BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

JANE0904

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Sunday, December 17, 2006

A story in the continuing Mal/Freya (or Maya as BEB puts it) thread, after LOST, FOUND and GHOSTS. Mal wakes up alone ...


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1616    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

Mal woke up, staring into the darkness overhead in his bunk and sighed. He reached out next to him, but there was nothing, only cold sheets. There never was anything, no warm body to make his life easier. Only today it felt like there should be. That someone should be waking up next to him, smiling at him, welcoming him into her arms, into her …

He threw the blanket from his body and stood up, crossing to the small toilet. As he relieved himself, he looked at his face in the mirror above.

“Another day, Malcolm,” he said softly. “Another day,” and wondered why he felt so sad, so empty. ---

“There won’t be a problem, will there, Captain?” Inara asked, watching his face.

“No, no problem. This Companion we’re picking up, you said she’s a friend?” He stood with his arms crossed on the bridge, watching River making preparations to land.

“I’ve known her for some years, yes.”

“That don’t sound too friendly.”

Inara smiled. “Most Companions know each other, but I’m closer to Elena than the others. We met some twelve years ago, and have been good friends ever since.” She looked out at the planet below. “She has … exceptional qualities.”

“Well, the guest quarters are ready.”

“Thank you. I’m looking forward to spending some time with her before she takes up her new post.”

“Captain?” River said.

“What is it, albatross?”

“We’re coming in to land.”

“Just make it a soft one. You’ve been a mite erratic of late.”

“I will try my best.” ---

The ramp dropped and Inara stepped out into the sunshine. “Elena!” she called as the elegant figure approached.

Mal watched as they met, hugging each other. It looked as if Inara was right, they seemed real friendly.

“Inara,” the other woman said, smiling widely. “It is so good to see you again.” She stepped back. “And you look wonderful.”

“So do you.” Inara laughed. “As if it would be anything else. Where are your things?”

Elena glanced over her shoulder. “They’re waiting over there.” There was a pile of boxes and cases. “And I am so grateful for the lift.”

“You should be thanking Captain Reynolds.” Inara turned to the man in question. “Elena, this is Mal Reynolds. Mal, this is Elena Rostov.”

“Miss Rostov,” Mal said, inclining his head slightly, studying the new Companion. She was tall, lacking his height by only a few inches, with long brown hair. Her eyes were hazel, and the look she was giving him, of slightly amused acknowledgment, seemed familiar.

“Captain. And please call me Elena. I hate being known as Miss Rostov.”

“One of the Rostovs?”

She smiled and nodded. “Yes.”

“Important family in the Alliance.”

She looked at him, the amused expression still on her face, but tempered this time with something else. “I gather you have no love for our government.”

“Just wondering why a fancy lady such as yourself would deign to travel on a boat like this.”

“Mal,” Inara said warningly.

“No, Inara, that’s okay.” She glanced at her friend then returned her disquieting gaze to the man in front of her. “Captain, I didn’t support Unification. My family may be Alliance, but that doesn’t mean that I have to agree with them. And Inara was kind enough to suggest that you might take me to Sihnon. If that is going to be a problem …” She raised an eyebrow at him and his heart seemed to miss a beat. Suddenly the familiar feeling had become so much stronger.

“Have we … met before?” he asked.

“I think I’d remember.” She laughed a little.

“Right.” He shook himself mentally. “Well, I’ll get Jayne to bring your bags on board and we’ll get gone.”

“Jayne?” Inara said, her head lifting.

“What?” Mal glared at her.

“You said Jayne.”

“I think I’d recollect if I did.” He looked back at Elena. “Connor can store anything you don’t need here in the bay.”

“Thank you, Captain.” She smiled.

“Come on, let’s get you settled in. We have so much to talk about.” Inara led the way into Serenity.

Mal watched them go, his brows drawn together. He had never been with a Companion, never would. But there was something about this woman, this Elena, that made him question himself … ---

River managed to get Serenity into the black without incident while Mal stood behind her, watching her every move. Ever since Kaylee had died, the young girl seemed to be drifting back into her other-worldly state. Still …

“Good work, albatross.”

“Thank you, Captain.” She made a great show of wiping her hand across her forehead and Mal had to smile.

“Keep doing it like that and I won’t need to watch you no more.”

“I like it,” River admitted, making a minor course correction.

“Is that why you do it badly sometimes?”

She flashed him a wide grin, more like the old River than before. “I love my captain.” Her smiled switched off as she realised what she’d said. “I’m sorry.”

“Weren’t your fault, little one,” Mal said, trying to give her a reassurance he didn’t feel. “No-one made Kaylee come down to Tetris. She decided that all on her own.”

“But she should be alive, a baby in her arms …”

Mal was startled. He didn’t think Simon had told anyone about Kaylee’s pregnancy, not after she’d made him swear not to, but then … “You read that?”

River nodded. “She was so happy.”

“I know, mei-mei. I know.”

“Sir?” Zoe asked from the doorway. “Are you intending to stand there all day or actually come and eat?”

He turned to look at his first mate. “When did you cut your hair?” he asked, staring at the tight curls on her head.

She looked at him, her face impassive. “Sir, I don’t appreciate the joke. You know I’ve had my hair like this since before Jayne went.”

Mal nodded. “Sorry. Don’t know what I was thinking.” He gave a half smile. “I liked it long.”

She didn’t comment, just turned and headed back towards the galley.

“Not a good thing to say,” River murmured.

“Why not?” Mal asked, glancing back at her. “I did.”

“So did Wash.”

“She’s gotta get over that man sometime,” Mal said, leaving the bridge. “Ain’t natural to grieve all this time.”

“You are.” Her voice followed him mournfully.

“Just fly the damn boat,” he called.

Everyone else was already in the galley, piling their plates with food. He stopped in the doorway, watching them and the new arrival.

She had her back to him, turned to Inara at the other end of the table, laughing at some shared joke or other like a couple of schoolgirls. Even Simon was smiling, and he didn’t do that too much nowadays.

Elena leaned forward, her long brown hair falling away, exposing the low cut back of her dress. Mal wanted to turn away but couldn’t stop staring. She should have a tattoo along her spine … He shook his head. No. Why should he think that? Her back was smooth, unmarked, no flame caught in the act of rioting up her skin …

He turned away.

“Sir? Ain’t you hungry?” Zoe asked in surprise.

“No. I’ll … grab something later.”

“Do you want me to put a tray aside for you?”

“Sure. Whatever.” He hurried to his bunk and dropped down the ladder.

What the diyu was wrong with him? They’d had passengers before, even carried a high-up once or twice, and he’d never felt this way then. Felt so drawn to one of them. He glared at himself in the mirror. It shouldn’t be like this, and certainly not to no Companion. He had to keep his mind on the job, keep thinking about making sure River was flying properly, Simon wasn’t contemplating killing himself again, Xin had the engines running smooth … He ran his hand over the shadow of beard on his chin, and reached out for his razor. Freya wouldn’t approve if he didn’t -

He staggered back, sitting on his bunk before he fell down.

Freya. ---

She was in the cargo bay, one of her many cases open, going through a rainbow of dresses looking for something. She was humming to herself, something from the Core no doubt, high brow maybe. He looked down at her, and he felt his stomach contract. This was Freya, he was sure of it. He stepped slowly down the stairs.

“Can I help you with anything?” he asked, his own voice sounding strange in his ears.

She smiled at him. “No. Not unless you can see through all of this stuff.” She laughed. “I didn’t realise I’d collected so much until I came to pack. And I’m afraid I can’t throw any of it away.”

“Pack rat.”

“I’m afraid so.” She turned over another dress, some green gauzy thing, then pounced. “Ah ha!” She grinned. “You must be good luck, Captain.” She held up a small grey velvet box. “I bought this for Inara.”

“I’m sure she’ll love it, whatever it is. And please, call me Mal.”

She smiled again at him. “All right. Mal.”

His heart turned over. “Freya.”

“I’m sorry?” Her face, still bright, now looked at him questioningly. “Who’s Freya?”

“Don’t you know?”

She shook her head, her long brown hair moving like a shining curtain. “I’m afraid I don’t know anyone by that name. It’s lovely, though.”

“It’s you.”

“Captain -”

“Mal.”

“Captain.” This time she was much firmer. “I don’t know who you’re confusing me with, but my name is Elena. Elena Rostov, as you are perfectly well aware.” She closed the box with a thud. “I have to get back.”

He grabbed her arm. “You’re Freya Reynolds. My wife.”

“You’re hurting me,” she whispered, looking down at the tight grip he had.

He let go, seeing the red marks that were going to turn to bruises. “I’m sorry,” he said. “But I’m not lying. That’s who you are.”

There was a frightened look in her eyes, something he’d never seen in Freya’s, and he took a step back. She must be thinking I’m crazy, the thought flashed through his mind. Wondering whether to call for help. Maybe I am. Maybe I’ve finally let too much of the black into me, and there’s nothing else left but insanity.

“Captain, I think you need to lie down. Perhaps you’ve been working too hard.” Elena rubbed her arm even as she drew herself up. “Inara has told me of some of the things that have happened in the last few months, so I’m not surprised you are mistaking me for someone else. But I’m Elena Rostov. And in two weeks time I shall be taking up my position as Head of the House of Sihnon.”

“You ain’t a whore.” The words were out of his mouth before he could stop them.

“No, Captain, you’re right. I’m a Companion. And there is a world of difference.” She turned on her heel and walked away, her back ramrod straight as she climbed the stairs to the shuttle, not even glancing back at him once.

He had no idea what to do now. For some reason his wife was … what? Not his wife? The thing he hated with a will almost as much as the Alliance? He knew he’d never been properly married, never even come close since Saffron had tricked him, but he was sure this woman was his. Not a Companion, but a fighter, an ex-soldier, his wife. What the hell did he do now? ---

“Mal?” Inara stepped into the galley and sat down next to him. “Can we talk?”

He looked up at her, into her dark eyes. “She told you.”

“She did.” Inara put her hand on his. “You scared her.”

“How can I scare her?” he asked, pulling away and sitting back. “She’s my wife.”

“No she isn’t.” Inara was gazing into his face, as if she could read the truth there. “This is some kind of mental aberration, Mal. I know you’ve been lonely, and this -”

“It ain’t that!” he said loudly, his voice reverberating around the dining area.

“Okay.” Inara took a deep breath. “But you’ve never met her before.”

“I sleep with her every night!”

“No, Mal, you don’t.” She leaned forward. “You’ve not had anyone in your bed for months.”

“Inara …” He swallowed but went on, “I know it sounds crazy. But her name ain’t Elena Rostov. At least, not no more. She’s Freya Nordstrom, lately Freya Reynolds. My wife. I married her half a year back on Boros.”

“Mal, we haven’t been to Boros in nearly a year.”

“I know!” He stood up, needing to pace. “I know,” he said again, this time quieter. “I can remember us not going, but I can also remember my wedding, getting arrested, Saffron -”

“Saffron?” Inara shook her head. “Mal, I think you need to see Simon.”

“What can he do?” Mal asked, still walking up and down. “Tell me I’m insane? Hell, you’re doing a pretty good job of that.”

“Not insane,” she said, watching him. “But I think you have some sort of problem.”

“What, you think Simon outta psychoanalyse me or something?”

“If it helps.”

He stopped in front of her, resting his fists on the wooden table. “What would help is talking to Freya. I need … if I can talk to her, maybe she -”

“No, Mal.” Inara stood up. “Not yet. If you see Simon, let him run a few tests, then maybe I’ll be able to persuade her to talk to you. But for the moment she’s staying in my shuttle. And the door will be locked.”

“You think I’m gonna come and rape her?”

Inara looked at him. “Right now, I wouldn’t put it past you.”

“You really don’t know me at all, do you, ‘Nara?”

“About as well as you know yourself.” She walked out.

He stared after her, his mind full of conflicting thoughts, emotions, memories … Lifting his hand to his face he felt wetness. Tears were rolling down his cheek. Maybe he did need help. ---

“Just lie still, Mal. This isn’t going to hurt.” Simon placed the sensors on his forehead and chest.

“You know what’d happen if it did,” he said, only partly joking.

Simon just stared at him, nothing in those dead eyes of his. “Lie still.”

“Doc?” Zoe stepped into the infirmary. “Can I talk to him while you’re doing this?”

“Just don’t get him excited.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever done that.”

“Except that time you wore that white T when it rained,” Mal joked.

“You remember that?” Zoe asked, stepping to the medbed.

“Course. And you weren’t wearing anything underneath.” He smiled. “Wash didn’t realise it’d become transparent at first, then came over all protective and made you put his shirt on.” The smile grew wider. “Thought he was gonna try and shoot me.”

“You were staring.”

“Something in my genes. Being male tends to do that when you see breasts through wet fabric.”

Her lips twitched. “Yeah, Wash kinda noticed.” Her face became serious once more. “What’s going on, sir?” she asked.

“I don’t know,” he admitted, shaking his head slightly.

“Lie still,” Simon commanded.

“Inara said you think Elena is your wife.”

“I don’t think it. I know it.”

“But we ain’t ever met her before.”

“I know.” He looked up into the infirmary roof. “I can’t explain it. But I could tell you everything about her. How we met in the bar when she saved my life, right after I’d been made Sergeant, how she saved those other lives at Dhu Khang when we -”

“Dhu Khang?” Zoe interrupted.

“We held off the Alliance so all those Browncoats could get through the pass. Her idea, Zoe. Don’t you remember?”

“No, sir.” She gazed at him. “Inara said you married her six months ago.”

“Near enough. On Boros. You were best man.”

“I should hope so.”

“Course, it would have been sooner if she hadn’t lost …” He stopped, the pain so fresh in his heart that it was like a knife slicing into him.

“Sir?”

“The baby,” he forced himself to say. “Our daughter. There was an accident, while Hank was trying to get us away from Hook and his men, and she miscarried.”

“Hank?”

“Our pilot.”

“Sir, we ain’t got a pilot other than River. Not since Wash was killed by those Reavers on Mr Universe’s moon.”

“I know.” He closed his eyes. “I know that, Zoe. But I also know that Freya came on board to work for me, kept telling me how much she loved me until I took her into my bed. Made love to her. Asked her to marry me.”

“So you say.”

He glared at her. “I ain’t just saying it! It’s the truth.”

“Sir, she’s Elena Rostov -”

“I know that!” He stopped himself, hearing his voice raising dangerously. “That’s what she was born, but after the Academy she changed it.”

“Academy?” Simon asked, his attention caught. “Are you saying she went to the same school as River?”

“No. At least, I don’t think so.” Mal shook his head. “This one got burned to the ground. But they experimented on her, like on River.”

“So she’s psychic?”

“She was. Until the Naxom.”

“How do you know about that?”

“The slavers gave it to her, stopped her abilities.” Mal glared. “You know all this.”

“No, I don’t.”

“And neither does Elena,” Zoe put in. “She went to the Companion Training House, not the Academy, sir.”

Mal sat up. “No, she didn’t. She ran away from that damn school, got found by a man who healed her, gave her the tattoo, and she fought in the war alongside us. I don’t care if you don’t remember - I do.” He tugged the sensors off his skin. “I remember.”

He got off the bed and strode out, hearing Simon’s voice in the background.

“I think I got what I needed.”

Good, he thought as he headed into the cargo bay. ‘Cause I ain’t going back. ---

"He truly believes it,” Simon said, sitting down. “There’s nothing on the scans to indicate anything physical, so it has to be a mental breakdown of some kind. It’s just … this illusion he’s built up is so complete …”

River stirred. “Maybe it isn’t an illusion,” she said. “Perhaps it’s another reality intruding into ours.”

“Another …” Simon shook his head. “Mei-mei, I don’t know -”

“It might be real, just not right for here.”

Inara looked up. “So what do we do?” she asked, ignoring the young girl. “He’s upset Elena, and she’s considering asking him to let her off sooner than Sihnon.”

“There are various medications we can try, but unless I can get him to talk -” Inara put her hand on his arm and he stopped as he realised Mal had heard the conversation from the doorway to the cargo bay where he stood.

“I ain’t crazy,” Mal said, stepping down into the common area.

“No-one has said you are,” Simon said.

“You’re saying it all the time.” Mal glanced around them all. “I’m telling you, that woman is Freya, my wife.”

“Sir -” Zoe began but he interrupted.

“You said if I let Simon run those niou se tests you’d get Freya to talk to me,” he said to Inara. “I need to talk to her, make her understand.”

“We don’t understand,” Inara said softly.

“It ain’t you I’m worrying about - it’s her.” His voice took on a pleading note. “Please.”

Inara glanced around at the others. “I’ll talk to her. See if I can get her to see you. But I can’t promise.”

“Thanks,” he said gratefully. “Just try. I’ll be on the bridge.” ---

He was sitting staring at the stars, remembering. The first time he’d made love to her in that dingy hotel room, seeing her tattoo pulsing as he stroked her skin. The fear that he’d found the one person he’d want to be with for the rest of his life, and running away from it. Finding her again, taking her into his heart and never wanting to let her go. Willing to give up his life for her so that she could live.

“Who do you think I am, Captain?” Elena asked softly from the doorway. “You called me Freya, spoke of a tattoo I don’t have. Who do you think I am?”

“Read me and find out,” Mal said, standing from the pilot’s chair and turning so he could look at her.

Elena shook her head. “I don’t do that, Captain.”

“Don’t, not can’t. Interesting choice of words there.” He moved a little closer. “And it’s Mal. Open up, Freya. See who you are.”

They were only a foot apart, and he saw the indecision in her eyes, then she seemed to unfocus. He couldn’t feel anything, but he knew she was inside his mind, and he let all the raw emotion he felt for his Freya come to the surface. Her eyes widened in shock.

“No,” she breathed, backing away. “No.” She turned and hurried off the bridge but he followed her, catching her outside his bunk.

He took her arm and pulled her around to face him. “Yes, Freya.”

“That’s not me. Captain, whoever – whatever’s going on here, that’s not me.”

“No?” he asked, touching her face gently.

“I don’t … I can’t …” She shook her head. “I'm Elena Rostov. I’m a Companion. I don’t know any Freya Nordstrom.” Suddenly it wasn't only her head shaking. Her whole body began to tremble as she couldn’t break the connection between them. “So much passion …” she murmured. “So much love …” She collapsed, and would have fallen but for his strong arms around her.

“Freya,” he whispered, holding her to him.

“Please … please …” She lifted her face to look into his eyes, and he was shocked to see her crying.

“Frey …”

Almost without wilful volition, her hand came up and touched his cheek. “Mal,” she whispered.

He smiled and pulled her closer, his mouth fastening on hers, kissing long and deep.

They made love in his bunk, naked bodies entwined and sweaty, the room throbbing with physicality. This was his Freya, he knew. She did things to him, touched him the way Freya did, the way no-one else ever had, and sighed in sheer pleasure when he took her, the way he recognised. When they came, it was to an intensity he’d only ever felt with her.

When Mal woke from his post coital slumber, he reached for her, but she was gone. He rolled over in his bunk, seeing her almost dressed. She realised he was watching her.

“This didn’t happen,” she said, picking up her veil. “We have to … I shouldn’t have allowed … it didn’t happen.”

Mal threw back the blanket and swung his legs over the side, standing up. “Why?” he asked, not angry, just sincerely wanting to know. “You’re my wife.”

She looked at him, standing so unashamedly naked in front of her. “I'm a Companion,” she said, holding the veil like an ephemeral shield. “What you think of them, of us … it’s so clear in your mind.”

“No, you’re not.” He stepped closer. “I don’t know what’s going on, but you’re Freya. My Freya.”

“I'm not!” she insisted. “What I saw, what … what she went through … that’s not me! I didn’t fight in the war, Captain Reynolds –“

“Mal.”

“I went to the Training House when I was twelve. And that has been my life. I am a Companion. I am –“ She gazed into his blue eyes, feeling the love and desire coming from him, and she finished, her voice barely above a whisper, “– lost.”

He smiled and held out his arms, and she walked into his embrace, pressing her body against his naked flesh. “Whatever you are, Frey, whatever you seem to be, you’re mine,” he murmured, holding her tight.

She looked up into his face, her eyes wet, then broke the connection.

“No.” She pushed him away. “No.” She turned and hurried up the ladder.

“Frey!” he shouted, grabbing the blanket from the bed to wrap around himself, not wanting to wait to pull on his trousers in case she got away from him again. “Frey, wait!” He almost leaped into the corridor, hearing her footsteps on the stairs. He followed as fast as he could. “Dammit, wait!”

But Elena ran from him, towards Inara’s shuttle, locking the door behind her. He went to follow, but Inara herself stood in his way.

“No, leave her alone.”

“’Nara, she’s my -”

“No, she isn’t.” Mal tried to get past her, but she stopped him. “Let her be.”

“I have to -”

“No.”

“’Nara -”

“She wasn't there, Mal. She didn’t hit the man in the bar because at that time she was servicing a client on Isis.” The Companion looked at him. “And you’ve got the mark to prove it.” She reached around and touched his back, just to the left of his spine. He felt the skin, noting a scar where there didn’t used to be.

“Inara …”

“You talked about Dhu Khang. I spoke to Zoe. Mal, over a thousand men died that night, wiped out by Alliance forces. She wasn't there to save them. She was on Persephone, dancing at a ball.”

“Please …”

“She never married you. Nor carried your child, for however short a time.” Inara was relentless, despite the pain on his face. “She’s a Companion. Very popular, very successful. Far more than I have ever been. She’s been invited to take up a position on Sihnon. She may end up being the greatest of us all.”

Mal stared at her, his mouth open. “She’s my wife.”

“No, Mal. She was never that.”

“I remember …”

“Then your memory is wrong. She’s Elena Rostov, soon to be House Priestess. And you aren’t going to be able to change that.”

“I love her.”

“No, you don’t. You love something that isn’t real. This Freya you’ve created in your mind.” The look on her face was so sad. “Mal, I know you need someone. To believe she can love you for you, and nothing more. But this isn’t the way.”

“Inara, please.”

“No.” She was still blocking his way, but he wasn’t going to push past her. “Go back to your bunk, Mal. I’ll speak to Simon: perhaps there’s something he can give you to help.”

“Like he helped River?” Mal glared at her. “That’s what you’re all thinking, isn’t it? That I’m psychotic like her.”

“I think you’ve been through so much, and have never managed to deal with any of it. And this is how it’s come out.” She touched his bare chest. “We’ll help you through it. All of us. But she isn’t yours.”

The despair on his face was mirrored in her eyes. “Inara, I need her.”

“Maybe you do, but she isn’t your wife, Mal.” She shook her head. “And she never will be.” ---

Mal stayed in his bunk for the rest of the journey to Sihnon, staring at the walls and trying not to think. Zoe brought food to him, but it stayed uneaten on the tray until she took it away again. Eventually she spoke.

“Sir, we’re going to be landing on Sihnon in thirty minutes. If you want to say goodbye …” She stopped.

“You know how I’m feeling, don’t you?” he asked quietly. “When you lost Wash.”

She nodded. “But I think it’s worse for you. I got to bury my husband - you have to watch the woman you think you married walk away from you.”

“Yeah.” He didn’t move.

“But I still think you should say goodbye.” She turned away, going back up the ladder.

He glared at her feet as they disappeared, then looked back into the darkness above his bunk. How could he say goodbye? She was his wife. And she was going to go to that damn Guild and be … He jammed his eyelids closed but not before tears ran down his cheek into his hair.

After five minutes of soul searching he came to a decision, swinging his legs off the bed and going to stand in front of the mirror. Running water into the small basin, he began to shave. ---

“Elena.” The woman turned and looked at him, something still like fear in her eyes, and that ate at him more than anything. Freya had never been afraid of him, not in all the time he’d known her. What she’d gone through to become his wife had changed her, made her stronger. Made her different. He stepped closer. “Just wanted to apologise.”

“There’s no need,” Elena said, lifting the veil from across her face. “I understand.”

“Do you? ‘Cause I don’t.” He gave a rueful smile. “I look at you and I see her, and all I want to do is take you to my bed and make love to you.”

“I’m not Freya,” she said, lifting a hand to place it in the centre of his chest, sorrow making her eyes bright.

“You’re right,” Mal said sadly, holding her at arms length. “You ain't her. You don’t have the tattoo, the scars … you ain't never had my baby in you. And you’re a Companion, like Inara.”

“I'm sorry.” Elena allowed the tears to fall. “I wish I was her.”

“No. Don’t.” Mal tenderly wiped the moisture from her cheek. “Frey’s been through so much, she wouldn’t wish it on anyone. But I need her. And no matter how you look, how you reflect my wants, my needs, you ain't my Frey. You ain't my wife.”

“I wish …” She stopped, then lifted her hands to bring the veil down over her eyes again. “I hope you find her, Captain Reynolds.”

“Thank you, Miss Rostov,” he said formally, and watched as she descended the cargo bay ramp into the light of Sihnon, climbing elegantly into the waiting hover and leaving his life forever. ---

River stood in the doorway to the galley, watching him.

“You want a drink?” Mal asked, lifting the bottle but not looking at her.

“What do you want?” she asked in turn.

“To go home.” He raised the mug to his lips and tossed the alcohol into his mouth, feeling it burning his throat. “May look like my ship, but it ain't home.”

“No, it isn’t.”

He looked at her then. “You ain’t gonna tell me I'm crazy?”

She shook her head, stepping silently down into the dining area. “Not crazy,” she said, sitting opposite him. “Someone put a knife in the crack between worlds and twisted, and you tumbled into this.”

“Different world, huh?” Mal smiled sadly. “Yeah, that would be about right. And I don’t belong.”

“Then it’s time to go home.”

“How?”

She reached out her hand. “Hold on.”

Mal chuckled slightly. “Not click my heels together three times and say ‘there’s no place like home’?”

“You could,” River said seriously. “But all that would do is make me laugh.” She took his hand. “Just close your eyes. Oh, and say hello to me from me when you get back.”

“Um, okay.” Mal let his eyelids drop, and felt her cool fingers wrap around his. ---

“Mal?”

“He can’t respond.”

“But I've got to try, right?”

“Of course. But just talk to him. About anything. Nothing. It doesn’t matter. Just so he hears your voice.”

“Why isn’t he waking up, Simon?”

“Give it time.”

“It’s been three days!”

“Freya, he’s lucky to be alive at all. That explosion –“

“Frey?”

“Mal?”

He opened his eyes, into a radiance so bright washing over him that he had to close them again, screwing them against it. “Can someone turn off the damn light?” he croaked, his voice breaking.

“Mal!”

He felt a hand on his face and managed to pry his eyelids open again. “Frey?” he asked.

A woman with short brown hair was standing over him, crying with relief. “Oh, Mal, don’t you do that to me!” she exclaimed.

He tried to smile, his lips dry. “Are we married?” he asked.

She laughed, wiping the tears from her cheeks. “Are you asking me again?” she said, lifting her left hand so he could see the two rings on her finger.

“Just checking.” He looked over at Simon who was beaming at him, fiddling with a drip. “And Kaylee?”

“She’s fine. Just a few cuts and bruises. You took the brunt of it.”

“It?”

“The explosion.” Simon moved a little closer. “That’s what you were asking about, wasn’t it?”

“Sure,” Mal said quickly. “Explosion.”

“On that derelict ship,” Freya clarified. “Where we were looking for spare parts?”

“Oh, right.” He shook his head. “Sorry, I don’t remember.”

Freya glanced at Simon, who smiled. “It’s all right. Short term memory loss is to be expected.”

“As long as I don’t forget who people are,” Mal said, easing himself on the medbed. “Anything else wrong with me?”

“A dozen second degree burns, three broken ribs, a fracture of your right thigh … nothing major.”

“Nothing major.” He sighed. “Doc, we have to have a word about what is major around here.”

“I mean nothing life threatening. I was more worried about the coma.”

“I was in a coma?”

“Three days. Freya’s been worrying herself sick.”

Mal looked at his wife, noting the dark shadows under her eyes, the grey nature of her skin. “Don’t want to do that,” he said softly. “You should know by now I always come back to you.”

She smiled and laid her face next to his, kissing his cheek. “I know. And don’t you damn well ever stop.” ---

He was dozing when he became aware of someone in the room with him. Opening his eyes, he saw River’s face just a few inches from his own.

“Albatross.”

“Captain.” She was studying him, her eyes roaming across his forehead, cheeks, lips, back to his baby blues.

“Am I that interesting?” he asked.

“I’m just checking that you’re you.”

He jumped, then groaned a little as the burns stung. “What’re you talking about, little one?”

“You know.” She stepped back, apparently satisfied, and turned on her heel to leave.

“River?”

“Yes?” She looked back at him from the doorway.

“You said hi.”

River beamed.

COMMENTS

Sunday, December 17, 2006 11:27 PM

GIRLFAN


Excellently done!

Monday, December 18, 2006 1:52 AM

AMDOBELL


Absolutely fabulous! I was a little worried and off my stride at first not knowing what was happening and missing Freya, this whole other alternate 'verse angle was very good and beautifully put together. Loved the little touch at the end with Mal saying hi to River from her other self. Also loved that when Mal finally woke from the coma he wasn't just happy to be with his Freya again but also wanted to make sure Kaylee was still okay as well. You really are a terrific writer, just more Mal and Freya please! Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Monday, December 18, 2006 5:25 AM

TAMSIBLING


That was really cool - I love your character development of Mal and how you take him through his paces just to see what he can do - what he can survive.

And I loved Freya - as always. My heart almost broke when it was mentioned that Kaylee had died in this alternate 'verse - I don't know if Simon could survive that.

So great!

Monday, December 18, 2006 1:31 PM

BLUEEYEDBRIGADIER


Holy...crap! That was some freakin' brilliant stuff here, Jane0904! I was honestly freaking out and waiting for some sign that it was a nasty dream or the Alliance meddling with some seriously powerful forces...like time and space;D

Definitely loved how you portrayed Mal's struggle with first identifying Freya-as-Elena and then trying to persuade the crew to his position. This would have made a brilliant episode in the vein of 'Out of Gas' and the Buffy episode where the previous episodes were made out to be a delusional state being occupied by an asylum-situated Buffy:D

BEB

Tuesday, December 19, 2006 4:10 AM

KATESFRIEND


What a wonderful story - and so many good old fashioned sci fi elements to it! I love reading all your stories and delight in how well written and crafted they are. Please write more!


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Monied Individual - Part XVIII
Jayne had told him a story once, about being on the hunt for someone who owed him something or other. He’d waited for his target for three hours in four inches of slush as the temperature dropped, and had grinned when he’d admitted to Hank that he’d had to break his feet free from the ice when he’d finished.
[Maya. Post-BDM. The Fosters show their true colours, Jayne attempts a rescue, and the others may be too late.]


Snow at Christmas
She’d seen his memories of his Ma, the Christmases when he was a boy on Shadow, even a faint echo of one before his Pa died, all still there, not diminished by his burning, glowing celebrations of now with Freya.

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Jayne hadn’t waited, but planted a foot by the lock. The door was old, the wood solid, but little could stand against a determined Cobb boot with his full weight behind it. It burst open.


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He slammed the door behind him, making the plates rattle on the sideboard. “It’s okay, girl, I ain't gonna hurt you.” The cook, as tradition dictated, plump and rosy cheeked with her arms covered to the elbows in flour, but with a gypsy voluptuousness, picked up a rolling pin.

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“Did we …” “We did.” “Why?” As she raised an eyebrow at him he went on quickly, “I mean, we got a comfy bunk, not that far away. Is there any particular reason we’re in here instead?” “You don’t remember?” He concentrated for a moment, and the activities of a few hours previously burst onto him like a sunbeam. “Oh, right,” he acknowledged happily.

[Maya. Post-BDM. A little with each Serenity couple, but something goes bang. Read, enjoy, review!]



“Did we …” “We did.” “Why?” As she raised an eyebrow at him he went on quickly, “I mean, we got a comfy bunk, not that far away. Is there any particular reason we’re in here instead?” “You don’t remember?” He concentrated for a moment, and the activities of a few hours previously burst onto him like a sunbeam. “Oh, right,” he acknowledged happily.

[Maya. Post-BDM. A little with each Serenity couple, but something goes bang. Read, enjoy, review!]


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This wasn’t how an ex-companion did things. Perhaps she’d been hanging around a certain Firefly captain for too long. He listened at keyholes as if it were a competitive sport.

[Maya. Post-BDM. The crew go to the Spring Lights Procession, Mal gives some good news, and Sir Warwick puts in another cameo. Read, enjoy, review!]


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“It’s a family tradition, Mal.” Eugenia patted his hand. “No matter who marries into us, whatever their name, the moment they say ‘I do’ they become Rostovs. So you are Malcolm Rostov. It has a fine ring to it, don’t you think?”

[Maya. Post-BDM. A chapter of Mal and Freya, and a small revelation from Eugenia Rostov. Read, enjoy, review!]


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Hank had to shake his head. In this day and age, when the entire output of every quill, pen and two-fingered monkey thumping on a keyboard was available on the Cortex, this statement of wealth and power was way over the top. He loved the feel of paper himself, turning the pages to get to the next twist, scanning the print to try and guess the next turn, but even his collection wouldn’t fill more than a shelf here.

[Maya. Post-BDM. Hank thinks about Zoe, Zoe thinks about Hank, while Freya and Mal have lunch. Read, enjoy, review!]


Monied Individual - Part XI
Freya felt flustered, as if her world had been turned upside down, black was white, and Jayne was the President of the Alliance.

[Maya. Post-BDM. Mal and Freya go to church, Hank doesn't go ice-skating, and maybe it's hinting at the calm before the storm. An extra long chapter to make up for the delay - enjoy!]