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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Grace reveals her past, and the crew of Serenity consider the future. Please leave feedback, as it helps the Muse outrageously!
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1572 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
“Home?” Jayne repeated, his face screwed up in disbelief. “What in the go tsao de ‘verse are you talkin’ about?”
Kaylee ran down the stairs from the engine room, joining them as Simon carried Bethany, still asleep, from the area of their quarters. She ran to him and threw her arms about them both, trembling. He looked at her. “Kaylee?”
“I saw him,” she said, feeling the comfort of the wrench in her pocket. “He …”
Kaylee looked at the others, then shook her head. “No. It doesn’t matter.” But the trembling didn’t stop.
“It wasn't real,” Inara said shakily, her hand still to her face.
“Figured that much,” Jayne shot back. “But what does the doc’s sis mean by home?”
“She’s safe, like me,” River explained.
“Honey, whoever she is, this isn’t her home,” Zoe said, still feeling the pain of watching Hank impaled and unable to do a thing about it.
Simon handed Bethany to her mother. “Bao-bei, I have to –“
Mal grabbed his arm. “No, you don’t. Freya’s talking to her.”
River stood between her brother and the door. “She’s showing her how to control it. How she controls the darkness inside.”
“Freya ain't like that!” Mal said sharply, aware he was behaving somewhat irrationally.
“No?” River asked, her pale face almost luminous in the low lighting.
He couldn’t respond. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t understand what went on in Freya’s mind, not in the depths, the corners. All he knew was that he loved her, and he’d do anything he could to keep her safe. “That’s what she did, wasn't it? Grace.”
“Sir?” Zoe asked.
“Our greatest fears.” He couldn’t clear it from his mind, seeing her hanging in those chains …
“What we are most afraid to lose,” River corrected gently. “She amplified them, until they became real.”
“And if Freya hadn’t broken it?”
Jayne’s head reared up. He knew what he’d have done. His brains would be spread over his guns, right now.
“I don’t know. People have died because they thought they should.” River shrugged. “It’s her gift.”
“That’s not a gift, it’s a curse,” Simon said, taking Kaylee tightly back into his arms.
“Can Freya help her that much?” Mal asked.
“I don’t know.” River moved to the door, looking in through the small window at the two occupants. “A little. But it took her years to gain the control she has now. How can she pass that along in a few minutes?”
“Yes, you can. I understand, Grace. It’s easy to strike out, but you have to control it.”
“How do you? All those things I can see …” The girl was trembling fiercely.
Freya was crying, so afraid of all the darkness being laid bare to the light of this girl’s mind, yet still she kept her defences down, determined to help her. “I would never ask anyone to go through what I did,” she admitted. “But you can use my control.”
“So am I.” Freya smiled through her tears. “But I won’t let anything happen to you.”
“Why do you want to help me?”
“Because it’s the right thing to do.”
“Grace, concentrate. See what my mentor taught me, how to practise self-control …”
“Did she do that to the other ship?” Jayne asked.
Mal was surprised. “I … maybe.”
“If’n she did, made them see the things they were most afraid of …” He shuddered again.
“Do you think she came from the Academy?” Hank asked quickly, not wanting to think of Zoe and Mal in the throes of passion, but realising the others had seen much worse. “If she’s got that much ability, wouldn’t the Alliance –”
“Not the Academy,” River said, still staring in the window to the infirmary. “Her abilities were dormant, hidden until recently.”
“Then where?” Mal asked.
“I can’t tell,” she admitted, sounding puzzled. “Every time I try and get close she shuts me out.”
“Thought people couldn’t do that,” Jayne put in.
“Not usually. But she’s stronger than I am.”
“You sound surprised,” Zoe said.
“I am. I've never met anyone as powerful as this.”
“We need to know what’s going on,” Mal said, heading for the door.
River shot her arm across, blocking his path. “Let them be, just a while longer.”
“Is Freya okay?”
The young psychic looked at him. “It’s painful.”
“But she has to do it.”
It was like molten lava running through her brain. The caress was gone, replaced by searing pain that threatened to overwhelm her. But still she stayed, holding Grace in her mind, wanting so hard to fight back, to lash out, to hurt, but she controlled it, using that control to show the girl how to do it. Images from her past flashed through her, her childhood, playing with her brother, her mother looking at her with that expression she came to know so well, the Companion, the Academy … She sobbed at that, seeing again what they did to her, to the others, the agony and the blood, the fire … Then running, being found, helped, healed. Faster now, the images almost blurring together. The war, the bar, Mal, Dhu Khang, the medship, the camp, Mal, Serenity, her own vessel, Mal, Alice, Mal, Mal, Mal …
Then it was gone. She was alone in her mind again and she took a ragged breath.
“You love him so much,” Grace whispered.
“I can see why.”
“Can you?” Freya managed a shaky laugh. “Sometimes I'm not so sure.”
Freya stroked the wet hair from Grace’s face, looking into those green eyes. “Now you know how not to. You just have to practice.”
“How long for?”
The door slid open and Mal looked inside. “River said … are you okay?” He was shocked to see how pale Freya was.
“Shiny,” his wife said, smiling at him.
“Can we come in?”
She nodded. “For a while. Although I think Grace needs to rest.”
“I need to know what happened.” Mal stepped inside, Simon following. The others crowded around the doorway. “Do you feel strong enough to talk?”
Grace glanced at Freya, then nodded. “I'm sorry,” she said.
“I know. Just don’t do it no more,” he said, smiling a little at her, trying to put her at her ease. “It ain’t exactly how I planned to spend this evening.”
“Ghost stories,” Grace said, her own mouth lifting.
“That it was.” Mal pulled the stool from under the counter and perched on it. “So, what’s your story?”
“My name’s Grace.” She grinned, then winced as the cut on her lip reopened and a small trickle of blood seeped down her chin. Immediately Simon was there with a steristick, touching it gently. “I told you that, didn’t I?”
“That you did. But it’s a nice name.”
“Grace Shandu.” She looked up at Simon. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” he smiled.
She turned back to Mal. “I was at the Training House on Isis.”
“You were going to be a Companion?” Mal was surprised.
“I was brought up there,” Grace said. “Ever since my mother … ever since I was abandoned.”
Mal heard Inara gasp, but he didn’t look round. “Is that what happened?”
“I thought so. That’s what I was always told. That my mother left me on the steps of the House and they took me in, fed me, clothed me, educated me …” She gave a humourless laugh. “At least until two weeks ago.”
“We shouldn’t be in this part of the library,” Grace said, looking out of the end of the stacks, making sure no-one was coming. “If we get caught –“
“Don’t be such a scaredy-cat,” Veronica said, climbing the steps gracefully. “No-one ever comes here. This is just old stuff nobody wants to read anymore.”
“Then why did you want to come here?” Grace looked up at her friend, balancing carefully on the very top of the ladder.
“Don’t you want to win?”
“I don’t care about that.”
“No, you just want to be a Companion.” There was something in her voice other than friendship, something harsh.
“Of course I do,” Grace said. “Otherwise why are we here?”
Veronica looked down into the other girl’s green eyes. “Oh, I know we do. And in a couple of years that’s what we’ll be, taking clients, earning privileges …” She smiled. “But until then we have to have fun, and the bet was to get a book from here.”
“Well, you’ve got one.” Grace glanced behind her again. “Can we go now?”
“It has to be from the very top shelf.” Veronica was reaching up. “Right up …” She lifted one foot to get more height, but somehow she slipped. She grabbed onto the shelf and managed to stop herself falling by a miracle, but dislodged a book that fell with a resounding thud to the floor.
“Are you all right?” Grace asked, holding the ladder steady so her friend could regain her footing.
“Shiny,” Veronica said, climbing quickly down. “Pick that up and put it under your dress.”
“Because I said so. You’ve got more room under there than me.” She smoothed her own dress down.
For a moment Grace was tempted to say exactly what she thought, but stopped. Instead she picked up the book and slipped it under her skirt, holding it in place with her sash. She felt pregnant, a great lump in front of her, but it didn’t show too much. She lifted her head. “Veronica –“
“Ssh. Someone’s coming!” They both listened, and indeed there were footsteps at the end of the library. “Quickly!” Veronica said, pulling at Grace’s arm. They hurried out of the other door.
Back in the dormitory corridor Veronica pulled Grace into her room. “Show me!” she demanded, and Grace let the book fall to the floor. The other girl snatched it up, turning the pages avidly. “It’s just a dusty ledger,” Veronica said, totally disgusted. “It isn’t even anything interesting. We’ll have to go back, get another one.”
“No,” Grace said firmly. “I'm not. If you want to then you can, but … it’s not safe.”
“But the bet …”
“Then we lose. But I'm not going to risk everything just for a stupid wager.”
“I said no.”
“Fine.” Veronica thrust the book into Grace’s hands. “Then you can take this back.”
“I said I’m not –“
Veronica pushed her out into the corridor. “I don’t care.” She slammed the door closed.
Grace stared at the wood for a moment, then hurried to her own room, the book held close. Once inside she sat on her bed and looked at it. Veronica was right, it was just a ledger, some kind of reference volume. It seemed to be a list of demerits against Companions, and the penalties applied. She turned the pages idly, wondering why anyone would want to break the rules like this, then her heart seemed to stop. That was her name. Grace Shandu. But it couldn’t be. It had to be a mistake. She wasn't in here.
She got up and made sure the door was locked, then returned to the book. With shaking hands she turned the page over to read the beginning of the text.
‘Medori Donato,’ it said in elegant copperplate. ‘First infringement – 6799. Taking a lover without permission. Demerit – fifth level. Penalty – two years all privileges rescinded.’
That didn’t make sense. She didn’t know anyone by that name, had never even heard it. She read on, noting a few minor misdemeanours, but nothing major. Mostly around being unable to hold her tongue when speaking to a House Priestess. Usually the same one. Grace smiled a little – it certainly sounded like a clash of personalities here. She turned the page over. And stopped smiling.
‘Medori Donato.’ This time the hand was less elegant, more angry, the pen having left deep indentations in the paper as if the writer were incensed. “Seventh infringement – 9503. Having a child without permission. Demerit – first level. Penalty – permanent shunning and removal of the child.’
Permanent shunning? That was … Now her heart was beating so hard in her chest she was sure it was going to burst. She read on, blinking back tears.
The notation continued. ‘The child, a girl, was removed from Donato at birth and placed in the care of the Guild. She will be brought up under the care of the Guild and, if found suitable, be initiated into the order of Companions. Her name shall be Grace Shandu, as is the tradition.’
A heavy black line was scored through the rest of the page, and it seemed to sear its way through Grace’s heart. This was her. The date on the page was confirmation – her birthday. Her mother had … permanent shunning … how could she do that? How could she … This was her heritage? How could she do …?
She was panting, trying to understand, trying to see the how this could have happened, how her world could have been turned upside down. She stared at the words, written with such anger, trying to see past them, trying ...
Pain, pain behind her eyes, all through her head. She screamed, thrashing on the bed, pushing the book to the floor, tearing at her hair to try and stop the agony burning through her skull …
“I don’t remember anything else,” Grace said, trembling, trying to hold together in the way she’d been taught so recently. “I woke up in the House Infirmary, where they said I’d had some form of fit.”
“It was your powers coming through,” River said softly, stepping into the room behind Mal.
Grace stared at her, then nodded. “I didn’t feel any different. Light headed, perhaps, but nothing …” She looked back at Mal. “They didn’t say anything about the book, so neither did I. They must have assumed I’d … I don’t know.”
“How did you find out?” Freya asked.
“Veronica came to see me.”
“Did you tell anyone?” she hissed, glancing up at the nurse at the end of the infirmary.
“Of course not.” Grace lay back, her head still aching a little.
“Good. Don’t.” Veronica sat back. “So what was in it?”
“Then why’ve you just gone white as a sheet?”
“There was nothing!”
Veronica glared at her. “I thought we were supposed to be best friends.”
“It was just a list.” Grace tried to smile. “That’s all. Really boring, like you said.”
“Then tell me.”
“I … don’t remember.”
“Then I think I might go and take a look myself,” she said shrewdly.
“No!” Grace reached out with the speed of a snake and grabbed the other girl’s wrist.
“Let go of me!” Veronica said loudly, trying to pull free.
The infirmary nurse hurried towards them.
“Please … “ Grace begged, the pounding beginning again in her head. “Don’t …”
“Let me go!” Veronica shouted, then screamed, her face ashen. “No, please, don’t hurt me!” she pleaded, wrenching her hand free to cover her face, scratches from Grace’s nails beginning to bleed.
The nurse stopped, staring, her body rigid with fear.
“I didn’t know what I’d done, how I’d done it, only that they were afraid of me.” Grace was crying, and Freya took the proffered swab from Simon to wipe at her tears. “There were a lot of people around, all talking at once, and I couldn’t concentrate …” She sniffed. “They were saying things that I didn’t understand, but I knew they were afraid of me.”
“Of what you could do,” River added quietly.
“Then some men came, spoke to me, did tests …” She shook her head. “No-one told me who they were, but I knew they were Alliance. I could … tell. They wanted to take me there and then, but the House Priestess wouldn’t let them. She said I was still too ill to travel, so arrangements were made for a transport to pick me up.” She glanced at Mal. “They said they were taking me to a school. Somewhere I could learn how to … control …” She stopped, looking into Freya’s dark eyes. “It was a place like that, wasn't it?”
Freya nodded slowly. “Probably.”
“What I saw in your mind, what they did to you …” Grace’s eyes were wide. “Would they have done that to me?”
“No. They’ve refined their techniques since then.” Freya tried to hide the bitterness in her voice. “But the outcome is still pretty much the same.”
“You won’t let them?” She gripped the older woman’s hand tightly.
“No. No, Grace. You’re safe here.”
“Grace,” Mal said softly. “You’d better go on.”
She nodded, swallowing. “One of the crew, a man, seemed to think because I’d come from the training house I was his for the taking. He tried to …” Her eyes closed for a moment, and she breathed deeply.
“Good,” Freya murmured. “Good girl.”
“I fought him off, but he was too strong,” Grace went on, not looking at anyone, just feeling Freya’s hand in hers. “I couldn’t stop him …” She gulped air down. “I let go.”
“You mean he –“ Mal glanced at Simon, who shook his head.
“I mean my mind.” She glared at him, so like River’s ‘boob’ look he almost smiled. “I let him see his fears.”
“Grace, honey, you shouldn’t sound so proud of it,” Freya said gently.
“He hurt me!”
“And you defended yourself. That was good. But never be proud of hurting someone back.”
Grace nodded. “Okay.” She licked her lips. “But what he was afraid of, he fought against, and he hit me. I couldn’t stop him, not after …” She raised her hand to her cheek. “Even when I stopped projecting, he kept on hitting me, kept on …” She began to tremble violently.
“Simon,” Freya said, and the young doctor injected the sedative he had ready.
“I don’t remember everything after that, just men around me, then grit under my face, heat on my skin …” Her eyes started to close. “Until I came here.”
“You don’t need to remember that,” Freya said softly, stroking her forehead. “Just relax. I'm here. I won’t let anything bad happen to you.”
“Thank you,” Grace said as she slid into sleep.
Mal looked at Freya, but she just smiled, not letting go of the girl’s hand. He nodded and turned on his heel, leaving the infirmary to face his crew.
“Kaylee, how close’re we to being spaceworthy again?”
The young mechanic stood up straight. “Coupla hours. Maybe less. I got everything done, just need to put her back together. Took less than I thought so –“
“Shiny,” Mal said, interrupting her but taking the sting out with a smile. “You finish off and let me know soon as we can leave atmo.”
“Will do, Cap’n,” she said, scampering up the stairs towards her engine room.
“They must have been scared, dumped her on the closest moon,” Hank said, leaning on the handrail.
“Huh choo-shung tza-jiao duh tzang-huo,” Inara said, venom in her voice.
“I don’t think anyone disagrees with you,” Mal said, turning to her. “So this is Medori’s daughter?”
Inara thought for a moment. “I think it is. There’s a strength to her chin …”
“Then we need to get gone.”
“You think they’ll come back for her?” Hank asked, surprised.
“I doubt it, but when they don’t turn up at the Alliance facility someone’s gonna start asking questions, and eventually they’ll find out where that chiang-bao hoe-tze duh of a crew left her. Don’t intend to be around when they come looking.” He looked at his pilot. “Hank, get onto the Cortex. See what you can find out about her.”
He nodded. “Interesting name. Probably not many around with a name like that.”
Inara looked at him. “Medori Donato. But she may not be known as that,” she added, turning back to Mal. “This … what happened … was a total shunning. A full dishonour. She might not have wanted anyone to find out.”
“Have to start somewhere,” Mal said, looking back into the infirmary at Freya and Grace, Simon hovering in the background. Hank nodded and hurried up towards the bridge.
“She’s getting attached,” Zoe said quietly next to her captain.
“Is that a good thing, sir?”
Mal glanced at her. “I don’t know.” His eyes held a sort of hopelessness. “After Alice, I thought maybe not, but …”
“It’s what they both need,” River said unexpectedly. “They can help each other.”
to be concluded
Monday, December 11, 2006 9:03 AM
Monday, December 11, 2006 5:27 PM
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