BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

JANE0904

Aftermath - Part II
Saturday, February 24, 2007

Maya. Post-BDM. Freya's dreams are getting worse ... Thanks for your feedback - please keep it coming!


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1699    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

There had been a lot of tests, most of them totally incomprehensible. It wasn't that they were difficult to understand, but just that they didn’t seem to have anything to do with what they said. There were the usual IQ tests, which she knew she’d aced, but others, like picking a sequence of numbers that were then randomly generated from a machine, just to see if they matched up, seemed pointless. They wouldn’t show her the results, but the two men seemed pleased. They’d smiled at her.

Then they’d gone to speak to her parents.

She was going to be a Companion. That had been her dream ever since she was old enough to know what a dream was. To dress in those fancy clothes, to meet glamorous people, to be feted and adored … She knew there was more to it, had seen something in her mother’s eyes when she announced her desire that day at dinner, and it had made her blush, but for once her father nodded approvingly.

“I think that would be eminently suitable,” he’d said, his gravel voice rolling across the table. “A fine career for a Rostov.”

“Ivan, I don’t know,” her mother had put in. “She’s so young.”

“Genia, she’s old enough. And nothing will happen for a long time yet.” He’d made up his mind, and once he’d done that, there was no changing it.

Elena beamed, only wincing a little as Alex kicked her under the table.

But then her school had introduced these new tests. Boring, easy and predictable was her opinion, and she told her friends exactly that. Even crowed a little when Alex did nowhere near as well as her. Then her mother had taken her into her study one day and explained that these tests showed she had aptitudes that the Alliance felt should be encouraged.

“They want us to send you to a school,” her mother explained. “It’s special, with classes designed to make you work harder.”

Elena had never minded hard work.

Her father didn’t speak to her about it. If anything he ignored her even more than he had before.

---

“Inara’s been keeping to her shuttle a lot in the last coupla weeks,” Zoe said. “The only time she comes out is when we land.”

“Her choice, I guess.” Hank adjusted their heading slightly.

“She’s thinking about her son.”

The pilot glanced over his shoulder at her. “Natural.”

“She’s afraid Sheydra knew something else that she didn’t tell.”

Hank turned his chair to look at her. “Like where he is?”

Zoe nodded. “River was distracted, worrying about Freya, and Inara thinks she might have missed something.”

“That’s probably why she’s been on the Cortex all hours of the day and night.” Hank shrugged. “Think I should tell Mal?”

“It’s her screen.” Zoe stirred, as if made uncomfortable. “Just … keep an eye on it.”

“Will do.” He stood up and put his hands on her waist. “At least nothing else bad has happened. Maybe we’re past the worst of it.”

“I hope so,” Zoe agreed fervently.

“You know, I still see it,” he said slowly.

She didn’t have to ask what. Freya wasn't the only one with the nightmares. “I know, honey. But it had to be done.”

“Oh, I know. I just wish …”

“It hadn’t been you to do it?”

“Something like that.” He sighed, his forehead furrowed. “I know everyone thinks I'm a coward – hell, so do I most of the time. But these people, this crew, they’re … I don’t want to let them down.”

“You didn’t.” She stroked his face. “Even Jayne was proud of you.”

He almost smiled. “Not sure that’s too much of an incentive to do it again.” His face darkened. “But it still makes me feel …” He paused. “Was it like that the first time you killed someone?”

“I don’t remember.”

“I suppose there’ve been so many.”

She let go and glared at him. “That wasn't what I meant.”

“Zoe …” He was appalled at his tactlessness. “I’m sorry. I didn’t intend that like it came out.”

Her gaze softened. “Hank, I wasn‘t even seventeen. Barely older than River when she came on board. In the Alliance army. I don’t remember what it was like because I can’t be sure when it was. There were riots on Three Hills, over the crop mites that had wiped out that year’s harvest, and …” She shook her head. “We did what we were told to do.”

Hank couldn’t believe what she was saying. “You fired into the crowd?”

“They were rushing us.”

“What were they armed with, Zoe?” he asked, backing off from her. “Pitchforks, maybe?”

“I'm not proud of it, Hank,” she said, her face expressionless.

“But I'm supposed to be proud of shooting a man dead in front of me?” He turned away from her and leaned on the back of the pilot’s chair.

“No. You’re supposed to feel sick to your stomach.”

“Oh, I do that,” he said, not looking at her.

“And I’m glad you do, because if you didn’t you wouldn’t be the man I fell in love with.”

He lifted his head. “You do?”

“Don’t I say it enough?”

He turned towards her. “Never enough.”

“Maybe I don’t. Only just got used to saying it again.”

“I need to hear it, though. Right now, there’s a part of me that needs to hear it so bad.” He was almost begging.

“I love you, Hank. And I am ecstatic that you ain’t a natural killer.” She stepped closer to him and kissed him, her lips soft on his, feeling his at last release some of their tension.

“Zo, put him down. You don’t know where he’s been.” Mal smiled tiredly from the doorway, trying to imitate his usual grumpy self.

“Oh, I think I have a fair idea, sir,” his first mate said.

“You know, I don’t think I want you to explain that any further.” He looked from one to the other. “Can you both come to the dining area?” he asked. “There’s something … I need to speak to you all.”

“What about?” Hank asked, pushing his own anxiety back down.

“Just … only take a few minutes.” His tone was so odd that they both watched him head back to the galley.

“Any idea what that’s all about?”

“Only one way to find out.”

Mal waited until they were all in the galley. All except for Inara. He glanced across at Simon and nodded slightly. “Thanks for all being here,” he began awkwardly. “There’s something I have to ask you all to do for me, and I ain't exactly sure how.”

“Is it Freya?” Kaylee asked, reaching for and grasping Simon’s hand.

“Yeah.”

“Is she …” She couldn’t go on, just alternated her gaze between her captain and her husband.

“She’s getting better. Healing physically.”

“Then what, Cap’n?”

“We … we all have to watch her. Keep an eye on her. Don’t let her …” He sat down hard in his chair.

“Cap?” Now Kaylee was getting really worried, and from the looks on the rest of the crew, so were they.

“Simon, I don’t …” Mal looked at the young man.

The doctor understood. “What Mal’s trying to say is that Freya’s in a very emotionally unstable frame of mind at the moment. As anyone would be who went through what she did. We have to make sure nothing happens that might disturb the delicate balance.”

“Doc, can’t you just talk straight?” Jayne asked, leaning back in his chair so it was balanced on the back legs.

“You have to lock up your guns,” Mal said finally, his gaze dark.

There was silence until Zoe spoke quietly for them all. “You’re talking about suicide.”

Jayne’s chair thudded to the ground. “Qiang bao hou zi de hun dan.”

“I am.”

“That’s crazy!” Kaylee cried. “Frey ain't ever gonna do that. She’s not the type!” She glared at her husband as if it was all his fault.

“Type has nothing to do with it,” Simon said, trying to calm her down. “Freya’s been through so much, she’s finding it very hard to come to terms with it. Not just the injuries, but the total loss of control she experienced.”

“Control is so important to her,” River agreed, holding Jethro’s hand tightly.

“Did you know?” Jethro asked, looking round at her. “About this?” She nodded. “For how long?”

“Since she woke up,” the girl admitted. “I’ve been watching her.” She glanced at her brother. “You didn’t need to ask.”

Simon gave a half-smile. “I thought perhaps you were.”

“But it hurts.”

Her brother nodded, understanding. “I know, mei-mei.”

“’N’ I’m grateful,” Mal added.

Kaylee was still outraged. “You’re saying she’s gonna try and do away with herself?” She couldn’t take it in.

“Not consciously, perhaps,” Simon said, turning to her. “But we just have to make sure the temptation isn’t there.”

Zoe hadn’t taken her eyes off her captain’s face. “Are you gonna talk to Inara, sir?” she asked. “She’s got weapons, too, that need to be put away. Things that could be used.”

“Going there now.” He stood up. “Just … be careful. We don’t want to put … just be careful.” He walked slowly out of the galley.

“You mean it, don’t you?” Kaylee asked Simon in a low voice.

“I'm afraid so.”

“But she wouldn’t do that, not Freya.”

“’N’ we’re gonna make sure it ain’t ever her,” Jayne said, getting to his feet and heading for his bunk. “Knew I should never’ve unpacked the girls,” he muttered.

---

“The nightmares are so bad,” Mal said softly, sitting on Inara’s red sofa, a cup of mint tea in his hands, his fingers clasped around the fragile china as if he could warm his soul. “And Simon thinks they’re going to get worse.”

The ex-Companion sat down next to him, almost touching but not quite. “Freya’s been through a lot.”

“I want to help her, to take them away, make things better … make things right …” He looked into her eyes.

“I know you do. We all want to. But it’s going to take time.”

“Time …” His voice echoed hers sadly. “Ain't sure there’s gonna be enough of that.”

“Why?” Inara looked up sharply. “What did Simon say?”

“Not that. I don’t mean … leastways physically, but he thinks … he feels …” He couldn’t finish.

“That she might need professional help?”

Mal nodded, misery etched deeply into the lines on his face. “I couldn’t stop them, ‘Nara. I couldn’t stop what they did to her, and it was ‘cause of me. What I did. How I live my life.” He slammed the bowl down onto the table, not caring if it broke or not.

“That isn’t true.” She put her hand on his leg. “Mal, you saved my life.”

He didn’t seem to hear her. “I killed Atherton Wing, so they took the woman I love. Damn near killed her, and now she might …”

“Is Simon …” Inara took a deep breath before she could continue. “Is Simon afraid she’s going to try to kill herself?”

“He’s thinking that.” He dropped his head so she couldn’t see into his eyes, couldn’t see the tears. “She can’t even hold Ethan properly. And it cuts at me to see her watching him, and she can’t nurse him, not even feed him because of the drugs Simon has her on.” Something splashed onto the carpet beneath him. “It’s killing her.”

“You can hold him for her,” Inara said gently.

Mal suddenly sat back, his head resting on the red satin. “I do. I hold him so she can touch him, cradle him, even, but … it ain't enough.” His tears ran into his hair.

Inara wanted to clasp him to her, to give him what little comfort she could. No matter that she knew he wasn’t hers, never could be, she wanted him to be happy, with every ounce of her soul. And this man was so far from that state that it made her angry. “What does Simon suggest?” she asked, feeling her body trembling slightly.

“Watching her.” He sat up, wiping at his face with both hands. “River’s doing that. Ain't letting her out of mind, but …” He looked back at her. “She can’t get too close. She says it’s too painful.”

“And her guns? Yours?”

“Locked away, and she ain't gonna know where. Same with Jayne’s, and the kitchen knives. And Simon’s locking the drugs cupboard whenever he leaves the infirmary.” Even considering that his wife might try to take her own life was almost too much for him. “At least she’s still there, where he can keep an eye on her, but when she starts to walk …”

“When does Simon think that will be?”

“He doesn’t know. Soon, I guess. He’s talking about exercise …” He shook his head. “Can’t keep her locked up, ‘Nara. That won’t help her.”

“No. I don’t see her taking too kindly to being told she can’t do something.”

“Me neither.” Mal swallowed. “’Nara, if she took it into her head to do something … to …” He couldn’t say it. “If she … there’s ways. Even if it’s crawling into the airlock and opening the door, there’s ways.” He was shaking, his whole body trembling like a leaf in a high wind. “I can’t lose her, Inara. I can’t. I thought I had, and it killed me. Then finding her, alive, even after what they’d done, I …” He wiped his mouth on the back of his hand. “But if she … if I can’t take this burden from her … make her see it ain’t her fault –“

“She thinks it’s her fault?” Inara couldn’t believe it. “How can she possibly consider that it’s her fault? Mal, that’s crazy.”

“I guess maybe it is. But she keeps telling me she’s sorry. For going to find Ethan by herself. For what they did.” He couldn’t believe it himself. “For what they did.” He was suddenly so incensed that he grabbed the tea bowl, hurling it across the room to shatter against the bulkhead. He turned a horrified face to her. “Inara, I'm sorry –“

She shook her head quickly, taking hold of his hands. “It doesn’t matter. If you want to break them all, do it.”

to be continued

COMMENTS

Sunday, February 25, 2007 1:51 AM

AMDOBELL


Oh wow, this was fabulous! I love how well you conveyed the angst and Mal's utter devastation and helplessness in the face of what Freya is going through. Wonderful how the whole crew is determined to do everything they can to help and to key a weathered eye on their friend so she doesn't commit suicide. Talk about a world of sorrow - and then some - and poor Mal finally breaking. I loved Inara's line when Mal apologised for breaking her tea bowl - "If you want to break them all, do it". And she meant it. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Sunday, February 25, 2007 1:52 AM

AMDOBELL


Ooops, I meant 'keep' not 'key'. Seems my fingers are dyslexic this morning. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Sunday, February 25, 2007 10:49 AM

TAMSIBLING


Beautifully written and described. I love the parallel between Freya going to the Academy and River. When I read the first dream in part I, I thought for a moment it was River's flashback ... I think that's very telling.

I do not envy Mal or the pain he's feeling. I would like to get a bit in Freya's head though - I'd really love to see a convo between her and Mal. And I loved the Inara bit at the end. I agree with AMDOBELL, her response to the broken china was absolutely perfect ... It would have been great if she'd picked up hers and hurled it after him.

Sunday, February 25, 2007 2:00 PM

BLUEEYEDBRIGADIER


Holy...crap...that was just utterly heartwrenching, Jane0904! Between Mal's struggle to tell the crew they need to lock up all weapons and potential weapons or methods of suicide, and Mal's conversation with Inara at the end, I was struggling not to cry:(

Still...this is brilliant work! Definitely loved how you had Mal and Inara responding to one another during their conversation, and I have to ditto the praise for having Inara tell Mal he could break all her expensive/priceless/custom stuff if it helped him deal with Freya's status. Though my dramatic plot-twist Spideysense is tingling at a potential situation in the future...something realistic to this sitaution but definitely problematic;)

BEB


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