BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

JANE0904

Four
Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Maya. Post-BDM. A little single chapter story. Someone on Serenity has a birthday. Just some fluff. And would I be lulling you into a false sense of security? NEW STORY


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1931    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

It was her birthday. All day. Ever since she’d woken up five minutes ago. Bethany lay in bed, listening to the sounds of the ship around her, but being careful not to peek. Not that peeking was easy at the moment, not with Auntie River putting out so much static, as Auntie Frey said. But for more than a few weeks now she’d come across people talking in odd corners, and their conversations had stopped when she arrived, and she knew they were talking about what to get her, so she’d just smiled sweetly and walked on. She’d been good too … well, better than usual.

She knew some of the things she was going to get were clothes, of course, and things the grown-ups thought she needed. But there’d be other stuff. They’d asked, mostly like it wasn’t important, like Uncle Mal did just before they landed on Greenleaf.

“So, excited about your birthday, short stub?” They’d been sitting in the cargo bay, watching Uncle Jayne try to teach Ethan how to play horseshoes.

She nodded. “Yes.”

“Your Ma’s gonna make a cake, I’ve heard.”

“Chocolate. With sprinkles.”

“That a fact.”

“And chocolate cream inside.”

“Sounds shiny.” They watched as Ethan dropped one of the horseshoes on Uncle Jayne’s foot, and he tried real hard not to swear.

“He’ll be going back to wearing his boots, no matter what your Auntie River says,” Uncle Mal said, holding his laughter in his throat. “Slippers just ain't him, even though he makes a lot of noise in the others.”

“Makes her teeth rattle,” Bethie agreed.

“Ain't surprised.” They continued to watch for a while. “So … what’s the kinda thing you expect to come out of that wrapping paper?”

She would have sighed if she hadn’t been expecting it. “Well, prob’ly something to wear. Momma’ll prob’ly get me that. And a pair of shoes.” She swung her feet up and stared at them. “Daddy says I’m growing too fast for his wallet.”

“Not too fast, Bethie. Just right, “ Uncle Mal assured her.

“’N’ there’s prob’ly some books from Auntie River. Or something to wear. Prob’ly.”

“Probably. But that’s the boring stuff.” He nudged her gently. “Ain't there something else? Something not ordinary?”

She shrugged. “Don’t know.”

“What would you like to see?”

“A pirate ship,” she said immediately, her eyes glazing as she conjured it in her mind. “All white sails, and men in the rigging, on a blue sea.”

“A ship?” He looked uncertain.

“Or a doll,” she added, giving him an escape route.

“Oh. Right.”

It was prob’ly going to be a doll, she considered, lying in bed and staring at the ceiling. Not that she minded. Dolls were nice, and you could have tea parties with them, but she had a lot already. And she really wanted a pirate ship of her very own. She sighed.

“How’s my birthday girl?” her mother said, sliding the door open with one hand, a tray balanced on the other.

Bethie sat up. “Momma, I ain't sick.”

“No, I know that.” She sat down. “This is just ‘cause it’s today. Breakfast in bed. And all your favourite foods.”

Bethany eyed the tray, and felt her spirits rise. There was scrambled egg – the real thing – and toast, and a glass of orange juice, and some little cookies made in the shapes of hearts. There was even three strawberries, cut into quarters and sprinkled with sugar. She grinned. “Yum,” she muttered, and picked up her fork.

---

Uncle Hank had let her fly Serenity for a while, holding onto the yoke with her little hands, seeing the stars twist lazily in the window. At least, until Uncle Mal came and complained he was getting space-sick.

“Ain’t no such thing, Mal,” Uncle Hank said, grinning.

“You keep doing that and I'm gonna prove you sadly mistaken. And believe me, I’ll be in close proximity when I do.”

Bethany giggled.

Uncle Mal smiled at her, and said, “Enjoying your day so far?” He sounded much nicer than when he was talking to Uncle Hank.

“Yes, thank you.”

“Well, if Uncle Hank tries to get you to do his late watch, you let me know and I’ll explain to him the true and full meaning of a discussion by the airlock.”

She giggled again while Uncle Hank sighed.

It had been Daddy’s turn next. He let her bandage him up until he looked like a mummy from Earth-that-was, and there was only his eyes visible. Uncle Mal had looked into the infirmary and tried not to laugh, and said he hoped there was enough left for when they got shot next.

Then Auntie River had insisted on her sitting for a whole hour while she did her portrait. Still, she told stories of Daddy when he was young, so that wasn't so bad. Even Uncle Mal had come and listened for a while, and Auntie River accused him of taking notes.

Bethie knew what this was all about. It was to keep her away from the dining area, where both doors were closed, and voices could be heard whenever she went near. Not that she got close very often. Someone, usually Uncle Mal, would find her and suggest she do something else.

She was playing with Ethan, telling stories to Ben and Hope, when they were ready.

“Honey?” Her mother stood in the doorway, smiling broadly. She was wearing her best dress, her hair was brushed, and there wasn't a smidge of grease on her face. “Time for tea.”

“’Kay, Momma.” She got off the bed and helped Ethan down, then lifted Hope into her arms.

“No, you go on up. I’ll bring them,” Momma said. “Go on. Everyone’s waiting.”

Bethany ran up the stairs, Ethan close behind but a little slower, and got to the entrance to the galley. She stopped, her eyes wide. “Oooooh.”

It was like fairyland, she decided. Like out of the play they did. There were hangings around all the walls, painted with trees, and the lights had been lowered so the glows they used at Christmas could be seen. Sparkly things hung from the pipes, and there was music playing from somewhere. Even the table was covered in a huge cloth, all decorated, and funny hats sat in front of each place setting, while Fiddler was scratching at a piece of tinsel wrapped around his collar.

Her father stood at the doorway, holding out his hand. “Happy Birthday, Bethie,” he said.

She let him lead her to the place of honour at the head of the table.

“Don’t go getting used to that,” Uncle Mal warned. “Just for today.”

Everyone laughed and sat down as Momma put Ben in the high chair and held Hope on her knee, while Uncle Mal did the same with Ethan.

“It’s so pretty,” Bethie breathed.

“It’s taken us all day,” Uncle Jayne said. “Damn hammer kept leaping out and biting me,” he added, holding out his hand so she could see the weaves on his fingers.

“Baby,” Auntie River murmured.

“Not,” he growled, putting on the paper hat that had ears like a rabbit.

Uncle Mal clapped his hands. “Well, ‘fore there’s bloodshed, I think we’d better get to eating. If the lady of the day agrees?” He looked at Bethie.

“Hungry.”

Auntie Frey laughed, holding Jesse in her arms. “I think that means yes.”

They ate until they could eat no more, and then managed to find room for some of the birthday cake.

“Short stub, you were right,” Uncle Mal said, licking his fingers. “Everything you said it was gonna be, and then some.”

Auntie Zoe wiped excess chocolate off Ben’s mouth. “It was amazing, Kaylee.”

“Only the best for my girl,” Momma said, going a bit pink. “Mrs Boden gave me a lot of the bits and pieces, and I saved ‘em for now.”

“Thank you, Momma.” Bethie sighed happily, sure she couldn’t stuff another mouthful.

“And now,” Daddy said, “I think it’s time for the pièce de resistance.”

“The what?” Uncle Jayne’s eyebrows drew down then he grunted as someone kicked him under the table.

“Pressies?” Bethie asked hopefully.

“Presents,” her father confirmed.

The next bit was fun, tearing off all the coloured paper to get to the things inside.

“Ya know, if you’re careful, you could save it and use it next time,” Uncle Jayne advised, wincing again.

“It’s more fun this way,” Auntie River put in. “And it’s not your birthday.”

“Wait ‘til it is,” he said, pulling her towards him.

“Jayne,” Uncle Mal warned, but Bethie didn’t mind. It wasn't like she didn’t know what was going on. Couldn’t be a Reader on board this boat and not know family did … squicky things.

She had a great time, and there was something from Auntie 'Nara, saved for her, and even a little present from Noni.

“Mine now,” Uncle Hank said, handing over a badly wrapped parcel.

“You ain't getting any better at it, are you?” Uncle Mal joked.

“I didn’t know it was part of the job description when I took on flying Serenity.” Uncle Hank pointed. “That’s my best … was my best work.”

Bethie had mangled the wrapping and revealed a pink fluffy knitted jumper. She grinned and held it up against her.

“Mrs Cobb knitted it,” Uncle Hank went on. “I asked her what she thought you might like, and … do you like it?”

“It’s cunning!” she announced. She hauled it on over her head, but the sleeves were too long.

“Just right for you to grow into,” her mother said, folding them back.

Bethany laughed, and went on opening the presents. There were clothes, as predicted, and some paints from Auntie River, and even a book from Uncle Jayne.

“A book?” Uncle Hank asked. “From Jayne? Ain't that a contradiction?”

Uncle Jayne growled, but Auntie Zoe put her hand up. “Not today,” she said. “I'm not cleaning up the mess today.”

“Just wait,” Uncle Jayne promised, but very quietly.

Auntie Frey was next, handing over a small box. “It’s not as big as some others, but I hope you like it.”

Bethany opened it up, then started to bounce on the seat. “Momma, Momma, put it on me!”

Momma reached inside and took out a small silver bracelet, the twin to the one Auntie Frey wore, even down to the tiny skull and crossbones hanging from it. Fastening it carefully around her wrist, her mother sighed.

“Pirates?” she said.

“Of course. And I had a terrible time trying to find that charm,” Auntie Frey admitted.

“I think it’s wonderful,” Bethany said, moving her wrist backwards and forwards so the light caught the little red stones in the eye sockets.

“Well, that just leaves me,” Uncle Mal announced.

“I thought that was from you too,” Daddy said.

“Truth is, it was gonna be, but then I saw something in a window on the way back from delivering Patience’s crate. And it kinda cried out to me to buy it.”

“It’s not alive, is it?”

Uncle Mal laughed at his expression. “Nope. Not alive. And it almost goes with Frey’s gift.” He stood up and walked out of the door, coming back with a box, which he put down in front of Bethie. “Happy Birthday, short stub.”

Bethie lifted the lid, then sat frozen.

“Honey, what is it?” Momma asked, and peered inside. “Oh, Cap’n.”

“Momma, will you …”

“Surely.” She reached inside and pulled out a large glass bottle, resting on its side. She placed it on the table.

“Wow,” Uncle Hank said.

“Ya know, for once I think I'm agreeing with you,” Uncle Jayne put in.

Bethie stared, mesmerised by the ship inside. A pirate ship, with a Jolly Roger flag flying from the mast, tiny figures swarming up and down the rigging, the captain standing on the deck, shouting his orders, and all set amid a blue sea caught as a wave dashed against the prow.

“It’s the closest I could get, Bethie,” Uncle Mal said. “You won’t be able to sail on her, but –“

“Oh, I can,” she said, not looking up. She tapped her temple. “Up here.”

“How’d they do that?” Uncle Jayne asked, his voice low.

“I’ll explain later,” Auntie River promised.

“Don’t want to know,” Bethie said. “Magic.”

“Sound’s about right,” Uncle Mal agreed. “Magic.”

“Bethany, what do you say?” Daddy prompted.

She finally looked up, her eyes swimming with emotion. “Thank you, Uncle Mal.”

He grinned. “You’re welcome, short stub.”

Now it was time to sleep, for her birthday to end. She was lying in her bed, still wearing the bracelet, with her new clothes put carefully away, her toys ready for action the next day. But she couldn’t stop staring at the ship in a bottle, sitting on the bedside table.

Momma had rigged a small light up behind it, so it shone through, like a tiny sun beaming down on the pirates. And if she closed her eyes, just a little, she could almost see the figures move, hear the creaking of the ropes as they hauled the sails higher to the song they were singing … Come all ye young sailors who follow the sea … even smell the salty air as the waves dashed against the planking, the spray wetting her face …

She drifted off to sleep, her lips moving faintly. “Grrr. Argh.”

COMMENTS

Wednesday, November 28, 2007 2:36 AM

KATESFRIEND


What a wonderful piece of fluff, Jane! The last line was the topper - so perfect. Wonderful to see the crew through other eyes for a change. There has been an occasional trend on your part to put a fluffy piece right before everything goes wrong, so I guess this is our warning of things to come!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007 2:42 AM

SLUMMING


Such lovely fluff! :D

Wednesday, November 28, 2007 3:09 AM

AMDOBELL


Loved this and rolled up right at the end when you had Bethie quoting Mutant Enemy - "Grrr. Argh." Very shiny, Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Wednesday, November 28, 2007 7:41 AM

NCBROWNCOAT


I loved this story. A pirate ship is what every 4 year old Reader on a space ship needs!

Loved the "Grr, Argh" at the end too. It was a very nice touch.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007 9:32 AM

MISSWHATSIS


Beautifully observed. I loved Mal's *subtle* wondering about what Bethie really wanted --


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