BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

JANE0904

Aftermath - Part VI
Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Maya. Post-BDM. Freya's retreating into the darkness, and things are coming to a head. A long section, but it fits together. Please let me know what you think, as I'm struggling with the final parts.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1865    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

Elena sat in her class and grinned. This was so good. So much to learn. So many things to make her day bright. And a friend to talk to, someone who understood, who enjoyed it all as much as she did. She glanced across the room towards Freya, her blonde head intent on the book on her desk. Then she looked across, and they both smiled. They always did know what the other was thinking.

The teacher rapped her pen on the desk. “Elena Rostov, you are supposed to be working.”

“I've finished,” she said, holding up her book.

“Then bring it to me.”

Elena got up, aware of all her fellow classmates eyes on her as she walked to the front. She handed the book over. “It was easy,” she said quietly.

“I see.” The teacher thumbed through the exercises. “And so it appears to be.” She handed the book back. “Then for the rest of the lesson I think you should go onto chapter eight. See if that is a little more taxing.”

“Yes, Madam Fong.” As she headed back to her desk her heart soared. She’d never felt like this before, so jing cai, and to be amongst others just the same … She sat back down and called up chapter eight. Oh, this was so much fun …

The teacher watched her for a moment, the girl’s pen hurtling across the page as she solved one problem after another. Then she brought up the class roster on her screen, delicately tapping in a command code, waiting until a blue light appeared next to Elena Rostov’s name …

---

“Mal?”

Serenity’s captain was sitting in the pilot’s chair, staring out into the black, and didn’t turn as Inara stepped onto the bridge. “Couldn’t sleep?” he asked.

“I was thinking.” Inara sat down in the other seat.

“Yeah. I find myself doing that a lot, this time of night. When I'm wakeful.”

“And when was the last time you got more than a couple of hours sleep?” she asked.

He dropped his head slightly. “Probably a while.”

“Try since Freya was kidnapped.”

He looked back out at the stars. “Reckon you might be right.”

“Why aren’t you with her?”

“She told me to go,” he said simply.

“Go?”

“Told me she didn’t want to keep waking me with the dreams, that I should go sleep someplace else.”

“And you believed her?”

Mal turned enough so that he could look at the ex-Companion. “Am I supposed to?”

Inara understood. “When do you go back?”

“I leave it a few hours, then head down to our room. Look in on Ethan, then check Frey.” He looked away again. “If she’s asleep I lay down next to her, hold her. Wait for the nightmares to come. And I can’t stop them.”

“I'm sorry.” It seemed such a ridiculous thing to say, but she truly was.

Mal stared out of the window. “Thanks.” He paused for a long while before he went on, “Bad enough she won’t let me do things for her.”

“What do you mean?”

“She hates me dressing her, feeding her, even though she can’t do that for herself. Not yet. But she won’t even let me carry her.” Now his voice was tinged with pain. “I know I’m afraid of hurting her, but she don’t seem to have that problem with Jayne.” Mal sounded so frustrated. “She’s shutting me out but lets him carry her whenever.”

“She trusts him.”

“And she don’t trust me?” Mal was suddenly angry. “I'm her husband, ‘Nara! I want to do all the stuff she lets Jayne do! And why him? What the diyu does that man have to do with my wife?”

“Maybe that’s who she needs right now. Have you thought about that?” Inara leaned forward. “Someone who understands, wants to help, but isn’t going to die if she does.”

Mal shot her a furious look. “She ain't gonna die!” he shouted, not caring if the rest of the ship heard him.

Inara regarded him with way too much understanding. “I notice you didn’t say you wouldn’t die, though.”

Mal’s glare seared her soul, but the blaze was brief and died back to ashen embers. “I would’ve, if she had,” he admitted. “And now …” He turned away. “I'm afraid of the darkness.”

Inara glanced out into the black, surprised. “Darkness?”

“No. Not out there. In her mind. She thinks I don’t understand, but I do. I remember what she’s told me before, when Lon burned her back, burned the tattoo off her skin, about her being terrified the darkness was gonna take her and she’d kill us all. Kill me.”

“Mal, surely –“

“No. I don’t believe she’d kill me. But she thinks she could and that’s what makes it so hard. I have to help her somehow.” He closed his eyes briefly, rubbing his hands across them. “She won’t even look at Ethan no more, ‘Nara.” The desolation in his voice was palpable. “At least she let me hold him for her before, but now … she thinks she’s a bad mother, doing what she did, that she doesn’t deserve him. And I don’t know how to stop it.”

“You’ll make yourself ill.” Already the man had a haunted look, his cheeks sunken in more than before, his skin stretched across his bones.

“But I have to be there for her, ‘Nara. ‘Til she tells me to leave and I accept it.”

“Is that ever going to happen?”

“No,” he admitted. “Not in this lifetime. It doesn’t matter how often she says it, I’ll never believe her.” He shifted slightly in the seat. “Times like this I wish I were psychic myself, so that I could see what hurts her so in those dreams. Maybe take ‘em on for her. Kill the monsters.”

“If only you could …”

“If her mentor was still alive, I’d be trying to find him. He helped her before, drove all the darkness away from her so she became the woman I love. Might be he could’ve done it again.” Mal sighed. “Without him I don’t see how I can …” He stopped, not trusting himself.

“Mal, why don’t you get Jethro to talk to her?” Inara suggested, somewhat diffidently. “I know you don’t approve of religion, and Freya doesn’t follow his, but he might … he could help.”

“Kinda like a second?” Mal’s lips twitched. “In a fight? Can’t get the real thing so I send in the next best?”

Inara smiled a little. “Something like that.”

“Think he would?”

Inara realised this proved how much he loved Freya, that he would do anything to help her. “I think he might. If you asked nicely.”

“When don’t I ask nicely?”

“Oh, about all the time.”

“Can’t you talk to her? You know her. Understand her.” Mal looked at the ex-Companion. “You wanna be a Counsellor? Help Freya.”

“Mal, I …”

“She needs you, Inara.”

“I …” She stopped. “I just think someone else … someone a step removed …”

“You don’t want to.” Mal was surprised, and disappointed.

“It’s not that I don’t want to, it’s just I'm so close, she might not –”

“No, it’s okay. You don’t have to explain.” Mal stood up. “Think I’d better go check on my wife,” he said, bitterness in his voice. “Make sure she ain't managed to kill herself yet.”

Inara wanted to stop him, to apologise, to explain, but she couldn’t. Instead she let him leave the bridge.

Staring out at the stars she wished most fervently for some kind of guidance. Something to show her what to do, but there was no comet to light her way, no sudden epiphany. She drew the printout from her pocket and read the communiqué twice more. It wasn't what she’d hoped, but it was a start. At least someone was talking to her. She sighed. She wished she could talk to Mal, but with Freya still … it wasn't right that she burden him with this too.

She thought about her shuttle, of the gaps where certain pieces of art used to be. No-one else probably even noticed they were gone, and if they had they probably put it down to the damage the Reavers on Corvus did. They’d never know she’d sold them.

She shivered. She so wanted to make a start, but she couldn’t, not until Freya was out of the woods.

---

It was difficult. More than difficult. It hurt every part of her, but she needed to do it. Every step was like agony splicing up through her, but she managed to lever her way out of the room and into the common area.

The infirmary was dark, the doors closed, but she could hear movement from Simon and Kaylee’s bunk. They were talking about something, their voices muted, but then Kaylee laughed. Freya wanted to smile, to say that it was good things were getting back to normal, but in reality it hurt more than the pain in her body. Things were getting back to normal, but not for her. She was broken. She needed to feel whole again, needed it so badly. The closest had been when she was eating the cookie Kaylee had baked, and she needed to feel that again.

She struggled up the stairs, each step so painful all she wanted to do was lay down, let it all end, but she kept going. Twice she almost slipped, almost toppled backwards, but it was sheer luck that kept her on her feet. Finally she reached the top, the corridor outside the kitchen, and she was whimpering with the effort.

No-one was inside. The lights were still on, which meant Mal hadn’t gone to wherever he was sleeping yet, but the galley was empty. She climbed awkwardly over the sill and headed slowly for the counter where a tin sat. She knew, without needing to wonder how, that the cookies were inside. Hobbling painfully, she took a glass from the counter, putting it ready. It took more effort to open the fridge and lift out the milk, but she managed it, having to use both hands to lift it and pour some out, balancing on the crutches.

The cookie tin, however, defeated her. No matter how she tried, she couldn’t get the lid off. She was almost crying with frustration by the time she gave in. Shuddering she took a deep breath. Never mind. Maybe the milk would be enough.

She lifted it to her lips but the glass slipped from her fingers, just as the first had done, this time not breaking as it hit the floor, only laying on its side haemorrhaging milk.

“No,” she moaned softly, reaching down to pick it up. One of her crutches slipped and it slid from under her, propelling her forwards. She put out her hands automatically to break her fall, hearing the crack of glass as it broke beneath the heel of her right hand. She fell to the floor, crying out in pain as she jarred her hips, her back, everywhere.

For a long moment she just sat, aware that her robe was soaking up the spilled liquid. She glanced down at the pool of milk and realised it was turning pink. In surprise she lifted her hand, bemused as red drops fell from her wrist. Turning it over she could see a jagged piece of glass thrust into her flesh.

She reached out and tugged it free, the drops turning to a stream, fascinated by the growing puddle at her side.

“Frey?” Mal called, coming up the stairs from their temporary home. He’d been looking for her, surprised at not finding her asleep. He thought he heard a crash from the galley and hurried up to check. Stepping inside, he couldn’t see her, but picked up a slight movement, something like the chink of broken glass, behind the counter. He crossed the floor … “Run-tse de fuo-tsoo,” he breathed, grabbing a cloth and falling to his knees. Pulling her wrist to him, he wrapped the cloth around it, yelling now. “Get Simon up here! Someone … anyone … get him up here now!”

Freya looked at him, honest bewilderment on her face. “Mal?” she said softly. “It’s shiny. It doesn’t hurt.” She could see the darkness just beyond him, welcoming, warming.

“It’s okay, Frey,” he assured her, his heart beating so hard he thought it might break through his ribs as he held the ragged edges of the wound together, trying to stop the blood flow. “Soon have this dealt with, ai ren. Not much more than a scratch.” He tried to smile for her, but swallowed at the way the cloth was already soaked through.

“It’s okay,” she murmured, reaching out to touch his cheek, leaving a smeared print on his skin. “Leave it. It’s peaceful.” She smiled at him. “It’s okay,” she repeated. “Go back to work. Leave me be.”

He stared at her. No matter what the doc had said, what he’d told Inara, he couldn’t truly believe –

“Mal?” Simon jumped down into the galley, Kaylee at his heels.

“Over here.”

The young man hurried around the counter. “What happened?” he asked, preparing a hypo quickly and injecting it into Freya’s arm.

“I wanted some milk and cookies,” Freya explained, her voice faint, laying her head back against the cupboard behind her. “Before the carriage comes …” Her eyes closed.

“Frey?” Mal said, his heart in his mouth.

“I‘ve sedated her,” Simon said. “Help me get her down to the infirmary.”

“What about …” Mal lifted her wrist.

“Just hold that tight.”

“What’s going on?” Jayne said, stepping down into the kitchen, buckling his pants.

“Freya’s hurt,” Kaylee said, hugging herself.

“Jayne,” Simon called, moving back. “Infirmary. Now.”

“No,” Mal said loudly, adding as he saw the young man give him an odd look, “She’s my wife. I’ll carry her.”

Simon gazed at him a moment, then nodded, taking hold of the improvised bandage as Mal lifted Freya into his arms, holding her close, and headed towards the stairs.

---

“Freya was lucky.” Simon stretched his back as he walked out of the sickbay, Mal following.

“Lucky?” Mal grabbed his arm, turning him around. “You think my wife nearly bleeding to death is lucky?”

“It would have taken a lot longer, Mal,” the young man assured him. “And you found her.”

“If I hadn’t? Then what?”

“Mal … I don’t think she did this on purpose.”

The captain stared at him. “You don’t … you think it was an accident?”

Simon sighed. “When people plan to kill themselves, they leave a note. Sometimes a letter. More than one. And from what she said, about wanting milk and cookies …”

Mal crossed the floor unsteadily and dropped in the yellow chair. “I thought …”

“That she did it deliberately?”

“What she was saying, telling me to leave her alone, to let her be … I was afraid …” He leaned forward, his head in his hands.

“She’s …” Simon took a deep breath. “I’ve not changed my mind, Mal. Freya’s been through so much, lost so much of her control, that … I think she might try. But this wasn’t it.”

“How come River didn’t pick up on this?” Mal looked up, his face wet as well as angry. “She was supposed to be watching.”

“River was asleep,” Simon said softly. “She can’t watch her all the time.”

“Even when she ain’t asleep she’s …” Mal stopped, biting his tongue.

“What? More interested in Jethro than saving Freya’s life?” Simon shot back.

“Ain’t that the case?”

They glared at each other.

“Mal, she’s going to be okay,” Kaylee said softly, hugging her knees from where she sat on the stairs by the window.

“She’s right,” Jayne said. “Ain’t River’s fault.” He got up and walked away.

Mal didn’t watch him leave but felt his presence go. Then he took a breath, standing up to face the young man. “You think she needs a Counsellor,” he said shortly. “A professional.”

“Yes.”

“You got one in mind?”

“Not out here, but … I can do some research.”

“If we need to go to the Core …”

“I’ll see what I can find out.”

“Yeah. Thanks.” Mal nodded curtly, before striding into the infirmary to be with his wife.

---

River sat in her room, listening, knowing what was going on, her arms tight around herself. She knew what he was thinking, how he felt, and guilt was flooding through her. Mal was right … she wasn’t thinking about Freya, not really. Not when it hurt so much to be close to her.

“River?” Jethro opened the door carefully.

“I didn’t mean it,” she said, hugging herself tightly, rocking backwards and forwards. “I wanted to help … I want to help … but I fell asleep …”

The young man stepped inside, sitting down next to her. “He was wrong to say that. And he didn’t mean it.”

“Yes he did. And he’s right. I don’t …” She sobbed. “I have to … but it hurts so much.”

“Please don’t,” Jethro said. He reached over and pulled River, ever so gently, into his arms. At first she was unyielding, then she melted against him, crying silently. “It’s all right. It’s all right.”

Jayne looked into the room, and really wished he had something to kill, right there in front of him. With a shaking hand, he slid the door closed.

---

“Elena, there’s someone here to see you,” said the house mother, looking into the room.

“Momma?” She looked up from where she was reading, laying on her front on the bed.

“No, sweetie, not your mother. But someone important.” The woman smiled, her smooth face devoid of any guile.

“Who?”

“Well, if you don’t hurry up you won’t find out.” She held out her hand. “Come on.”

Elena scrambled off to her feet. “Won’t you tell me?”

“It’s a surprise.” She led the way towards the elevators and stepped inside, keeping tight hold of Elena’s hand.

“Where are we going?”

“Somewhere new.” Passing a card over the pad, she touched a small button to the side of the main display. “Somewhere exciting.”

The doors closed and Elena could detect movement downward. She could feel the dampness of the woman’s palm, and she wondered at the reason. Tentatively she reached out with her mind …

---

River watched the events unfold in Freya’s mind, and trembled. She knew what had happened, but never in this detail, not from her. It was almost too much to take, making her remember herself, unable to hold her mind away from her own memories.

But she’d promised Mal. She’d let him down once, and she wouldn’t again.

She leaned against Jethro, asleep next to her, feeling his warmth but it didn’t warm her.

She’d tried to help, insinuate herself into Freya’s psyche, tell her it was just a dream, but it didn’t work. She didn’t listen, or couldn’t hear. And she was growing stronger with every passing moment, and if she couldn’t do something soon, it would be too late.

---

The room was small. And cold. They’d said it was to keep blood loss to a minimum, but she could see they were lying. It was just another way of controlling her.

The first time they’d strapped her into the chair she’d fought them, biting and kicking, until one of them used a hypo on her, and when her legs and arms no longer belonged to her they tightened the restraints so much her hands and feet ached. The head band was the worst, stopping her moving, not letting her get away from the probes that sliced through her skin into her skull, cutting through the bone into her brain …

They hadn’t cared that she screamed until she was hoarse, begging them to stop, calling for her mother, her father, even her brother to come and save her. They kept on until the darkness reached out and claimed her.

The tenth time they were interested in the marks left by the probes.

“Healed.” He touched the areas of smooth skin with his fingers.

“That’s unusual.”

“More than unusual. I wonder if it’s the same over the rest of her body?” He’d picked up a scalpel, cutting a long slice into her arm and watching the blood trickle down her flesh. “Wrap it, and we’ll see tomorrow.”

She’d whimpered, like a wild animal …

“Almost gone.”

“Mmn.”

“Do you think –“

“Perhaps. Get Dr Lee in here. This might be more his area of expertise.”

“A boosted healing system could have untold military applications. Shouldn’t we contact General –“

“Not yet. Let’s see how far this goes first.” He’d stroked her cheek, almost as if she was a doll, smooth porcelain under his fingertips. “But right now we have work to do.”

She screamed as he lifted up the first probe.

---

He was being shaken. In the dream it was a rackety old cart that he was riding in the back of, his feet hanging off the edge. He was happy, sitting in the sunshine, humming to himself. Only his toes were dragging through something soft and warm, and he didn’t want to see what it was. Trouble was, they were going uphill and he was leaning further and further out, and any second now he was going to have to look …

“Jethro.”

He opened his eyes. “Wha … what?” River was leaning over him. “River?” he squeaked, grabbing for the blankets, only they weren't there. Then he remembered. He was fully dressed, and so was she, and they’d fallen asleep wrapped in each other’s arms. “What is it?” he asked, attempting to pull himself together.

“Freya.”

He sat up. “Has she –“

“No.” River shook her head. “But it’s time to talk to her.”

“River, I don’t know …” He glanced at the clock. “It’s really late. Or maybe early.”

“You have to wake her up.”

“Why?”

“Otherwise she won’t.”

He glanced sharply towards the door. “But I thought you said –“

“It won’t be her who wakes.”

“I don’t understand, River.”

“It will be someone else. Not Freya. And you know it.”

Jethro stared at her, hearing his own words echoing back to him from his conversation with Mal. “Is it that bad?”

River nodded. “Go. Now.”

He stood up and hurried out to the infirmary.

Freya was on the medbed, her head tossing, her neck arching as she struggled with something in her dreams. Her nightmares, he corrected himself as he stepped inside.

“Freya,” he called. She didn’t respond, just made her hands into fists and beat on the bed.

It bled, but they wouldn’t bind it. It hurt so much she couldn’t breathe, but they wouldn’t give her painkillers, just in case it interfered with her natural healing abilities.

So many times. So many scalpels and blades, so many parts of her body violated, broken, so they could see what would happen. Days, months, maybe years of it as they smiled at each other and congratulated their good fortune.

She forgot so much. So many of the things she’d learned, so many facts that she’d once been overjoyed to have at her fingertips disappeared into the miasma of pain.

Her thin dress was soaked in blood and sweat, and her skin was prickled with goosebumps as she alternatively burned and froze. And the darkness was there, waiting, moving towards her, welcoming her into its embrace …

“Freya!”

Her eyes slammed open and she stared at him, and he felt her crawling inside his mind. Then it was gone and Freya was crying.

“Jethro?” she asked, her voice hoarse.

“It’s only me.” He pulled a stool up close and sat down. “You were dreaming.”

“Was I?”

“You don’t remember?”

She looked down at the bandage on her wrist. “Blood,” she whispered. “So much blood.”

He shuddered involuntarily, but asked, “Where from?”

“Me. Flowing out, filling the spaces between words.”

Jethro decided to try Jayne’s approach. “Freya, if you’re trying to freak me out, you’re succeeding,” he said bluntly.

She looked at him in surprise, then smiled a little. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to.”

“Why blood?”

She gave him a look that reminded him all too powerfully of River. “Have you ever thought about how it smells? Blood, I mean. It has an … odd perfume. Kinda like lightning before the rains. First blood I ever smelled was my own. I was six, and Alex had just pushed me off the ledge outside my bedroom window. He told me I could fly, that it was easy. And I believed him. I think it was the last time I ever believed him. When I smelled the blood coming from where the bone stuck out of my leg, I realised he’d lied to me. It’s funny, but I don’t remember it hurting. First and last time it didn’t. Not like later. When I smelled my own blood when they cut into me at the Academy. It hurt then.” She looked into his eyes. “And it hurt when Wing broke my bones.”

“I know.” He reached out to take her hand but she pulled it away.

“It shouldn’t have. I let him do it. Like Alex.”

“How?” He leaned forward. “How could you let him do that? Did you give him permission?”

“I went after Ethan by myself. I knew it was a trap, that they were going to take me, but I still went.”

“To save your son.”

“I didn’t know that. They could have kept him too.”

“It was a chance you had to take.”

She looked away from him. “They’re better off without me,” she said softly. “I don’t work properly any more.” She thought back to the day before, watching Mal give Ethan a bottle Kaylee had prepared. “I can’t even feed my son.” Her voice cracked as tears slid down her cheeks. “It would have been better if they hadn’t found me.”

“No,” Jethro said firmly, witnessing her emotions swinging wildly. “You didn’t see him. What he thought … when we found you and he thought …” He sighed. “Freya, he could never let you go. And you mustn’t talk like that.”

“But if he hadn’t found me alive, then he wouldn’t be going through this. He’d be starting to heal. To move forwards.”

“Do you really think he could?”

She gazed at Jethro. “I can’t let him hurt like this. What I could do …””

“What?”

“It’s so dark …” She shook her head. “It will overtake us all. Waiting, just for me to put a step wrong. And I let it in.”

“I don’t understand, Freya.” He truly didn’t.

“What’s going on?” Simon asked, stepping into his infirmary, woken by voices from a light doze. “Jethro?”

“Talking. That’s all.” The young man stood up. “River thought it might help.”

“Does it?”

“I want to sleep,” Freya said suddenly. “Sleep and not wake up.”

“No.” Simon was uncompromising. “That is not going to happen.”

“Why not?” she asked, turning dark eyes on him. “If I want it. My choice. Easier.”

“It’s not easy. Not for everyone left behind.” He stepped close to the bed. “Never easy for them.”

“Please, Simon. Let me sleep.” She was pleading with him. “Let them get on with their lives.”

“No.” He turned to the counter and prepared a hypo. “But I am going to give you a sedative, let you get some rest. Then we can talk in the morning.”

“No mornings left,” she said, covering her face with her arm. “Only night.”

There was a hiss as Simon injected her neck with the pale liquid, and her breathing eased.

“Simon, is that a good idea?” Jethro asked. “River wanted me to keep her awake.”

“My sister isn’t a doctor.

“But she said –“

“I think you’d better get to bed yourself, Jethro.” Simon looked down at his patient, moving her arm so it lay by her side. Her eyes were closed. “She’ll sleep for at least eight hours now.” He stretched. “Go on.”

Jethro looked at him, still not sure, but headed back towards his room. As he passed River’s he looked inside.

“You let her sleep,” she whispered, backed into the corner, her legs drawn up to her chest.

“I didn’t have a choice.”

“Neither does she.”

---

She could smell the smoke. Somewhere there was a fire, and she waited for the alarm to ring, but there was no sound. Except a growing rustling, like dry leaves.

Elena stood up from her cot, going to the door. She was afraid to call out, afraid that someone would come, but more afraid that they wouldn’t.

She banged on the metal. “Hey!” she called. “Can anyone hear me? There’s a fire!”

Nothing. No response. It was as if she was the only person in the entire universe. She reached out with her mind, pushing through the darkness.

The last time she’d tried, she’d felt Freya die, her body unable to take it anymore and her mind too broken to stop it. Now she had no choice if she wanted to live.

Oh God. He’d set them. Throughout the compound. Burning, a roaring inferno that was sweeping through the building. He was laughing as the flames licked around his feet.

“Let me out!” she shouted, pummelling her fists on the door. “Let me out!”

---

Zoe looked into the galley, tucking her shirt into her pants. “He’s asleep,” she said to Hank, nodding towards Mal, his head on his arms on the kitchen table.

“Good. Best let him get on with it.”

“What about that coffee you wanted?”

“It’ll keep. I need to talk to Shapiro anyway, make sure the meet’s set up to deliver the goods. And you know what she’s like if we’re late.”

“Hmmn.” She hadn’t taken her eyes off her captain. “Wonder why he ain't with Freya.”

“No idea.” Hank stroked her hip. “When he wakes up I’d appreciate some breakfast.”

“It’s Jethro’s turn.”

“Well, if I see him I’ll remind him.” Hank smiled and headed for the bridge.

Zoe looked back at Mal, and felt a sense of unease slip down her spine.

---

She was outside. She didn’t know how, but suddenly it was fresh air on her face and earth beneath her bare feet. Outside. Free.

She turned around and gasped, her hand covering her mouth. Flames leapt from every window, thick smoke rolling into the blue sky, heat singing her skin.

She backed away, then turned, running, hard and fast, away from the conflagration behind her, away from the screams of those still trapped and dying. Away from the explosion that threw her onto her chest, winding her. She staggered to her feet, trying to drag air into her lungs, then walked unsteadily forward. She wouldn’t look back. Couldn’t. As her breathing returned, albeit painfully, she began to run again, trees and fields rushing past her, at such a speed that they blurred into a grey stream. Running, running towards the light …

She fell, tangled in something, her feet bleeding, leaving red prints on the ground behind her.

“Are you all right?” a voice asked, mild, gentle. Someone who could help her. Someone who could heal.

Sobbing in gratitude, she looked at the hand placed on her shoulder. The blue hand …

And she was back in her room, the plain grey walls, bare metal with no definition or hope of relief.

She couldn’t get away. Never get away. And they were coming.

She reached out with her bare hands, wanting to kill …

Mal woke with a jerk, recoiling from the dream. “Freya.”

---

“Hank, I need to speak to you.” Zoe stepped up behind the pilot.

He looked up at her. “Couldn’t you have done that a few minutes ago?” he asked. “I’m just about ready to contact –“

“It won’t wait.”

“O-kay.” He stretched out the word. “What about?”

“Not here.” Her face was damp as if she was sweating slightly.

“You okay?” he asked, standing up to look into her eyes. “Do you need to see Simon?”

“I …” She shook her head. “Come with me.” She walked away from him, off the bridge.

He followed, more than a little confused. “What is it?” he called, but she didn’t answer, just opened the hatch above their bunk and disappeared inside.

She barely waited until he had stepped off the ladder before she had pushed him back against the bulkhead, her mouth searching for his, fastening on it and thrusting her tongue inside. He was surprised, but his body reacted quicker than his mind as his arms came up to hold her. Stroking his hands up her back, he found he couldn’t think, just … She pulled back enough so that she could strafe her gaze up and down him.

“Zoe, should we be …” He could hardly get his words out. “I should be … oh, wuh de tyen, ah,” Hank breathed as she filled her hand with his crotch, squeezing him. “No, I mean …” His eyes began to close as she manipulated him. “Zoe …”

She let go of him and grasped his shirt, tearing it so hard that the buttons popped and scattered across the room. “I need you,” she said throatily. “Now.”

“No, Zo,” Hank began, beginning to feel a slight thread of fear. This wasn’t right – worse, this wasn’t Zoe. “You have to stop –”

He cried out as she raked her nails across his chest, from his right shoulder to below his left nipple, breaking the skin. The scent of fresh blood assaulted his nostrils and he clamped both hands to the wounds.

Zoe stepped back. “What …” She stared at what she’d done. “No.”

“Zoe,” Hank said, trying not to whimper.

“Hank?” She reached out, and he tried to back away but couldn’t move. “No, oh sweetie, what have I done?” Her face was appalled.

---

“You promised!” Kaylee cried, turning on her husband. “You said, once Freya was … you promised you’d get to the results!”

Simon stared at her, halted in the act of tugging his clean sweater down into place. “I’ve been busy. And it isn’t the time for this. I have to check in on Freya.”

“Of course. Always her. But it’s been a month! I need to know!”

“Kaylee, let me be.” He moved away, going to leave their quarters but she snaked round in front of him, planting her small body between him and the door. “Get out of my way. I have things to do.”

He sounded so cold it raised the heat within her. “And is one of them going to be finding out why I ain’t getting pregnant?”

“Is that all you think about?” He shook his head. “People nearly die on board this ship and all Kaylee can think about is more babies.” He looked disgusted with her. “I can’t believe I ever …” He stopped.

“Ever what?” she demanded. “Ever agreed to get off your high horse and touch someone as lowly as me?” She grabbed his arm. “Ever thought you’d need to slum it badly enough that I’d be the best you could get?”

“Let me go,” he said, his voice suddenly quiet.

Instead she squeezed harder, wanting to leave bruises. “You ain’t so mighty as all that, Dr Tam. Still couldn’t fix your crazy sister –”

Simon raised his hand, about to strike out.

“No!” River shouted, dragging the door open. “Stop!”

Simon looked up at her, then at his hand, still high. “Oh my God …” he whispered, dropping it to his side. “Kaylee, I’m so sorry.”

She was staring at him, blinking hard as if she’d just woken up. “What happened?” she asked quietly, letting go of him and taking a step back.

“It wasn’t you,” River said. “It’s Freya.”

“What?” Simon dragged his eyes from his wife to look at his sister. “Freya?”

“Her control is … broken.” River was almost crying. “I felt it. Can feel it. You have to wake her up before –”

There was a sound like an explosion in the cargo bay, then Jayne’s voice booming. “Stand still so I can kill ya!” he yelled.

They ran out through the common area to the bay. Jayne was standing on the stairs, Vera in his hands, aiming towards a stack of crates, one of which was more than punctured.

“Always knew you were a coward!” he called, pulling the trigger again and blowing another hole in the same crate. “Come out and face me like a man!”

“Jayne, what the tyen shiao duh is going on here?” Mal bellowed from the doorway to the upper corridor.

“We’re gonna finish this!” Jayne aimed a little lower, ignoring the captain. “Even if I have to shoot every little bit away from ya …”

“Jayne!” River screamed, trying to get his attention. She ran past Simon who tried to grab her but missed, and stood in the line of fire.

“Get outta here, moonbrain,” Jayne said, his voice quieter but still menacing. “This is between me and him.”

Now they could see Jethro hiding behind the stack, his face terrified.

“No. It’s not you. It’s Freya. She’s projecting such feelings …” River was pleading with him. “I can’t reach you, Jayne. Please stop this!”

“Get outta the way.” Jayne’s finger took up the slack in the trigger. “I’m gonna kill me a preacher, and you’d better not be there when I –” His mouth sagged and he fell forwards, sliding down the stairs until he lay with his head on the cargo bay floor, his body up the steps.

Mal stood above him, a wrench in his hand. “Damn fool,” he muttered. “And what’s this about Freya?”

to be continued

COMMENTS

Thursday, March 1, 2007 12:21 AM

AMDOBELL


I was really pleased to you at last starting to address the issue of Mal not being able to carry his wife and do for her. I have a feeling you are going to drag Freya's descent into darkness out until every single one on board the ship is about ready to give up on living. Interesting the way Freya uses her ability to lash out through the crew, why oh why didn't Jethro stop Simon sedating her? River warned she must not be allowed to sleep but does anyone listen? Let's hope it's not to late to draw her back from the raggedy edge. Have to say I am more than ready for some GOOD news for a change. Ali D
You can't take the sky from me

Thursday, March 1, 2007 12:24 AM

KAYLEEBIRD


That was brilliant! I love this!

PLEASE! GIVE ME MORE!! I am addicted! Please!

I am the Fan-fic-Freya-in-mucho-pain Cookie Monster!

Keep up the brilliant work! X)

Thursday, March 1, 2007 7:47 AM

TAMSIBLING


Amazing! I love the idea of Freya's emotions spiraling out of control and affecting all the other members of the crew. That's just incredible. My stomach was churning during Simon and Kaylee's argument, only because it did have a few kernels of truth in there.

I hope you can see this through, even though the ending is coming hard. If you need help, PM me, I'd be happy to pass around some plot bunnies!

Thursday, March 1, 2007 7:55 AM

BLUEEYEDBRIGADIER


Oh...now this is just the utter shizney, Jane0904! The level of dread that built up as we got to see more and more of Freya's memories from the Academy and the crew's actions concerning Freya's condition...so thick and seductive:(

Gotta wonder why Mal wasn't affected though by Freya's emotional projection. And where Inara was in all this...cuz having the majority of the crew try and do serious harm or death to one another, feeding on all the pain and negative emotions they have trapped inside of them that's been released, is completely disturbing!

BEB


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