BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

JANE0904

The Bequest - Part IV
Friday, June 15, 2007

Maya. Post-BDM. Technically 2BF. Mal's 'bequest' is safely on board Serenity, but he has no idea what to do with them. And Bethany has a conversation she doesn't like ... Please comment, and you know I appreciate every single one of them!


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1589    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

“He did what?” Hil Dwyer stared at Mal, her mouth open, then burst into uncontrolled laughter. Harry and Pickett joined in, only Monty managing to control himself.

Mal stood waiting, his arms crossed, letting them get it out of their systems. He hadn’t told them before – just collected the girls and gone back to the ship – and right now he wished he hadn’t told them at all, but they might have some ideas.

“You always did say you wanted a big family,” Harry managed to gasp out.

“Yeah, but not all in one go!” Pickett wheezed.

“And without the fun of making ‘em!” Hil had her hands on her knees, trying to get air into her lungs. “Oh, God, Mal … what are you gonna do?”

“At the moment, I don’t have a notion. I was kinda hoping you might.”

Harry sobered a little. “Well, I’d take ‘em on like a shot, only I’ve got no place to put them. Kinda life I lead, I can’t exactly have little ones taggin’ around holding onto my skirts.”

“I doubt the missus would approve if I brought home six girls,” Pickett agreed.

“And don’t look at me,” Hil added. “I can just about manage to get myself and my crew work, let alone take on anyone else.”

“I know the feeling,” Mal said. “I’m scraping from job to job sometimes.”

“It doesn’t get any easier,” she said, her laughter of a few moments ago all but gone.

“Look, if you need cash –“ Pickett began.

“Ain't asking for charity,” Mal said quickly.

“Then maybe we do a collection. Amongst his friends. I mean, if, like you say, he’s left them with nothing.”

“He had money,” Hil said unexpectedly.

“You were in touch?”

“Off and on. He asked me to marry him once.”

“Was he drunk?"

“No. Sober as a judge. I wasn't, though.”

“What did you say?” Harry asked.

“Told you, I was drunk. I said no.”

Mal was surprised. “Would you have said yes otherwise?”

“Not sure.” Hil’s face took on an unexpected aspect. “Prob’ly have ended up killing him anyway, so better I didn’t.”

There was a moment’s silence, then Harry said, “So if there was money, where is it?”

Hil shrugged. “No idea. Probably pissed it away gambling and the like.”

Pickett looked at Mal. “So now what? They’re on board your boat?”

Mal nodded. “That they are.”

“Well, my job’s still open. And if’n you need to take a couple extra days to sort this out, that’s fine.”

“What job’s that?” Hil asked, her eyes narrowing. “Only I'm kinda free at the moment.”

“Promised it to Mal,” Pickett said.

“But if he can’t fulfil –“

“Never said that,” Mal interrupted. “We’ll be there. Only I’ll be beholden if you could give us that extra time. Maybe I can contact their mothers or something.”

“If they ain't been involved with their kids for so long, what makes you think they’ll be interested now?” Harry asked.

“Mainly because I ain't got no other rutting idea.”

---

“There isn’t enough room around the table for all of you,” Mal said, looking into the six faces, none of whom reminded him of Reilly in the slightest. Except maybe about the eyes. “So you girls’ll eat here in the common area. It’ll be comfortable enough until we figure out what to do next.”

Honoria stood up. “Thank you, Captain. I realise this is difficult for you.”

“No more’n for you, I conjure.”

“Still, having six more mouths to feed isn’t going to be easy.”

“Well, some of you ain't exactly big,” he smiled at Hermione, the youngest, who just stared back at him. “We can manage. Least for a while, until I figure out what to do with you.”

“I can get a job,” Honoria said. “I'm sure there are things I can do that –“

Mal held up his hand. “We can talk about that later. ‘N’ I don’t think you should be thinking about getting work around here. It ain’t exactly … appropriate for someone your age.”

“It’s my home, Captain. All of us.” She was looking at him steadily, and he began to reappraise her. That level headed, clear, calm gaze was a hell of a lot older than seventeen.

“I understand that, Honoria, and I meant no insult. But if it’s your home, you know the kinda jobs around. And it ain't safe for your sisters.”

“I won’t let them prostitute themselves, Captain.”

“And I wouldn’t let you either.” He tried a smile. “And if you’re staying on board, and since it appears I’m your legal and above board guardian, I think you can call me Mal.”

Her lips lifted slightly. “And you’d better call me Honor. Reilly did like fancy names.”

“You called him Reilly?”

“He didn’t like being called Dad, or Pa, or anything else. Just Reilly.” Honor looked at her sisters. “We are grateful, you know.”

“That’s good.” He hitched his thumbs into his belt. “And if you need anything, you just ask me. Or if it’s girlie type things, Freya’ll be glad to help, or any of the other women on board.”

“Freya is your wife?”

“That she is. Why?”

“I just wondered.”

“Well, better just lay a few ground rules. You can have free run of the cargo bay, since we ain't got no cargo at the moment, and the kitchen’s okay too. But stay out of the engine room, and off the bridge. If you need to –“

Jayne stomped through the doorway. “Mal, where’s the doc? I got a …” He stumbled to a halt, staring at the young woman talking to his captain. Then his eyes took in the rest … “Mal, how come there’s six girls in the common area?” the big man asked, his face puzzled. “We got a job transporting ‘em somewhere?”

“Something like that,” Mal agreed, noting Honor’s eyes light up at the sight of the big man. Well, he must be attractive to some women, he thought. “That’s Jayne,” he added quickly. “Stay out of his way unless you want to learn some bright and colourful language.”

“I ain't that bad,” Jayne protested.

“Yes you are. And if you’re looking for the doc I think he’s up in the engine room with Kaylee.”

“They getting all – “

“Jayne.”

“Just wanted something for a … something crawled inside my pants and I got bit.” He went to undo his belt buckle, then saw the look on Mal’s face. “Engine room?”

“Yeah.”

“Reckon I’ll just go and interrupt them, then.” He grinned at the girls. “Ladies.” He hurried up the stairs.

“He’s … once you get to know him …” Mal stopped. “Just stay out of his way.”

“Thank you, Captain,” Honoria said.

“Mal.”

“Mal.” She smiled.

---

Bethany was sitting in the galley at the table, humming to herself as she drew. Auntie River had given her some colours of her own and a big pad of paper, and she was enjoying herself. Fiddler was in his usual place under her feet.

The youngest Reilly girl, Hermione, slunk in. “Oh, didn’t realise anyone was here,” she said.

Bethany looked up and smiled. “I'm painting,” she said, holding up the brush. “Auntie River showed me how.”

“Oh.” Almost against her will she approached the table. “What’re you painting?”

“Momma.” Bethany closed one eye like she’d seen her Auntie do, and leaned back. “In the engine room.”

To Hermione it looked like a brown blob with something grey in its hand. “What’s that?” she asked, pointing to it.

“A number 4 autoline socket wrench.”

Hermione blinked. “What?”

“Momma uses it to fix Serenity when she’s hurting.” She grinned, happy with her effort. “When it’s dry Auntie River said she’d frame it for me. So I can give it to Momma.”

“She won’t want that.”

“Yes she will.” Bethany looked at the older girl, wondering why she sounded so different to everyone else she knew. “Momma always likes what I give her.”

Hermione muttered something Bethany couldn’t hear, but for once the little girl didn’t look. Something about her made her feel strange, and she didn’t want to see what she was thinking.

“Do you want to play with my puppy?” Bethany went on, still trying to make friends. It had been easy with her mother’s family, so she saw no reason why she shouldn’t be able to now. “His name’s Fiddler.” Climbing awkwardly down from her chair, she reached over and picked up the little dog. “Uncle Mal bought him for me when I busted my arm.” She held out her cast. “Do you want to write on it?”

“No.” Hermione looked at the puppy. “Fiddler?”

Bethany shrugged. “That’s his name.” Fiddler squirmed and she had to put him down, and he immediately wagged and headed towards Hermione. “He likes you.”

“No, he doesn’t.”

This was hard work, Bethany realised. Not everyone wanted to be her friend quite so readily. She looked down at her arm. “Got paint on my cast,” she mused.

“Your momma won’t like that. She’ll tell you off.”

Bethany looked surprised. “Why?”

“For getting messy.”

“Momma gets messy. Daddy doesn’t tell her off.”

“They’re different. They’re adults. They don’t play by our rules.”

“Our rules?”

“They don’t care about us. Only themselves.”

Bethany was confused. “I don’t –“

“They don’t love you,” Hermione spat, anger fighting the sadness in her. “They get fed up with you, they’ll put you in a home, never see you again!”

Bethany’s eyes widened. “They do love me. They all do,” she insisted.

“They’ll leave you and no-one will ever want you!” Hermione ran out of the kitchen, kicking Fiddler out of the way and making him yelp.

Bethany burst into tears as the little puppy cowered in the corner.

“What’s going on?” Jayne asked, hearing the sound of raised voices but too late to catch the words. Bethany turned to him, holding out her arms. “Hey, hey, what’s this?” the big man said, lifting her up. The little girl was sobbing, her whole body quivering.

“She … said … nobody … loves … me!” Every word was punctuated by a sharp breath inwards.

“Short stub, you know that ain’t true.” Jayne carried her to the easy chairs, scooping Fiddler up on the way as he sat down. The little dog snuggled into his lap.

“But she said –“

“I don’t care what she said. You know we all love you. ‘Specially me.”

“You do?”

“Course I do. And your Auntie River, and your Uncle Mal … and your Ma and Pa love you something fierce.”

“But she said –“

“Bethie, she’s wrong. You read me and tell me what’s true.”

Bethany gazed at him then laid her head on his shoulder. “I love you, Uncle Jayne.”

“That’s shiny. ‘Cause I love you too, shortie.”

Freya looked into the dining area. “Is she okay?”

Jayne nodded. “One of the Reilly girls upset her.”

“I heard.”

“I think maybe I need to have a word with ‘em.” There was anger in his tone. Nobody was allowed to make Bethany cry like this. Nobody.

“No, Jayne,” Freya said quickly. “Let me deal with it.”

“You sure?” He wasn’t convinced.

“Positive. You take care of Bethie.”

---

Freya walked slowly down the stairs, her stick clicking on the metal treads, and saw the three youngest Reilly girls sitting in the common area. They looked up as she reached the floor.

“Hermione, would you come with me a moment? I’d like to talk to you.”

“Now you’re for it,” Letitia sniggered, nudging her sister.

Hermione slapped her on the arm, then stood up. “What do you want?” she asked defiantly.

Freya smiled slightly. “Just to talk.” She continued towards the crew quarters. “I think we’d be more comfortable in here, don’t you?”

With reluctance, and more than one glare back at the twins, Hermione followed.

“Are you?” she asked as Freya opened the door to her temporary sleeping accommodation. “Going to tell me off?”

“Let’s sit, shall we?”

“Don’t want to.”

“Well, I do.” Freya manoeuvred herself close to the bed and sat down slowly, leaning back a little to give her hip some ease. The deep pain showed on her face.

“What happened?” Hermione asked, in spite of herself.

“I got hurt a while back. But this is … I had an operation. A few days ago.”

“A few days?” Hermione came a little closer. “Should you be up at all?”

Freya smiled at the badly concealed concern in her voice. “I heal quickly.”

“Does it hurt?” The girl sat down on the edge of the bed.

“Yes. But it will get better, and I’ll be fine. Then I can throw this stick away.” She grinned. “Well, give it back to Simon.”

“Good.”

There was a pause. “So, do you want to tell me what’s going on? Why you said that to Bethany?”

“It wasn't anything to say.” Hermione found her hands to be really interesting, and dropped her eyes to stare at them.

“She’s two, Hermione. Why would you want to hurt her like that?”

“It’s true!” Hermione had the sudden anger of youth, and there was fire in her eyes as she snapped her head up. “Everyone leaves you!”

“Is that what you think? That everyone has abandoned you?”

“My mother died when I was born. And … and Reilly. He got sick, and no-one could do anything, and now I …” She couldn’t help it. She began to cry. “I'm so afraid.”

“Afraid? Of what?”

“Everything!” The last word was a howl, and the girl almost fell into Freya’s lap, her head hitting just the wrong point.

Freya suppressed a moan as pain flared briefly into agony, instead concentrating on Hermione. “You’re not alone, you know. You have your sisters.” She stroked the girl’s long brown hair.

“I know. That’s not enough.”

Mal, attracted by the sound of crying, hurried down the stairs and crossed the common area, coming to a halt outside the room. Freya looked up but shook her head slightly. Whatever it was, she was handling it. He backed up and headed for the cargo bay, aware of two sets of eyes on him from the twins even while they listened to the conversation behind him.

“Do you think your father did it on purpose? Got sick?” Freya asked Hermione.

“Course not.” She sniffed and sat up. “He loved us.”

Freya’s lips twitched. “That he did. And I imagine that’s why he asked Mal to look after you. Because he knew he would.”

“But how can he?”

“I don’t know,” Freya admitted. “He’s still working on it.” She patted the girl’s hand. “But you need to apologise.”

Hermione nodded. “I am sorry.”

“Tell Bethany that. She may be only two, but she understands more than you can imagine.”

“I’ll go now.”

“She’s on the bridge with Hank.”

Hermione looked at her oddly, wondering how she could know, then nodded again and hurried off.

Freya lay back, her fist pressed into her hip, her eyes closed as she willed the pain to recede.

“You okay?” Mal asked from the doorway. He’d only hung around the entrance to the bay, and saw Hermione run up the stairs.

She looked at him. “Next time you say you want a girl, I'm going to shoot you,” she said quietly.

He grinned and stepped into the room. “But you’re good at this. Just ask River. 'Sides, Jayne told me what had happened - you handled it well.” He sat down next to her. “Hurts?”

“Some.”

He didn’t answer, just leaned over and pulled open a drawer. From inside he took out a hypo and steriswab. “Be better in a minute,” he promised, opening the sterile pack and wiping the inside of her arm. Removing the hypo cover with his teeth, he proceeded to inject the pale liquid into her vein.

“I didn’t need that,” she complained, but very quietly as he dropped the used items into the bin.

“Yes you did. I know you. If you’d said it didn’t I wouldn’t believe you, and if you said it did, I’d be calling Simon right now.” He put his hand on her cheek. “You can tell me the truth, you know.”

“I know.” She sighed, feeling the relief spreading through her. “You got a minute?”

He grinned. “A minute. Supervising six females is wearing me out.”

“Then you’d better rest.” She moved along the bed enough so he could lie next to her.

“Ain't taking my boots off,” he warned. “That’ll only give you ideas.”

“Mal, except for the fact that Simon would have a fit, I don’t need you to remove items of clothing to give me ideas.”

He laughed. “No, me neither.” Pulling her towards him, he settled her into her usual place. “Anyway, I said I’d give Kaylee a hand with the meal.”

“You? Cook?”

“Well, I think she’s got me on fatigues, so I’ll be cleaning the vegetables.”

“So no actual cooking, then.”

“No.”

“Good.”

He pinched her slightly, and she yelped. “It’s a good job we got that crate of food from Eddie, though,” Mal said. “Without it we’d be hard pushed to feed ‘em all.”

“What about cash? Have we got enough?”

“It’ll be eating into the savings,” Mal admitted, “but we’re okay for a day or two. Pickett still has that job for us.”

“So we’re going to drag six girls halfway across the system without knowing what to do with them?”

“You could always give them lessons.”

Freya half sat up. “Hey, that’s a good idea. How about we talk to Inara?”

Mal stared at her. “Why?”

“She talked about taking girls on. Finishing them.”

“What?”

She put her head back into the crook of his shoulder. “Making sure they know which knife to use. That kind of thing.”

“And Inara would take on six girls she knows nothing about? I don’t think so. Just have to try and make my brain work a bit harder.”

“Is that the smell?”

He looked down at her. “Smell?”

“Gears grinding, normally unused pieces of machinery being pressed into service –“ She couldn’t say any more on account of Mal’s mouth against hers.

to be continued

COMMENTS

Saturday, June 16, 2007 3:04 AM

KATESFRIEND


Sweet and angsty today. Those girls are bound to be scarred with that much loss. Nice to see the softer side of Jayne here.

Saturday, June 16, 2007 3:12 AM

SLUMMING


May I just say that I adore Mal and Freya? Very good chapter!

Saturday, June 16, 2007 11:17 AM

AMDOBELL


I love that Mal didn't toss the girls out and that Freya was able to calm Hermione and reassure her enough that she is off to apologise for being mean to Bethie. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Saturday, June 16, 2007 7:19 PM

TAMSIBLING


While there is no excuse for Hermione's behavior, I'm glad it didn't take her that long to figure out the error of her ways - and of course, Freya helped.

I loved Jayne in this as well - I always love watching him with Bethie - he's the greatest uncle!

Monday, June 18, 2007 8:26 PM

BLUEEYEDBRIGADIER


Much as it must have been painful for Bethie...probably a good idea for her to learn now that not all people can be charmed by her powerful wiles at first. And I am certainly glad Freya managed to sort out Hermione's fears sufficiently that future conversations with won't be so bitter;D

BEB


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