BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

JANE0904

Mice - REPOST
Sunday, November 18, 2007

Maya. Post-BDM. Ben and Hope are crying all the time, and Mal tries to find out why.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1568    RATING: 0    SERIES: FIREFLY

“Kaylee, what the good gorram is going on?” Mal called, heading towards the engine room.

The mechanic turned as he stomped through the door, little baby Hope in her arms. “Cap’n?”

“All the yellin’ and cryin’.” He nodded towards the baby. “Her.”

Kaylee looked down at Hope, her little face screwed up, her lungs working to full capacity as she cried.

“It ain't her fault,” she said over the noise. “She didn’t start it. Ben’s been bawling himself into a seizure since yesterday.”

“You think I don’t know that?” Mal’s face was angry. “Kept me and Frey awake all last night with his noise, and started Ethan off too!”

Kaylee jiggled the little girl. “I thought coming in here might calm her down, seeing as Bethie always liked the engine, but you can still hear Ben.” She lifted her head. Yes, there it was, another baby crying in almost perfect synchronisation with the one in her arms.

“Can’t you quiet her some?”

She shot him a glare. “What do you think I’m trying to do?”

“Try harder.” He stomped back towards the galley.

“It ain't my fault!” she called. “If anyone it’s Zoe’s.”

“Yeah, but you ain't as likely to shoot me.”

“Don’t tempt me,” she muttered, bouncing up and down on the balls of her feet. “Shh, shh, Hope, or the Cap’s likely to do himself a mischief.”

The baby didn’t listen.

--

“Zoe, what the hell’s going on with that baby?” Mal asked, leaning down over the hatch.

“Mal?” Hank looked up at him, a squalling baby in his arms.

“Where’s Zoe?”

“Gone to the shuttle to get some sleep.”

Mal climbed down the ladder. “Sleep?”

“You might have noticed Ben’s been a little … fractious.” He was doing the same jiggling motion as Kaylee, and it was starting to make Mal feel seasick. “She needed to get some rest.”

“A little. He’s been at this twenty-four hours straight!”

“No need to exaggerate, Mal. Maybe twenty. He fell asleep for a while yesterday evening.”

“And then started again. We’ve got a job to do in two days time, and if we don’t get some sleep someone’s likely to get shot. And it might not be work related.”

“Mal, that ain't nice,” Hank complained.

“Don’t feel like being nice. I feel like getting a decent night’s sleep. Any chance of that?”

“Well if I knew what the problem was then maybe I’d join you!” Hank’s temper was obviously frayed, and it wasn’t going to take much to snap it entirely.

“That baby never made a peep until now. What’ve you done to him?”

“Done? I've done nothing, Mal!” That was it. “I’ve fed him, changed him, burped him, changed him again … I even took him to Simon to find out if it was anything I should get really worried about, and he’s still crying!” He held out his son. “You gorram try something!”

Mal glared at him then took the little boy, holding him like he used to Ethan. He looked down, his face softening just a little. “Hey, there, feller,” he said, trying the soothing tone that worked with his own son. “You don’t wanna be doing this. There’s nothing to be crying about, now, you hear?”

Ben did hear, and apparently didn’t agree. If anything the crying got louder.

“Well that seems to have worked well,” Hank said sarcastically.

“It’s the squeak.”

Both men turned suddenly. Bethany was hanging upside down on the ladder, her little face serious.

“The what?” Mal asked.

“The squeak. He doesn’t like it.”

“Bethie, you come down from there before you fall down, and you tell me exactly what you mean.”

The little girl did as she was told, righting herself by the simple expedient of unhooking her feet and letting her body rotate on her hands. Mal winced.

“The squeak,” she explained, stepping off the ladder and going over to Ben’s crib. “It keeps him awake.” She pointed to the bulkhead. “Mice.”

“There’s no mice on board my boat.”

“He hears them.”

“We don’t have mice!”

Bethany just looked at him.

“Oh …” Mal wanted to swear, but not in front of the two squirts, so he contented himself with passing Ben back to his father and heading for the com. “Kaylee!” he yelled down it.

“Don’t have to shout.” The young mechanic sounded aggrieved. “Nor use the com if you’re gonna.”

“Get to Hank and Zoe’s bunk. And bring your tools.”

--

Kaylee lay on her side, undoing the bolts on that section of bulkhead, being watched closely by Hank holding Ben, Mal holding Hope, and Bethany, and at least two of them were still screaming their heads off.

“That’s the one, Momma,” the little girl said over the noise.

“Well, I’m inclined to agree with the Cap’n,” Kaylee said. “We ain't got mice.”

“What’s going on down there?” Jayne called down the open hatch. “Enough noise to wake the gorram dead.”

“Ben thinks he can hear a squeak,” Hank explained.

“A squeak?”

“Mice,” Bethany explained.

“We ain’t got mice.” Mal was getting tired of this.

“Knew a feller once had a ship, got rats the size of Fiddler. Ate right through the insulation on the controls.”

“What happened to him?” Hank asked, getting a glare from Mal for encouraging the mercenary.

“Crashed. Mind you, coulda been ‘cause they were carrying a hold full o’ whisky and the pilot liked the odd nip or two.”

“Jayne, you’re not helping,” Mal said tightly.

“Just trying to cheer you up.”

“You want to cheer us up, suggest something sensible.”

Jayne’s advice was simple and straightforward. “Get a cat.” They could hear his feet ambling towards the galley.

Bethany’s eyes widened and she looked round at Mal.

“No,” he said quickly.

She sighed and went back to watching her mother, her shoulders the picture of dejection.

“Soon be there,” Kaylee said, undoing the last bolt.

Hank was thinking. He looked at Bethany. “So if Ben said we had mice –“

“We don’t have mice!”

The pilot ignored his captain. “– does that mean he was talking to you?”

The little girl shook her head. “Not talking. Feelings.”

“You been peeking?”

“He’s a baby. He needs to be looked after.” She glanced at Mal. “Like Ethan.”

Mal felt his heart skip a beat. “You watch ‘em all?” he asked.

“All,” Bethany agreed, then went back to studying her mother as she lifted the plate from the wall. “To be safe.”

“Thanks,” Mal said softly.

“You’re welcome.”

“So, you find any evidence of these non-existent rodents?” Mal asked in his normal tone, overlaid with just a hint of asperity.

“No. There’s this …” She held out a toy dinosaur, dusty from its long incarceration. Mal leaned over and took it from her. “But no mice.”

“Didn’t think there would be. Anything else that might be squeaking?”

Kaylee ferreted around in the gap. “Nope, nothing that I can see.”

“Well, better put my ship back together and we’re gonna have to think again.” He looked at Ben in Hank’s arms. “Doesn’t he ever stop to breathe?”

“Guess not, Mal,” Hank admitted. “Maybe he can take it in someplace else.”

“Hate to think where.”

Kaylee began to lift the plate back into place, but stopped as River’s voice wafted down to them.

“Wait a minute.”

The psychic descended the ladder, her bare feet curling around the rungs. As she got further down it was apparent she was only holding on with one hand.

“What is it?” Mal asked.

“Here,” River said, holding out something white.

Kaylee took it, examining it as it sat on the palm of her hand. “Wow.”

“I think I second that,” Hank said.

“You did this?” Mal asked.

“It seemed like a good idea.”

There, in perfect detail, was a superbly rendered Origami cat, with two emerald green dots for eyes. It was poised, just as if about to pounce on any unwary small, fluffy, squeaky thing.

“It goes into the wall,” Bethany said. “Scares the mice away.”

“There aren’t any mice, sweetie,” Kaylee said, still mesmerised by the tiny creature.

“You know, I don’t think I care,” Mal said. “Go ahead.”

Kaylee glanced at him, her forehead creased, but carefully, almost reverentially, placed the cat into the gap. Then she lifted the plate and began replacing the bolts.

“Kaylee,” Mal called softly.

“What?”

“Listen.”

“Don’t hear anything.”

“Exactly.”

Her socket wrench in her hand, she looked round. Both Ben and Hope were quiet, starting to doze.

“But that’s –“

“Yeah.”

“Hey, don’t knock it,” Hank said quickly. “Just be thankful.”

“Oh, I am.”

Mal spoke to River. “So how did that work?”

“Maybe there were mice,” the young woman said. “Ghosts. Or they are mice in potentia.”

“What?”

“Future mice. And Ben can hear the squeaking from here in the past.”

Mal didn’t even try to understand. “So how come the dinosaur didn’t scare them off, then?”

River looked at him pityingly. “Because there weren't any mice now,” she said.

Mal gave her one of his looks in return, but she kept staring at him coolly. “Seems kind of a pity for such a work of art to be locked in a wall, though.”

“It was necessary,” she said. “But I made another one for you.”

“A cat?”

“No. A horse. He’s called Casmir. He’s on your bed.” She climbed the ladder.

“I'm gonna start locking my bunk,” he called after her.

“It won’t help,” came her voice drifting back.

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