BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

JANE0904

Waiting - Part VII
Friday, May 18, 2007

Maya. Post BDM. 2BF. Ethan is out of surgery, and there is relaxing and talking. Mal apologises ... Thanks for all your comments on this story. There will be a little bit more about it in the next pieces, but mostly fluff to come!


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1741    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

“He’s recovering well. In fact, much faster than I would have imagined.” Ethan’s doctor was impressed. “If you have decent facilities, you can take him back to your ship tomorrow.”

“We have,” Simon said. “I can look after him.”

“Good.” The surgeon narrowed his eyes a little. “Did you never think of becoming a doctor yourself?” he asked. “You seem to have a natural aptitude for it.”

“I … tried,” Simon lied, thinking quickly. “I was at MedAcad, but there were family problems, and I … things happened, I couldn’t go back.”

“You should consider it. You’d be an asset to any hospital.”

“Thank, but I have a place to be.”

“Your ship.”

“It’s not mine, but … it’s home.”

“Well, if you change your mind, let me know. I’d be happy to put in a good word for you.”

“Thank you.”

The doctor became efficiency itself again. “Just keep giving him the shots, and he should be up and about in a few days. Keep him calm, if you can, although I know what a boy that age can be like. I have twins myself.”

“I’ll try.”

“He’s healing very well.”

“He gets that from his mother.”

“Really?” The doctor turned to look into the small ward. “Then she’s very lucky.”

“That she is.” Simon held out his hand. “Thank you.”

“You’re more than welcome.” They shook. “Remember, the medical profession could use a man like you.” He smiled and walked away.

“He ain’t wrong,” Hank said, coming up behind him. “Though I kinda think we got the best end of the deal.”

“I just wish …” Simon watched Mal and Freya standing by their son’s bedside.

“You knew what to do, doc,” Zoe said, the other side. “You saved Ethan’s life as surely as that man did.”

“And you didn’t make him sick in the first place,” Hank added.

Simon smiled. At last. “You can try to talk me out of it all you like, but I’m going to wallow in the guilt for a while longer.”

Hank sighed. “You’re just waiting for little Kaylee to sex you out of it.”

Zoe swatted him with her hand. “None of that talk. We’re in a hospital.”

“You think people in hospital don’t have sex? Or even think about it?”

“I didn’t say that.”

“I’ll have you know I have it on good authority that there’s more sex goes on in places like this than you’ve had hot dinners.”

“What?”

“Well, okay, maybe not as much as that.”

“I meant, what the hell does that mean?”

“I don’t know. Something my granma used to say.”

“Your granma.”

“She brought me up.”

“That explains a lot.”

“Are you impugning my family?”

“Wouldn’t dare.”

Simon let the argument drift behind him as he stepped to the window and looked inside to that little haven of peace. He smiled.

---

“They’re back!” Kaylee shouted, watching the hover as it approached the Firefly. She was almost bouncing from foot to foot until Jayne touched the vehicle down inside the cargo bay. Hank and Zoe hurried down the stairs, while River was suddenly behind her.

Mal got down first, and Freya passed the bundle in her arms to him before climbing down herself. Simon followed.

“Can I see?” Kaylee said, moving closer.

Mal grinned. “You seen him before.”

“Yeah, but not since he …”

“Okay.” Mal pulled the blanket to one side.

“Oh.” Kaylee gazed down at the little boy, all mussed and asleep. “He’s okay?”

“Just tired,” Freya said. “He’s been awake most of the afternoon.”

Kaylee sighed happily. “I'm so glad he’s home.”

“So are we.”

“Ethan!” Bethany barrelled out of the common area doorway, only just managing to pull herself up before she crashed into her mother’s legs.

“Honey, be careful,” Kaylee said quickly. Jayne grinned.

“It’s okay,” Freya said, going down onto her heels. She smiled at Bethany. “Do you want to see?”

Bethany nodded. “Yes please, Auntie Frey,” she said formally, reaching out her arms.

Freya picked her up, standing. “See? He’s fine.”

The little girl leaned over, pulling the blanket a little more open so she could get a better view, and saw the top of the dressing covering the centre of his chest. She went to touch it but pulled back. “Ethan’s home,” she said softly, stroking his face.

“That he is, Bethie,” Mal said, blinking hard a couple of times.

“Can he play?”

“Give him a few days, okay?” Freya said. “Then you can play as much as you like.”

Bethany kissed her cheek. “’Kay. Thank you.”

Kaylee sniffed loudly and took her daughter from Freya, using the action to cover her emotion. “Come on,” she said. “Time for your bath.”

“Can Uncle Jayne give me my bath?” Bethany asked, all big-eyed and hopeful.

“Jayne?” Kaylee looked at the big man. “You really want … no, sweetie, I don’t think that would be a good idea.”

“Tell you what, squirt,” Jayne said. “Soon as I put the mule away, how about River and me come and tell you a story?”

Bethany nodded, smiling happily. “About pirates?”

“Probably,” River agreed.

“Can Uncle Hank and Auntie Zoe tell it too?”

Mal laughed. “Sounds like you might as well do this round the table,” he said. “I’d kinda like to hear it my own self.”

“I ain't gonna be no damsel,” Hank said firmly.

“But dear, you do it so well,” Zoe murmured.

“After your bath, missy,” Kaylee said, carrying her daughter through into the common area. “If you’re good.”

“I’ll be good, Momma.” Their voices faded away.

“Let me have Ethan,” Simon said, holding out his arms. “I’ll check the incision then you can take him back to the nursery.”

“I'm thinking we’ll use one of the other rooms, for the moment,” Mal said. “So we don’t have to carry him up and down ladders.”

Simon nodded. “That’s very sensible.”

“I have been known to be,” Mal said dryly.

“I’ll only be a few minutes.”

“That’s fine, doc. Now we’re home.”

Simon smiled and walked through towards the infirmary.

“You talk to Chih-Hao?” Mal asked his first mate.

Zoe nodded. “He was sympathetic, and said he hoped Ethan got better soon. He also said the job was still there if we wanted it.”

Mal nodded. “Think we might need it. I got the feeling Kaylee’s gonna want to replace most of Serenity’s moving parts after what I made her do.”

“It’s not as bad as that, Mal,” Hank said. “She’s done a hell of a lot with what we got, and we managed to get a few bits cheap from a scrap yard.”

“So she’s not going to be demanding a new compression coil?”

“I don’t think we actually said that, sir,” Zoe put in. “And she still needs to take some major overhaul time out.”

“But she says we can do the job, and get back to Lazarus, if’n she can spend a week at least there,” Hank added.

“A week?” Mal looked at Freya, shaking his head. “Don’t know we can spare a whole week.”

“Don’t tease,” his wife said, looking more relaxed than she had in days. “Besides, it’ll give Ethan a chance to recover properly.”

He smiled and pulled her into his side. “A week it is, then,” he said, and dropped his head to kiss her lightly.

---

“I’m sorry.”

Mal stood in the middle of the dining area, and looked around him. It was gone midnight, ship’s time, and everyone was in bed, hopefully asleep. He hitched his thumbs into his pants pockets and studied the flowers on the pipes and bulkhead, just him and …

“I'm sorry,” he repeated, his voice quiet. “I wish I hadn’t had to ask Kaylee to do that. But it was my son. My boy. He … he was dying.” The words caught in his throat. “Couldn’t let that happen.”

He turned, seeing the chairs at the table, the counter, the cupboards, all the appurtenances and contrivances of living on board his Firefly.

“I had to tell her to do that. Ain't her fault, so don’t go taking it out on Kaylee. I know she near cried herself unconscious doing that to you, and she’s prob’ly not forgiven me yet. I ain’t forgiven myself, truth to tell. Not for any of it.”

Mal sighed, and pulled out his chair, sitting down as if about to say grace.

“First time I saw you, in that shipyard, you were like a breath of fresh air to me. Been a long time in that camp, and when that money came through, and Frey told me I had to take it, I didn’t really know what I was looking for. Coulda bought anything. Only there you were. Sitting right at the edge. Like nobody was gonna ask you to dance. Only I did, didn’t I?”

He ran his hands over the old wood, feeling the texture, the grain, beneath his fingertips.

“And you’ve been my companion for a long while. Always wished I had more money to spend on you.” He smiled a little. “But even when you damn near killed me ‘cause of that catalyzer, there was still something that told me you wouldn’t.” He laughed. “Okay, it was only a little something, but it was there. Even when the air was running out and I was freezing my balls off on the bridge, I still believed. And you ain't let me down. Not once.”

He looked up, into the pipes and conduits that ran the length of the dining area.

“’Cept I let you down. And I’m sorry.”

He closed his eyes, feeling the weight of the last few days still pressing down on him and his head dropped. He knew there was more, much more he wanted to say, but if anyone knew what he couldn’t verbalise it was surely Serenity.

“She knows,” River said quietly, stepping down behind him.

“Does she?” he asked, not moving, not looking.

“Serenity understands. She is the home, the mother, the womb for us all. And she knows what Ethan means to you.” She stood by him. “To both of you.”

“Then she knows I’d’a blown her up if it meant saving either of ‘em.”

“She does. And she forgives.”

He smiled. “Serenity ain’t nothing more than a few thousand credits of metal and some wiring. How’d she be able to forgive me?”

“Why were you asking for it, then?” River countered.

He looked up at her. “You listening in again?”

“I came for a drink of water. I couldn’t help but hear.” She sat down next to him in Freya’s chair.

“Thought you were thirsty.”

“You need to talk.”

“Not that much.”

There was silence between them for a long while, then River spoke. “It’s not her fault.”

Mal almost jumped. “What? Whose?”

“Freya’s.”

He glared at her. “You stay outta my brain, albatross. I can feel you rummaging around in there, and it ain’t safe. There’s bear-traps and the like.”

“You can feel me.” She smiled. “If you’d done well on that test, you might have ended up in the Academy. Like me.”

“River …”

“I can’t help but see some things. And that day, when you weren’t concentrating on the test, only thinking about Maddy, about your first time …” She coloured, her pale skin taking on a hint of pink. “You know what they were doing.”

“Figured it out a while back,” Mal admitted. “When I was thinking about my Ma. Didn’t have any inkling at the time they did that kinda thing.”

“On the Core planets it was sooner rather than later. And not everyone was tested.”

“Just seemed like another waste of a boy’s day.”

“Too anxious to become a man.”

He laughed. “Seems like you need to take a leaf outta Bethany’s book and stop peeking.”

“Sometimes you’re too loud.”

“I’ll try and bear that in mind.”

“And it was good you did badly.”

“Yeah?” He smiled. “My momma weren't too pleased I didn’t do my best.”

“She’d have lost you sooner if you had. You have more potential than you give yourself credit for.”

“You saying I'm psychic?” He shook his head. “That’s Frey’s department, not mine.”

“Not psychic. But you could have been made to be.”

“Like they did to you?”

She shrugged. “No. But nearly.”

“Glad I was thinking about something else, then.”

She put her head on one side. “That’s why men follow you.”

Now the laugh that bubbled from his lips was more scathing. “So I brainwash people into being loyal?”

“No.” She smiled widely. “But your honesty, your fortitude, your strength … they can feel it more clearly. It becomes their anchor.”

“River, if you weren't better’n before, I’d say you were crazy.”

“Still crazy. That won’t change. It can’t. My brain will never be the way it was. But I can live with it.”

“So can we all, xaio nu.”

Her smile threatened to split her head. “Called me daughter.”

He felt the blush rise up his chest. “Seemed kinda fitting. Seeing as Jayne said that’s how you look on me.”

“He’s right.” She was almost glowing with sudden happiness. “You’re more father to me than the man who sired me. And Freya is more mother.”

“I’ve seen that.”

“And Jayne is …” Her voice trailed away.

“Jayne’s what, River?”

“The man I want to be with.”

“That for sure?”

“For sure. It’s time.”

Mal had to say, had to ask, even though he knew it might hurt. “You over Jethro?” He felt the guilt flash through him as her face saddened.

“No. Not over. But around.”

“You wanna try that again?” he asked.

“Captain dummy talk?” she teased, putting her hand on his.

“Something like that.”

She nodded. “I’ll never forget Jethro. Never stop loving him. But he’s dead. I said goodbye to him and we buried him on Prometheus. I made him a garden. But he can never come back.”

“Wish I coulda stopped it from happening, mei-mei.”

She smiled slightly. “As Freya is so fond of saying, we don’t have the power to go back and change the past. I wish I did.” Her last words rang with sorrow.

“It weren't your fault neither.” Mal turned his hand to grasp her fingers.

“No. I couldn’t have stopped it. Two places at one time. Not possible.” She sighed. “He loved me. And I will miss him. But that is the past and I have a future to hold onto.”

“Jayne?”

“Jayne.”

“You know he’s a mean-spirited, ornery son of a bitch, don’t you?”

She laughed, her good humour back. “I know.”

“And that don’t change your mind.”

“My mind changes every day, Captain,” she said softly. “But not about this.”

“If he treats you bad, you tell me.”

“If he treats me bad, I won’t have to.”

He grinned. “No, guess maybe you won’t at that. Just leave enough of him to do the job, dong mah?”

Wo dong, Captain.”

“How’s your brother gonna take this?”

She shrugged. “He has to understand that he can’t change things.” Her dark eyes burned into his. “As do you.”

“Do I?”

“We can apologise. Pray they never happen again, but we can’t change what we were forced to do.”

He smiled. “Serenity.”

“She’s not angry with you. And certainly not with Kaylee. And she accepts your apology.”

“You have been at the crazy juice again, ain't you?” Mal joked.

“Not so’s you’d notice.” She grinned suddenly. “I don’t need to.”

“So Serenity ain’t gonna die on me?”

“Not if she can help it.”

“I am sorry, you know. Having to do that. I heard the noises … I’d swear she was screaming.”

“She was. But she knows Kaylee is making the pain go away.” She disentangled her hand from his and stood up. “Time to go to bed.”

“With Jayne?”

“Not until we get to Lazarus. He’s already spoken to Inara.”

“Has he now.”

She smiled. “Don’t try reading my mind, captain. It would only give you a headache. And your wife is waiting for you.”

“She’s asleep.”

“Perhaps. But that doesn’t mean that she can’t want you next to her.”

Mal smiled. “Go on. Better get to your bed, albatross.”

“Goodnight, Mal.”

“’Night, River.”

She ran off, out of the galley, her dress and hair flying behind her like gauzy wings.

For a moment longer he sat, staring into the empty doorway, then he stood up. “Goodnight, Serenity,” he murmured, and almost heard a voice whispering back … Goodnight, my Captain.

COMMENTS

Friday, May 18, 2007 5:46 AM

AMDOBELL


I loved this so very much, you have a wonderful way with bringing out all the things I love most about the characters. Of course I am dancing on clouds because Ethan is going to recover and they are all back on Serenity. I just adored the conversation between River and Mal when River walks in on the Captain apologising to Serenity for pushing the ship almost beyond her limits. The easy cameraderie between them is something precious and very natural which made it more affecting when Mal calls her daughter and River responds with blinding joy. That brought a little tear to my eye. Lovely. And I's glad that River told him about her feelings for Jayne. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Friday, May 18, 2007 7:37 AM

SLUMMING


Mal/River advocate that I am, I must say I enjoyed your father/daughter speech with them nonetheless! Beautiful writing, as always! My hat's off to you!

Friday, May 18, 2007 1:06 PM

TAMSIBLING


I loved the Mal/River conversation it was exceptionally fitting and beautifully written. I also really liked the resolution of Ethan's surgery and the bit with Bethany - 'cause you know, she's just the cutest. I am however very glad that there's some fluff coming up ... and maybe some smut? I'm thinking there's a bit o' Rayne you been dangling 'fore us? Hmmm ... ?

Friday, May 18, 2007 3:27 PM

NCBROWNCOAT


The Mal/Serenity and Mal/River is some of the best writing I have ever read. I absolutely love the way you understand the characters and are able to express it beautifully.

Saturday, May 19, 2007 2:04 AM

KATESFRIEND


This may be my favorite chapter of your writing ever - so sweet and so on target. Loved the relationship between Mal and River and especially Mal and Serenity. Wonderful, wonderful piece of writing - you should be very proud of this one!

Saturday, May 19, 2007 4:22 PM

BLUEEYEDBRIGADIER


Ya know, while I felt all kinds of warm and fuzzy about Ethan pulling through and using his maternally-inherited healing to get back into the swing of things...Mal's apology to Serenity was some of the absolutely most brilliant writing I have seen from you, Jane0904! I totally pictured Nathan during that scene, just talking to his ship and asking that one of the most important ladies in his life accept that the welfare of his son (and his wife, in an indirect way) forced him to put Serenity's "life" at risk. And the whispered "Good night" from Serenity? Definitely a grin-birthing moment;D

BEB


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