staring into his bowl.

“Do you think he’s all right?” Kaylee whispered to Simon. “Only he’s usually the first one here.”

“I'm sure he’s fine,” Simon assured her. “Probably just overslept.”

“Sure. That must be it.”

Zoe stirred the porridge and dumped two spoonfuls into her bowl. “Hadn’t someone better go see where the captain is?” she asked.

“I ain't going,” Jayne said, shaking sweetener onto his breakfast. “Way he’s been lately, he’ll probably shoot me. You go, you’re first mate.”

Zoe glared at him then nodded. “I suppose I –“

“No need,” Mal said from the doorway.

“Captain?” Kaylee stared at him. “Are you okay?”

“Shiny, Kaylee. Shiny.” Although he didn’t look it. His clothes were crumpled, as if he’d slept in them, and he looked, for all the world, like he’d been crying, but he didn’t cry. Yet there was a smile on his face. A genuine, warm smile when he looked at her.

Kaylee glanced at Simon, who nodding, wondering whether the captain would notice if he walked off and got his medbag. Some kind of sedative might be in order here.

Mal saw the look, and said, quickly, “It’s all right, mei-mei. I ain’t crazy.”

“No, sir?” Zoe said, risking life and limb.

“Well, maybe I was, but I ain’t now. Well, not so much.”

“What happened?” Simon asked.

“Nothing that need concern you. Let’s just say …” He paused a moment. “Let’s just say I’ve been brought to my senses.”

“Captain?” Kaylee still looked concerned.

“I'm sorry,” Mal said, looking from one to the other of them. “I shouldn’t have … what I was doing … I'm sorry.”

There was complete silence. For Mal to apologise was about as likely as him crying.

“That’s … thank you, sir,” Zoe said.

Then he said quickly, as if the words were just waiting to come out, “Don’t leave.” They all looked at each other. “I know you’ve been talking about it, and River told me about that offer from Craddock,” he added, looking at Kaylee.

“I wasn’t going to –“

“Yes you were.” He smiled sadly. “And I wouldn’t’a blamed you.” He looked around at the rest. “Nor any of you, not the way I've been. And I can’t promise there won’t be times when I go to that dark place again, but I’ll try not to.”

“Ain't your fault,” Jayne said unexpectedly.

“I think it probably is,” Mal said, shaking his head.

“What about Badger’s job, sir?” Zoe asked.

“We’ll see what it is. Make up our minds then. Make us a decent plan if we do.” He smiled again, much more like the old Mal. “Oh, and Zoe?”

“Yes sir?”

“Get hold of that pilot who was looking for a job. River’s a mite erratic at the moment, and I don’t want us crashing into a solid moon if I can help it.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Now, everybody, just get on with your breakfast. That was all I wanted to say.” He turned to leave.

“Have you spoken to Inara, sir?” Zoe asked.

“Just going there now.”

As Mal disappeared down the stairs, Kaylee turned to Simon. “Is he okay?” she asked.

Simon could only shrug, but Zoe said, thoughtfully, “Wait and see.”

COMMENTS

Monday, October 9, 2006 1:12 AM

TAMMYY2J


Nice is Freya gone now?

Monday, October 9, 2006 3:59 AM

TAMSIBLING


Okay, I'm glad Mal saw his way through ... but BRING FREYA BACK!

Please???? I really liked her!

I also really liked your interplay between Simon and Kaylee, I think you write them well.

Monday, October 9, 2006 10:33 AM

AMDOBELL


I am so curious about what the good gorram Freya has been keeping from Mal and why things should be better if he just holds on a while longer. I'm hoping it means that whatever she had to do she has done and that she will be coming back to him. It was a bonus having that ghostly visit knock some sense into his grief clouded heart, and I liked that he apologised and asked the crew to stay. I have a feeling that the job Badger may have for him will be a real nasty sting in the tail so hope if it is they shove it where the sun don't shine. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Wednesday, October 11, 2006 4:53 PM

BLUEEYEDBRIGADIER


Oh...I do have to wonder how much focus Freya just put behind that spectral visitation trick she just pulled. Cuz if she was fearing for her sanity and self-control, that would probably strain it severely:(

Still...I am damn glad Mal's generally back in the saddle again when it comes to being bearable;)

BEB


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