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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Mal and Jayne have a talk, and Simon surprises Kaylee.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 716 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
The utter silence was beginning to disturb Jayne’s calm. Bouncing along the dusty road in the mule beside Mal, he wanted to hurry up and get through with the gorram job and get the di yu away from the obviously irate Captain.
Serenity had landed on Athens earlier in the morning, and everything had seemed fine until Mal rounded a corner at an inopportune moment to see Jayne and Inara in a somewhat heated embrace. Jayne had thought Mal to be safely in the passenger dorms, helping River get settled in to their temporary quarters. He and Inara had been very careful during the past four months to keep their activities private. Though River had to know and Jayne suspected Zoe knew as well, neither woman had betrayed that knowledge to Mal. Jayne thought glumly that their silence had probably kept him from being sucked out the airlock until now. But judging from the tight line of Mal’s jaw, his luck may have just run out.
Mal stared straight ahead, his mind whirring with all manner of strange emotion. He could hardly use his old excuse about no crew relationships, as every crew member above the age of six other than Jayne himself had broken that little rule all to hell at one time or another. Nor could he lay any claim on Inara’s affections, being as how the book on their physical relationship had slammed itself shut more than three years ago now. But the thought of Inara choosing Jayne, of all people, was a concept he couldn’t quite wrap his head around. Finally unable to hold his tongue any longer, he said tightly, “When, exactly, were you plannin’ on tellin’ me?”
Jayne looked at him in genuine surprise. “Weren’t never plannin’ to, seein’ as how it ain’t none of your business who I’m beddin’, long’s I ain’t doin’ it when I’m s’posed to be on the job.”
It was Mal’s turn to look surprised. “You really think it’s that simple, do you?”
Jayne watched the small vein in Mal’s temple pulse. Slowly, he replied, “Yeah, I do. Been beddin’ ‘Nara for four months now, and I ain’t had no complaints from you ‘bout the jobs. Reckon that speaks for itself.”
Mal continued to stare at the dusty road they traveled, shocked by the revelation of just how long he’d been oblivious to the goings on of his own crew. After a long pause, he asked, “You intendin’ to do right by her?”
“Right as she’ll let me, anyhow,” Jayne answered honestly. “I got no notion to hurt her, if’n that’s what you’re askin’.”
Mal’s initial anger was changing into curiosity, much to his own surprise. “It don’t bother you she’s taking clients?”
“How I feel ‘bout that ain’t in no way your concern. But I’ll answer ya’, if you’re so worried on it. No, it don’t bother me in the least. ‘Nara’s a Companion, and that’s what she wants to be. Ain’t my place to feel one way or the other about it.”
The statement, so simply made, brought an unexpected smile to Mal’s face. “That so?” he asked, sudden humor in his tone.
“It is,” Jayne replied flatly.
Mal had to admit a certain grudging respect for the man. While such a thing would be insufferable to Mal, apparently Jayne had no such qualms. And from the way Inara had been draped all over his mercenary in the darkened corner earlier, he had to admit she didn’t look to be unhappy with whatever kind of arrangement they had either. Wondering if he was becoming more tolerant or just more tired, he sighed.
“You manage to hurt her I’ll kill you myself,” he said by way of granting his acceptance to Jayne.
Jayne nodded shortly. “Figured as much,” he said.
Simon puttered around the galley, gathering up supplies in the basket he’d unearthed from the closet he and Kaylee shared. Thinking to surprise his wife with a walk in the warm sunshine of Athens to a pleasant picnic spot, he packed the basket carefully. When he’d checked earlier with Zoe, she had estimated that Mal and Jayne would be gone until at least midafternoon, so he knew he had plenty of time to find Kaylee in the little junkyard close to where Serenity had landed.
Kaylee had been working on the rather large project of re-wiring Serenity’s secondary systems for a few weeks now, and Simon could see the exhaustion in the slump of her shoulders each night. The Captain knew nothing about her extra work, because Kaylee wanted it to be completed before she mentioned it to him. She had told Simon she wanted it to be a surprise, so he kept his own counsel on the subject, resisting the urge to press her to slow down.
But he knew Kaylee, and a little romantic picnic under a large shade tree was just the kind of thing that would get her to stop, at least for an afternoon. And the truth of the matter was that Simon himself welcomed a distraction from the thoughts that plagued his waking hours now. Though there was no indication that River’s delivery would be anything but ordinary, Simon was very nervous to be the doctor who would preside over it all. Mal, sensing his reluctance, had told him that they would be taking jobs closer to the Core as her due date approached, thereby ensuring that they would be close to decent medical facilities should the need arise. But Simon knew that neither he nor Mal really wanted to see River in an Alliance facility of any kind, ever again. So, as was his custom, he worried about his sister.
Stuffing a blanket under his arm, he took the packed basket and stepped out into the sun. He followed the little path to the junkyard and found Kaylee happily accumulating odd bits and pieces for Serenity into a neat little pile. Squinting up at him in the noonday light, she smiled when she saw the blanket and basket.
Simon leaned in to kiss her. “Thought we might take a little stroll,” he murmured against her lips.
Linking her arm through his, she called out to the disreputable-looking man a few feet away, “Be back in a bit to pick up these here parts, Joe. Can ya’ hold ‘em for me?”
“Might cost ya’ extra,” Joe said with a wink. “But I’ll go easy enough on ya, I reckon.”
Kaylee laughed, and walked with Simon a far enough distance to be unable to see the piles of junk behind them. Presently, to the couple’s delight, they found a little stream with a huge willow tree standing on its grassy banks. Stretching out in the shade on the blanket, Kaylee set about exploring the contents of the basket, squealing with delight at each new item that came forth.
“Would have gotten strawberries, but they’re not in season here,” Simon said, watching his wife lick the juice of a ripe peach she’d discovered in the basket from her fingers. He wondered if she had any idea how watching her eat a piece of fruit affected a man. More than once he’d seen Jayne practically salivating at the sight, and even Mal seemed to get a little flustered on the odd occasion when she did it. Simon really couldn’t blame them, he thought, considering what the sight did to his own body.
Leaning forward, he caught her lips in a kiss which deepened as he laid her down on the soft blanket. Tasting of peaches, Kaylee drew him closer and moved to unbutton his shirt. Heedless of the fact that they were out in the open for anyone to see, they quickly got rid of their confining clothes and settled into a steady rhythm, the dance of their bodies both familiar and excitingly different in the dappled sunlight. Thinking that this was indeed the closest thing he could achieve to Books’ version of heaven without having to die first, Simon made exquisite love to his beautiful wife.
Inara made a graceful brush stroke, and waited patiently for Anya to copy it on her own paper. Her little pink tongue stuck out the corner of her mouth in concentration, Anya tried to reproduce the character she saw. Looking at the somewhat lopsided result, Inara said, “That’s good, but I think you can do even better. Let’s try again.”
As Anya worked, Inara’s mind wandered to thoughts of Jayne and Mal. Having seen the shock and anger in Mal’s eyes in the corridor earlier, she could only hope that the two men had come to some understanding by the time they got back from making the delivery. She knew both men well enough to know that things had the potential to be very ugly very fast if one or both of them should lose control. And she honestly had no idea how she would react if that happened.
Tugging at Inara’s sleeve, Anya asked, “This one better, Miss Inara?”
“Much better, sweetie,” Inara said, dragging her thoughts back to the lesson. “Now watch as I do the second character.”
Money heavy in his shirt pocket, Mal was a happy man. For once, the deal had gone down just as it ought, with smiles on all sides and only one tense moment when one of the men unloading the mule got a little fractious with Jayne. Smiling at the memory, Mal chuckled softly.
“What you laughin’ at?” Jayne asked, scanning the horizon as they rode back toward Serenity.
“Just rememberin’ why I keep you around,” Mal said easily. “That guy, the one that wanted to give you trouble, his face was just priceless when he saw Binky.”
Jayne grinned. “Stupid hundan thought he had a knife ‘til I pulled Binky out.” The two men laughed at the idiot’s reaction.
After a moment, Mal said, “Made cashy money today, and in record time too. Thought I might stop in the settlement and pick up a few things.”
“Fine by me,” Jayne said, thinking he might just do some shopping of his own. But when they got to the settlement, Mal stopped in front of a store window that had nothing Jayne Cobb wanted. It was some sort of baby supply store, he thought in amazement. Didn’t even know there was such a thing until just that minute. But figuring it was cooler inside the store than out, he followed Mal through the squeaking door.
Mal knew exactly what he wanted, but found himself wandering through the narrow aisles anyway, amazed at all the paraphernalia that apparently went with a baby. He knew River had been picking up some things every time Serenity landed somewhere with goods for sale, and the other women on board rarely came back without a little something when they went dirtside, so he figured the small stuff was cared for. But he was in search of a crib, knowing the bed he shared with River was far too small for a third person, even if he was a tiny one.
He found a selection of exactly two cribs, neither of which struck him as sturdy enough for a child who could move at all. And judging from the pounding the kid was giving River every day, Mal was anticipating a rambunctious little boy.
And then he saw it. Sitting to the side of the paltry crib display was a rocker. Not quite as fine as the one he’d seen on Santo, but beautiful all the same. And it was priced more within the range of his limited budget. Problem was, he thought ruefully, he couldn’t really afford both the rocker and the crib, and the crib was a necessity.
Jayne stood to the side, watching the way Mal’s hands ran along the intricately carved design of the antique chair with apparent longing. Looking from the crib to the rocker, he discerned the source of the Captain’s hesitation.
Shaking both cribs roughly, Jayne said, “Wouldn’t put a young ‘un of mine in either one of these pieces of go se. Hell, Mal, I could make one sturdier than these easy. All I’d need is a little lumber.”
Mal looked at him in surprise. Jayne continued, “Saw a lumberyard out by the edge of the settlement. Prolly find everything I’d need right there.”
“Am I hearing you right?” Mal asked. “’Cause it sounded to me like you just offered to make a crib.”
When Jayne simply nodded his head, Mal said, “You’d do that for me?”
“Hell,no,” Jayne said, grinning widely. “I’d do it for Moonbr…I mean, River, and maybe for the little squirt.”
Mal smiled one of those smiles that went all the way to his eyes, a smile like Jayne had rarely seen from him. “I’d take it as a kindness,” he said, genuinely touched by the gesture. He thought briefly how very much he had learned about his mercenary since morning.
Once the rocker and the lumber had been purchased and loaded securely onto the mule, the two men headed back to Serenity in companionable silence. Lulled by the steady thrum of the mule’s engine and the warmth of the midafternoon sun, Mal jumped when the comm unit crackled to life.
Zoe’s voice held a quality Mal had rarely heard there, near panic. “Sir, River says you need to get back to the ship right now. She says to tell you they’re coming.”
“Who’s coming?” Mal asked urgently.
Through the crackle of the comm he heard, “Reavers.”
To be continued
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