BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

JANE0904

Thin Ice - Part III
Saturday, May 26, 2007

Maya. Post-BDM. Fluff. Bethany's lessons start ... okay, this could get very over sweet and sticky, but I'll try not to let it. If I head that way, you will tell me, won't you?


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1764    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

The next morning, Mal took off in the shuttle early, promising to be back by lunchtime.

“Just got a few errands to run.”

“If you’re passing by a store, could you get me a couple of things?” Freya asked.

“Sure. What do you need?”

“I’ll make a list.”

“Hang on, you said a couple!”

“Four or five. Maybe a dozen.”

“Frey …”

“I’ll be one second.” She dashed back towards their bunk.

Some five minutes later he was perusing the list. “What the hell is all this?” he asked.

“I could come with you,” she suggested.

“Oh no,” he said firmly. “Last time we went shopping you bought half the town and I had to carry it.”

“It wasn’t as bad as that.”

“You didn’t end up with arms a good four inches longer than they started.”

She smiled and kissed him softly. “Sorry.”

“And that ain’t gonna make up for it.” His arms encircled her.

“I thought you wanted to get going,” she said, her hand on his chest.

“I got a couple of minutes.” He smiled and pulled her into the shuttle.

Half an hour later and the small craft disengaged.

“What do they do all the time?” Hank, alone on the bridge, asked the tyrannosaur sitting on the console.

“What do you think?”

Hank stared at the toy, then looked round. “I got a pretty good idea, but I was trying to be polite.”

Zoe stepped over the sill and sat down in the co-pilot’s seat. “You know talking to those things is the first sign of madness.”

“Oh, I went past that a long time ago,” he admitted. “I think I’m halfway through dementia at the moment.”

“Well, let me know when you get to full-blown crazy, and I’ll lock you in our bunk.”

“To have your way with me?” he asked hopefully.

“To get Simon to deal with you.”

“That ain’t fair.”

“As the captain often says, life isn’t.”

“Where do you figure he’s gone?” He looked out of the bridge window. “Ain’t like he’s on a job, otherwise he’d’ve taken you and Jayne.”

“I think he wanted some time alone,” Zoe said softly. “Get something special.”

“Special?”

“Any idea what tomorrow is?”

“Tuesday?”

“Two years ago tomorrow, we were landing on Boros.”

“You mean …”

Zoe nodded. “I think maybe he’s gone to get a gift.”

“Aw, that’s sweet.”

“It is. I tend to hate to think what he may come back with, but …”

“And there I was thinking he wanted to be outta the way when Freya starts teaching Bethany, in case he got roped in.”

“Oh, that too.”

---

Freya put the portable Cortex screen down on the table as Jayne leaned in the doorway.

“Did I hear the shuttle go?” he asked.

“Mmn. Mal’s gone shopping.”

“Think he’d mind if I borrowed the mule?”

Freya looked up at him in surprise. “Which one?”

“The old’n’ll do.”

“Then I doubt it.”

“Good.”

“Planning on taking River on a picnic?” she asked as he moved away. “Only we’re starting lessons today.”

Jayne hung back inside. “Well, that’s kinda a good idea, but … no.”

“Oh. Where are you going then?”

“Out.” He ducked away again, and she heard his boots clattering down the stairs.

“I won’t look,” she said to herself. “I won’t. If I can’t control myself, how can I teach them not to?”

“Not to what?” River asked, coming into the dining area from the other direction.

Freya smiled. “Nothing.” She looked beyond the young woman. “Where’s Bethany?”

“I’m here,” the little girl said, huffing as she made her way along. “This thing’s heavy.” She swung the sling around, her cast already covered in little pictures and names, all drawn in different coloured pens.

”Well, come and sit down. I think we’re ready to start.”

“Can I have a drink of milk?”

Freya took a breath. “Of course.”

“With a biscuit?”

“You just had breakfast.”

“Hungry.”

“Okay. One biscuit.” Freya went to get up, but River held up a hand.

“I’ll get it.”

“Thanks.”

Two glasses of milk and three biscuits later …

“Honey, you have to concentrate.” Freya tapped the screen. “What’s this?”

Bethany leaned forward. “Pyramid,” she said, spraying crumbs.

As River wiped the board, Freya sighed. “Did you know that, or did you pick it out of one of us?”

The little girl contrived to look innocent, then her head seemed to sink slightly into her neck. “Might.”

“Bethany …”

“Sorry, Auntie Frey.” She looked down and saw a fragment of biscuit on her cast and licked it off.

“How can I tell what you know if you peek?”

“I know lots.” She smiled.

Freya glanced at River, who nodded slowly. “Then let’s find out.” She touched the screen, bringing up a new picture. “What’s this?”

Bethany grinned and leaned forward, then her happy face slowly dissolved into a frown. “Don’t know.”

“Do you know why you don’t know?”

She shook her head. “No.”

“Because Auntie River and I aren’t letting you see. We’ve stopped you looking.”

Bethany looked up, her eyes wide. “How?”

“We’ve built walls, Bethie. To keep you out.”

Tears threatened to fall. “Don’t you love me any more?”

“Not that kind of keeping you out. We do love you. But we also want you to learn things for yourself. Like your momma and daddy did.”

“They did?”

“They had to study to know so much.”

“Momma didn’t.” Bethany shook her head firmly. “She hears Serenity. So do I.”

“Well, yes, there is that,” Freya agreed, but added quickly, “But if she hadn’t studied she wouldn’t know what each part was called, would she?”

“And my brother studied all hours of the day and night,” River put in. “Sometimes he kept me awake.”

“Daddy?” Bethany giggled. “Keeps me awake too.” She glanced at the biscuit tin. “Can I have another one?”

“No,” Freya said, a little too strongly. “No,” she repeated, taking a grip of herself as she saw tears threatening, again. “Bethany, we’ll just do a bit more, then you can play. Okay?”

“Pirates?”

“Only if you’re one-armed Pete.”

Bethany cheered up instantly. “Grr.”

“That’s right.”

“Can I see a pirate ship?” she asked, leaning over the Cortex screen.

“Only if you promise to concentrate.”

Bethany nodded, staring down.

Freya sighed.

---

An hour later and Bethany had been given her freedom, running down the stairs to the cargo bay to find her father and tell him that she was now educated.

“I can’t help thinking I’m going about this the wrong way.” Freya sighed, for about the twentieth time that morning. “Or just totally useless at it.”

“It will get easier,” River said. “She’ll get used to it.”

“I hope so.”

“She’s two. I don’t remember being much better.”

“Simon said you were a brat even then.”

River grinned. “Oh, that goes without saying.” She stood up, picking up the glass.

“I think I'm going to have to structure things differently. Maybe work out some sort of lesson plan.”

“That might be good.” She rinsed the glass and put it back in the cupboard. “Might be easier.”

“I don’t think it could be much harder,” Freya admitted. “I had no idea … how do people teach?”

“Fluffy.”

“What?”

“Fluffy. They teach fluffy things to two year olds. Except Bethany isn’t fluffy any more.”

“Is there such a thing as Captain’s-wife dummy talk?”

“We didn’t have it,” River explained. “I was correcting Simon’s spelling when I was three, and you were feeling thoughts. We never had the fluffy stage.”

“You mean being a normal two year old?” Freya leaned back. “Maybe Kaylee should be doing this. Or Hank. Or Zoe. Anyone but me.”

“You need to practice for when Ethan’s old enough.”

A shadow passed over Freya’s face. “He …”

“He’ll be fine. It won’t be long, I promise.”

“I know Simon said there’s no ill-effects, but …” She stopped, clamping her lips shut. If she didn’t say it, maybe it would be all right.

“You want him to say Mama.”

“Is it that obvious?”

“You’re asking me?”

Freya half-smiled. “I know your brother tried to get him to call Jayne ‘daddy’.”

River grinned. “I thought you hadn’t noticed.”

“It wasn't Mal’s fault that Bethany called him that before Simon.”

“And Ethan will call you Mama soon.”

Freya finally relaxed a little. “I hope so.”

They felt the ship tremble a little as the shuttle docked.

River unfocused a little. “I think he’s got everything you wanted, but there’s something …” Her voice faded away.

“What is it?” Freya asked, letting her mind touch Mal’s as he exited the shuttle doorway. “Oh my.”

They stared at each other, and hurried towards the cargo bay. As they reached the catwalk, there was a high-pitched scream of joy that made them look over the railing.

“Auntie Frey! Auntie River!” Bethany was almost jumping with happiness. “Look what Uncle Mal got me!”

The two women stared.

“Mal, what did you do?” Freya asked.

“What?” he said, his arms crossed over his chest.

“Oh God,” Simon breathed from the doorway to the common area. “Mal …”

Kaylee was leaning on his shoulder. “Honey, what do we do now?”

“I have no idea.”

Bethany looked up at them. “His name’s Fiddler!” she shouted, cuddling the squirming puppy in her good arm.

“Oh, Mal …” Freya repeated softly, shaking her head.

to be continued

COMMENTS

Saturday, May 26, 2007 2:55 AM

KATESFRIEND


I don't care if it's sticky sweet - it was delightful! Mal being such a softie when it comes to kids, and the tough love for Bethany when it comes to respecting boundaries. Good insight into River's past learning processes. Who better to help out Bethany than the people with experience with her gifts.

Saturday, May 26, 2007 10:41 AM

BLUEEYEDBRIGADIER


Honestly? I can't imagine either that Freya or River were any better when learning at the same age. Though River would have been a sponge for anything she saw or heard;D

And Mal is the ultimate softie, isn't he? Though I personally would have had him wait for a little while...Bethany's next birthday or Christmas, whichever came first;)

BEB

Saturday, May 26, 2007 11:05 AM

SLUMMING


Okay, you know I'm in major love with Mal always, but Mal with a puppy! Just gives me the warm fuzzies!

Saturday, May 26, 2007 12:03 PM

AMDOBELL


Wonderful! I absolutely loved Mal coming back with the puppy, though I thought he was going to get Freya a present? As for Bethany, what a nightmare trying to get her to learn how to respect boundaries when her mental gift appears to be so effortless and natural to her. I'm off now to hug my Captain. Maybe he'll buy me a puppy? Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Saturday, May 26, 2007 8:50 PM

TAMSIBLING


Oh, let him bring the dog on board - I love it. And Bethany thinking they didn't love her any more because they were trying to keep her out just broke my heart!

Terrific fluff!


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