BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

JANE0904

Nightingale - Part II
Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Maya. Post-BDM. Back on Lazarus the crew all pitch in, and various conversations are had, including Freya and Inara, while Mal gets to grips with a future potential problem ... Please feedback, as I do listen, and it makes everything worthwhile.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2452    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

Lazarus hadn’t changed in the few weeks since they’d been by. The grass was maybe a little yellower, and the heat a little stronger, but the apples were still hanging from the trees, and the water in the lake looked cool and inviting. But as the crew headed towards the house, they were more than a little surprised.

“I can’t believe how much they’ve done,” Inara said, looking up at the scaffolding and the new roof.

“Can’t say I think any of this is legal,” Mal commented. “Prob’ly came off an Alliance site, knowing Monty.”

“Are you suggesting I'm going to have Federal officers coming around demanding their goods back?” Her eyes twinkled.

“Just keep a shotgun handy inside the front door.” He grinned at her, all the awkwardness gone. Their conversation, the one with the kiss, seemed to have cleared the air amazingly between them. “Nah, shouldn’t think so. It’s probably been through so many hands even Monty ain't sure where it’s from.”

“It looks very fine, though.” Inara shook her head. “If the rest of the house is as good, I’ll be able to move in straight away.”

“Thought that was the plan anyways.”

“It is. But if they hadn’t … well, I was going to ask if I could borrow my shuttle for a few more weeks.”

“Woman, you take the cake, you do. You decide to run off on your lonesome to play at being lady of the manor, and still expect me to loan you my shuttle. My shuttle, I’ll have you note.”

She didn’t get angry. He wasn't being truly obnoxious, just pretending. “I won’t be on my lonesome. I've got a housekeeper and her husband moving in tomorrow. And I can pay for the use of the shuttle.”

“I could have someone lined up to take it,” Mal pointed out, no heat in his words.

“Oh? Would this be the same surveyor and his wife who you dangled in front of me when I first took you on?”

“Took me on?”

“You were hard work, Mal.”

“You gypped me out of a quarter of the rental.”

She smiled. “So I did.”

Kaylee strolled up behind them. “You’re not supposed to be fighting any more.”

“Fighting?” Mal said, smiling. “If we were fighting this place’d be a mess.”

“Blood, entrails,” Inara agreed. “Very pretty.”

“Well, just don’t. Simon ain’t in the mood to be patching anyone up.” She glanced towards her husband, who was staring off towards the lake.

“Jayne and River?”

Kaylee nodded and sighed. “He’s trying. Really, he is. He’s just finding it gorram hard to see ‘em together like this.”

“Me too,” Mal said, then took a step back from the two women as they turned surprised eyes on him. “No, not like that. Just that, with Jayne out of commission, it’s up to me and Hank to get all that junk off my boat.”

“My belongings are not junk.”

“Junk,” Mal said firmly. “Remember, we were around when you bought some of it.”

“Well, there has to be something in every room,” Inara said, waving away his objections. “Except perhaps the large room in the south-east corner. I’m considering leaving that empty.”

“Why?” Kaylee asked, then brightened up. “Ooh, for parties?”

Inara smiled. “I think that could be arranged.”

---

Mal humped yet another crate out into the sunshine, then stopped, stretching his back. Zoe’d tried to persuade him to buy some kinda fork-lift once before, and he’d baulked at the price, preferring to kill two birds with one stone and stick to Jayne. Now, he was beginning to regret it.

Hank dumped a box next to his. “Mal, I quit,” he said sincerely. “I swear my arms are near a foot longer than they were this morning.”

“You and me both,” Mal agreed. “But you quit now and I’ll …”

“What?”

“Give me some time to recover and I’ll think of something.”

Simon staggered down the ramp and nearly dropped the case he was clutching. “Gorram it!” he swore, dumping it into the dirt.

“Doc, I don’t think your wife is gonna be too pleased at your language,” Mal pointed out.

“Do you know how much there is left in there?” the young man asked, trying to lift an arm to point, but it hurt too much. “And we haven’t even got to the really big stuff yet.”

“Trouble is,” Hank said, slipping to the ground and leaning on the crates, “I don’t think we got a choice.”

Mal sat down on a box. “Nope. What with Zoe in a delicate condition, Frey not quite up to 100 percent, that kinda leaves Kaylee and Inara. And they’re busy in the house dusting and the like.”

“Dusting,” Hank scoffed. “I'm good at that. What say we go and do that, and they can hump the stuff for a while?”

Mal shook his head. “Much as I kinda like the idea, I don’t think it’s gonna happen.”

River walked past them, a box held high in her arms. “I don’t know what the problem is,” she said, continuing towards the house. “They’re not that heavy.”

“That’s one of the easy ones,” Hank called.

Jayne, sitting on a chair they’d brought out for him and making the most of the sunshine and the sight in front of him, guffawed. “She’s got you beat, that’s for sure.”

Mal glared at him, then looked at the others. “Damn it, that’s enough for the moment. I want … no, I need a drink.”

“How does lemonade sound?” Zoe asked, coming out of Serenity with a tray full of assorted mugs and glasses. Freya was behind her.

Simon looked up. “That sounds wonderful.”

“Well, thank Inara. She bought real lemons at our last stop, so this is fresh.” Zoe handed them around.

“Thanks,” the young doctor said with heart-felt meaning. He sipped, feeling the cold liquid ooze down his throat and chill his stomach. “Perfect.” He glanced at Freya. “Why aren’t you using your stick?”

“I'm fine,” Freya said, holding up both hands. “Barely a limp.”

“Then you can help us,” Mal said, cradling the cool glass. “If you’re fit enough not to use that stick, then you’re fit enough to work your passage.”

“I thought I did that last night,” she said, smiling at him, her eyes lightly hooded.

He was glad the exertions had already made him red-faced, or he would have blushed for sure.

“Are you hanging from the support beams again?” Simon asked, straight-faced.

“It does wonders for the stomach muscles,” she agreed, then laughed. “Anyway, Mal,” she added, looking back at her husband, “I can’t do any heavy lifting unless my doctor agrees.”

“Well, doc?” Mal glared at the young man. “Frey fit to get back to work?”

Simon looked her up and down. She was so much better, but … “Not quite yet.”

“Phew,” the woman in question said, theatrically drawing her hand across her forehead. “Thought I was gonna actually have to do some humping.”

“Thought that’s what you were doing,” Jayne said from his chair. “And don’t I get a lemonade?”

Zoe’s lips twitched and carried the tray over. “I'm not sure you deserve it,” she said, holding it just out of reach. “Sitting there, doing nothing.”

“Might get all dried up in the sun. ‘N’ I know you wouldn’t like that.”

“Oh, just give it to him,” Mal said. “Can’t bear to see him beg.”

Zoe let him take a mug, which he drained in one, smacking his lips. “Shiny.”

“Jayne, your manners are appalling,” River said, walking back towards them. “But they’ll improve.”

“Lemonade?” Freya suggested, enjoying the look of consternation on the big man’s face.

“Thank you.” The young woman delicately sipped. “Inara remembered.”

“Remembered what, honey?”

“Lemonade when I was little.”

Simon looked up at her, at the wistful tone in her voice. “This is almost as good,” he said softly.

“Better.” River smiled. “With friends.” She went and sat down next to Jayne, tucking her legs underneath her and leaning against his chair.

Simon looked away.

“Well,” Mal said, finishing his glass, “as nice as it is to just sit in the sun and chat, we’ve still got a hell of a lot of work to get done.” He stood up, then groaned as his back complained.

Immediately Freya was at his side, rubbing his spine with the flat of her hand. “You hurt yourself and I will be mad,” she whispered.

He looked down at her. “Won’t do that. But you may have to borrow some of Zoe’s oil to give me a massage.”

“Hey, no,” Hank called. “That ain't fair! That ain't for you!”

“I don’t need it anyway,” Freya smiled. “I’ve got something much better.” She let her hand wander down towards his buttocks. His eyes widened as she pinched him.

“As much as that sounds …” He cleared his throat of the catch that had inexplicably managed to insert itself. “That doesn’t really solve our immediate problem of still having to unload all this gos se.”

“I’ll give you a hand,” Zoe said, setting the tray down on the ground.

Hank was immediately on his feet. “No. No way. You are not going to do anything to endanger that little baby in there.”

“He’s not actually a baby yet,” Simon said. “Technically he’s still an embryo –“

He?” Hank stared. “Are you saying –“

“I'm not saying anything,” the young doctor interrupted. “It’s just difficult to keep saying he or she all the time.”

“So it’s not a boy? It’s a girl?” Hank’s face was bright, like Christmas and birthdays had come all at once.

“Do you want to know?”

Hank glanced at Zoe, who shook her head. “Well, guess not.” He sighed. “Unless you could kinda give me a clue?”

“Dear,” his other half said, and he subsided again.

Mal hid a smile. “Now ain't the appropriate time to be asking, Hank.” He nodded back into the cargo bay. “Not with what we have to do.”

Freya grinned openly. “You know, I hate to watch you working so hard,” she said, reaching up to kiss his cheek. “So I think I’ll go help Inara.” She walked, just a trace of a limp, towards the house.

“Fine. Be like that,” he called. “Just remember I’ll hold this against you.”

“Sir,” Zoe said reprovingly. “As if you would.”

---

Inara moved the flower arrangement to the window, letting the sun shine through the single white flower standing in the elaborate silver vase, seven stems of green behind it. Her head slightly on one side she pursed her lips before moving it half an inch. She nodded.

“That’s pretty,” Freya said from the doorway.

Inara smiled over her shoulder. “One of my many talents,” she laughed. “I always seemed to do well in this at the Training House.”

Freya chuckled. “I'm afraid my skills extend to being able to plonk some flowers in water, and if they’re not dead by the end of the day I think I'm winning.”

“We’re all good at different things.” Inara tweaked one of the green stems, then stepped back, apparently satisfied. “You’ve been avoiding me,” she added conversationally.

“It’s a small boat,” Freya remonstrated. “How can anyone avoid anyone else? Unless they hide.” She shrugged. “I don’t think I've been doing that.”

“Not quite,” Inara conceded. “But you haven’t been alone in the same room as me.”

Freya didn’t answer for a moment, just walked into the room, looking at the objects already arrayed around the walls. “That obvious?”

“Freya, I may not be a Companion in name any longer, but that doesn’t mean that I’ve lost all my skills at reading people. I may not be like River, or yourself, but …”

“Oh, you’re not wrong.” She picked up an old-fashioned silver frame, holding one of the non-moving pictures. It was of a young girl, a child really, standing next to an older woman who had her hand on her shoulder. The girl looked radiant. Inara. She put it back and walked to an escritoire, running her fingers across the warm wood. “I wasn't sure I wanted to be around you.”

“I know he told you.” Inara watched, noting the lack of stick but the obvious limp, more than she'd allowed to show when she walked up to the house, knowing Mal was still looking after her.

“Mmn.”

“I'm sorry.”

Freya looked up. “Are you?”

“I've never hidden how I feel about Mal.” Inara sat down on the packing crate, automatically going to smooth her dress before she realised she was wearing a pair of coveralls instead, bought at their last stop. Much more practical.

“No.”

“You’re still angry with me.”

Freya gazed at this elegant woman, still graceful even in her unusual clothes. “I’m not angry.”

“Disappointed?”

“Perhaps.” She sighed. “Although surprised would be a better word. Surprised you’d try again.”

“I am sorry.” Inara held out her hands. “I don’t know what else to say.”

“You know he doesn’t love you.”

A sharp pain around her heart made Inara catch her breath. “I know.”

“He will never love you. Not like that.”

“Freya, I know.”

“He loves me.”

“Frey, I know.“

“Good.” Freya nodded. “Then that’s fine. Just don’t do it again.”

“Or what?” A spark of cruelty flared through her. “You’ll kill me?”

Freya looked at her steadily. “Yes.”

“You mean that.”

“Inara, I won’t lose him. Not now. Not with what we’ve been through. I’ll do anything to …” She stopped, closing her eyes and taking a deep breath. When she opened them again, she was back in control. “You’re my friend, Inara. My sister. I don’t want to lose that either.”

Inara got to her feet, crossing the room in a moment. She put her hands on Freya’s shoulders. “You won’t.”

Freya smiled and stepped forward, hugging the other woman, who returned it with pleasure. After a few moments they broke apart, each slightly pink. “We don’t speak of it again,” Freya said.

“Speak of what?” Inara asked as a grin broke out on her face.

“Um, is this private or can anyone join in?” Kaylee asked, peering into the room. “Only I feel like I’m the only one doing any work around here.”

Freya laughed. “Tell that to the menfolk out there. They were just complaining about the same thing.”

Inara picked up a duster from a box on the floor. “Well, now you’re here, without your stick, I think you can do a little light housework.”

“Hey, yes!” Kaylee said, looking at Freya. “You ain’t using it!”

“Getting better every day,” Freya said, smiling at them both. “Better every single day.”

---

Outside Hank and Simon were competing to see who could carry the most from the cargo bay, while Mal was content with not actually killing himself.

Then, as he went to lift another crate, he saw a little figure walking out of the bay doors. He paused, watching Bethany stagger towards the house, the large green stuffed toy she called ‘Jayne’ in her arms. Twice she nearly dropped him, but managed to catch him in time.

Mal waited until she was a distance in front, then followed, intrigued and a little bit amused.

“Where you going?” Hank called, seeing him step out into the sunshine, his arms empty.

“You just keep working,” Mal said. “I’ll be right back.” After I’ve found out what’s going on, he added silently.

Bethany climbed the two steps up to the large front doors and stepped inside. Mal stayed in the doorway and watched her going up the stairs, one at a time, dragging Jayne now by the ear. At the first floor she picked him up again, dusted him down, and ambled towards one of the rooms.

Mal followed, as silently as he could, his booted feet throwing up small motes of dust that hung in the sunshine like little stars.

Bethany had gone into a corner room, facing out over the front, two large windows in each of the sides. Even from the doorway Mal could see Serenity sitting in the bright light, all gilded like she was a precious metal.

Bethany lifted Jayne up to the windowsill and sat him down.

“What are you doing, honey?” Mal asked, leaning on the doorway.

She didn’t turn, wasn't even surprised at him being there. “This is my room,” she stated, positioning Jayne so he could look outside.

“Your room?”

“I've got a room on your boat,” she said, turning to look at him, her head no one side. “This is my room in Auntie ‘Nara’s house.”

“You know, I don’t think I can argue with that logic.” Mal smiled. “So you’re bringing your stuff over?” He walked into the room, visually checking to make sure the floorboards were sound and not likely to give way. Somehow, though, Bethany had chosen one of the few upstairs rooms that were actually liveable.

“Some.” She went down onto her heels, leaning forward between her knees to adjust the small toy tea set that was on the floor.

“Auntie ‘Nara gave you that, didn’t she?”

Bethany nodded. “For when I play Comp … Comp …” She reached for the word, annoyed with herself for never being able to remember it.

“Companion,” Mal supplied.

She smiled at him. “Companion,” she agreed.

He smiled back, reaching down and lifting her to sit on his hip. If he and Frey were ever lucky enough to have another baby – a situation he was trying his very best to arrange – he’d like it to be a little girl. Just like Bethie.

“A little sister.” Bethany snuggled against him, so she didn’t see the shocked look in his eyes.

“Bethie, did you … what I was thinking …”

Now she turned worried dark eyes on him. “Sorry, Uncle Mal. No peeking.” She put her face against him. “Didn’t mean to. Don’t tell Uncle Jayne.”

“Jayne?”

“Told me not to.”

“Not to what?”

“Peek.”

He lowered himself to the dusty floor and gently disentangled her from his neck, sitting her on his thigh so he could look at her properly. “Can you hear people, Bethie? When they ain’t talking?”

“Sometimes,” she admitted. She dropped her eyes. “Sorry.”

“Ain’t nothing to be sorry about, honey.” He smiled at her, trying to cheer her up. “Does it happen a lot?”

She shook her head, still staring down at her fingers. “Peeking’s bad.”

“That what Jayne said?” Mal made a mental note to have a quiet word with the big man about keeping his captain informed.

“Not Uncle Jayne’s fault,” Bethany said, looking up, tears in her eyes. “Don’t be mad.”

He couldn’t help it. Seeing the little girl upset melted his heart as it always did, and he gathered her into his arms. “Ain't mad, Bethie. Just a mite worried.”

Bethany gripped her hands tightly behind his neck. “Uncle Jayne said not to tell anyone. Bad people out in the ‘verse.”

Mal could hear the big merc’s voice saying exactly that. “Yeah, well, he’s right. Only he shoulda told me.”

“Auntie Frey knows,” she admitted in a small voice.

“Does she now.”

Bethany nodded, rubbing her soft cheek against his rough one. “’Es,” she lisped.

“Then I’ll be having a chat with your Auntie Frey too.”

Bethany suddenly giggled, her whole body vibrating.

“What’s that for?” he asked, lifting her away to look into her eyes, so like her mother’s.

“You don’t talk much.” She covered her mouth with one hand, grinning widely.

Mal felt a blush creep up his chest. Oh, yes, very like her mother. Barely old enough to run him ragged, and already she could embarrass him. He cleared his throat. “Yes, well … Bethie, what Jayne said is right. No peeking. ‘Specially at me and your Auntie Frey. In fact, at anyone.” He wondered idly what the legal penalty was for corrupting a very much a minor, even inadvertently.

“’Kay.”

“Good. Just you remember that.” He tried his hardest glare, but she just smiled at him. “Does … does your Auntie River know?”

Bethany shrugged. “Don’t know.”

“Well, best we don’t say anything. To anyone. Not ‘til I say it’s okay.”

Her smile faltered. “Uncle Mal, am I in trouble?”

“No, sweetie. Not at all. Can’t help feeling your Pa ain't gonna be too pleased though.” For some reason, a grin spread across his face.

to be continued

COMMENTS

Wednesday, April 18, 2007 12:39 AM

AMDOBELL


Loved Mal with Bethany, made me smile a whole lot. I am glad that Freya made a point of telling Inara not to try it on with Mal again. Have the feeling she needs that impressing on her because whatever Inara feels or wants it isn't always about her. There are other people to consider, people who have already made their choices. Buying the house and doing it up so she has her own base and a new start is a good beginning for her. And Simon, still not over the fact that River wants to be with Jayne. Hope he starts to accept the idea as her choice rather than some horrific accident of fate. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Wednesday, April 18, 2007 4:09 AM

SLUMMING


I agree with Amdobell about the Mal/Bethie talk. Gotta love Mal with a little girl. Enjoyed this little slice of life.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007 4:49 AM

TAMSIBLING


Considering the fact that Simon must see his sister with Jayne everyday, I think he's handling it the best he can.

I absolutely LOVED Mal with Bethany - I too hope he and Freya have a girl. He needs someone to spoil rotten. I'm a bit worried though that everyone else but Simon and Kaylee are going to find out their daugther's a reader ... that does not bode well.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007 5:26 AM

KILLWITHBRAIN


Love this story, and the verse you've created here. Everything works really well, and Bethie's turning into an interesting little character; I can't wait to see how things go as she grows up. One question, though. I've read quite a few fics where Simon's offspring develop their aunt's abilities as a reader. However, I always thought that River's abilities were forced onto her by the Alliance. If this is so (as it seems like with her, and Freya), then how can Bethany develop this naturally? Not only is it not a natural family trait, it's one that Simon doesn't have. Where is she getting it from? She hasn't been cut into by the Hands of Blue. Anyway, great story! Really like this installment, with the whole "family" helping Nara move.

Thursday, April 19, 2007 3:39 PM

BLUEEYEDBRIGADIER


Great googily moogily was that some awesome work here, Jane0904!

I was especially awed by the Inara-Freya conversation...mainly because it just turned on a dime from polite and friendly to Freya's "I will kill you without hesitation" threat to friendly again:O

And I gotta give you all kinds of props for the Mal/Bethany scene at the end. The initial suspense from Mal following Bethany into the house and into "her" room seems to bleed off with the brilliantly adorable banter Mal has with the youngest Tam...until Mal finds out he's got another Reader on-board his ship and one without any kind of training. It was Mal's response to this discovery and his final comment about Bethany's father being anything but thrilled with such a revelation that made me smile like I was off my rocker;)

BEB


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