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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Maya. Post-BDM. The start of a new story arc. Mal goes to a meet to pick up the details of a new job, but there's trouble. NEW STORY
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1926 RATING: 10 SERIES: FIREFLY
Mal left the bar, smiling. It had been a good meet, and he’d got the next job lined up. Paying well, too, with half up front. Keep everyone flying for a while longer. He didn’t want to rely on Inara’s charity, even though he knew she was more than willing to give them a home whenever they needed it. Trouble was, in the past few weeks jobs seemed hard to come by, and what there was tended to be things he’d like to avoid, even if he would have taken them in the past. But now, with kids on board … anyway, at least there was something to look forward to.
And the fact that he’d been propositioned hadn’t done his ego any harm at all.
He wouldn’t normally have gone to the meet on his own, although Barrick had insisted. Still, he cheated a little and had Jayne get to the bar half an hour beforehand. He looked like a fixture by the time Mal arrived and headed into the small back room.
“It’s a pick up on Beylix, delivering to a private address on Hammond,” Barrick said, nervously running his fingers around his collar.
Mal would normally have taken this as a sign that something was about to go wrong, but Barrick was notorious. “You know, you should seriously consider finding yourself a new line of business,” Mal said conversationally. “I wouldn’t be surprised if you ain't heading to give yourself an ulcer.”
Barrick grimaced, pressing one hand to his stomach. “Too late,” he said.
“Then why don’t you get out of the work?”
“Someone has to broker these deals.” Barrick swallowed hastily. “And I make a good living.”
“It ain't worth it if you ain't got your health.”
“I’m fine.” He pulled a box from his pocket and fished a flat white tablet out. Popping it into his mouth he washed it down with the whisky in front of him.
“Then you need to see a doctor,” Mal advised.
“I do. Often.” Barrick sat up a little. “So you can do this? Only there’s a deadline. Beylix in four days, Hammond before the month’s out.”
Mal nodded. “We can do it.”
Barrick visibly relaxed. He put a small leather pouch down on the table. “Half now, half on delivery.”
“Shiny.” Mal stowed it into an inside pocket.
The other man stood up. “Let me leave first. Give me five minutes before you follow, dong mah?”
“You really that afraid?”
“It’s kept me alive this long, Mal,” Barrick pointed out, glancing around as if someone might jump out at him right now.
“Definitely find a new line of work.”
“Maybe.” He half-smiled and headed out into the bar.
For maybe two minutes Mal sat at the table, whistling tunelessly to himself, before he decided it was long enough. Strolling out into the smoke and noise, he headed to the bar.
“Ching – zie lie ee bay sake,” he said to the barman, who nodded and poured him a glassful of colourless liquid, taking the note he proffered and making change.
Mal lifted the glass and took a sip. “Got it.”
“And the money?”
“Inside pocket.” He felt Jayne’s hand slip into his coat, and suddenly he felt a lot lighter. “Get it back to the ship.”
“On my way.” Jayne stretched a little, his mouth barely moving. “You staying?”
“Just finishing my drink.”
“See you back on Serenity.” He threw the last of the whisky into his mouth and ambled out of the bar, the cold air outside barely making a dent on the heat within.
Mal almost smiled and lifted the glass, then looked up sharply as the man next to him took a step back and knocked his arm, causing a small drop of sake to spill onto his hand. “Careful,” he admonished calmly, but the man ignored him.
“You’ll do as I tell you,” he said loudly to someone Mal couldn’t see.
“Hey, friend,” Mal said. “Can you keep it down? Some of us just want a quiet drink.”
The man looked over his shoulder at him but didn’t respond. Instead he turned back to the woman in front of him, saying, “You hear? You do what I want.” He raised his hand to strike her, but suddenly found himself unable to do so. Mal had gripped his wrist, and although he tried to pull it free he couldn’t.
“Hey. Friend.” Mal spoke quietly. “Why don’t I buy you a drink? Give you a chance to calm down somewhat. Make you think twice before threatening a lady.”
“She ain’t no lady.”
“I’d have to say you’re wrong in that suggestion. So why don’t you take that drink?”
“I don’t need to –“
“Don’t be taking it as a suggestion.”
The man glared at Mal, but glanced down at the obviously well-kept and probably well-used gun at his hip. He put his head down, not wanting to look Mal in the eyes, and scurried out, grumbling to himself.
“You okay?” Mal asked the woman. Well, girl – probably not much older than Kaylee.
“You’re welcome.” Mal picked up his glass again, then realised the girl had stepped close, very much closer, her hand on his arm.
“If there’s anything I can do to repay your kindness … anything … “ She ran a finger down the back of his hand, smiling in what she presumably considered a seductive manner.
Mal looked up into her face, painted but still showing her youth, despite her profession. “Thanks,” he said. “But I’m married.” He held up his left hand, the gold ring glinting on his third finger. “I appreciate the offer, though.”
“Maybe your wife would like to join us. I‘d be willing.”
Despite the mental image that fled across Mal’s mind without looking both ways first, he shook his head. “I don’t think she’d approve. Very straight-laced, my missus. In fact, she’d probably shoot me just for talking to you.”
The girl took a small step back. “Well, if you change your mind …”
He smiled at her. “I’ll bear it in mind.”
She’d gone to the back of the bar then, but he could feel her watching him. He finished his drink quickly and walked outside into what passed for Three Hills winter. He bundled up his coat, pulling it tighter. It had snowed again whilst he was inside, and the fresh fall crunched quite pleasantly under his feet. Frey often said she could never get used to this, the different seasons depending on where they landed. Spring one place, then a week later it was fall, with no summer in between, except the next planet was hot and dry. The only place it felt right was on board Serenity.
He grinned. Good to get home. He began to trudge back to the docks.
“He’s on his way back,” Freya said, leaning through the bridge door. “And he’s happy.”
“He got us the job?” Hank asked, turning in the pilot’s seat.
“Feels like it. And got paid half in advance.”
“Good. Got the urge to eat coming on again.”
“So soon?” She laughed. “I thought you had food last week.”
“Really? Only that far back?” He shook his head. “I must be slipping.”
Freya grinned. “Well, we can get a few supplies in now.”
“Need to refuel some, too. Depending on where the job is.”
He raised an eyebrow at her. “Are you kidding me? You saying you weren’t listening to that entire conversation?”
“Control, Hank. Control.”
“Yeah. Right.” He smiled. “Still, it’ll be good to be working for a while.”
“As much as I like lazing around playing with my son as the … Freya?”
Her face had gone white and the smile died. “Mal …” she whispered. Then screamed out, “Mal!” She turned and ran towards the cargo bay as doppler screams rang through Serenity from Bethany’s room and the shuttle.
“Hank?” Zoe asked, stepping out of the galley.
“I think it’s the captain.” He knew she was right behind him as they pounded down the stairs.
Hot coffee. Hot bed. Hot wife. That was what he needed, what he wanted right now. Something to drive the chill out of his bones. Maybe he was getting older, but sometimes it took longer in the mornings to get going. Simon probably had some long fancy name for it, and would talk for five minutes without making any sense whatsoever, but … maybe all it boiled down to was age. Hell, he wasn’t that old, but he had more scars than a man with his years should have. Perhaps he should get Freya to give him a massage too. His grin widened. Yeah, sounded good. And then he’d prove just how young he was. And who knows? Maybe tonight she’d let him –
A flash of gunfire close by followed immediately by the crack of the bullet didn’t even register. What did was the searing pain in his head, and his neck snapped back. A second gunshot hit him in the belly, pushing him to the ground. He lay on the snow, staring up into the dark sky, seeing a figure moving towards him. He tried to move his hand, to pull his own gun from its holster, but his body wouldn’t obey him. All he could do was try to breathe, and that was getting harder with every moment as agony coursed through his system.
He felt someone undo his gunbelt, drag it from around his hips, then lift his left hand. No, please, he wanted to say. Least wait ‘til I’m dead to take that. But his lips couldn’t form the words as he felt the wedding band being tugged from his finger. He could barely feel the dislocation of the bone above the rest of the pain.
The figure began to undo his coat, had almost managed to pull it off him, but then stopped. The head lifted, almost scenting the air.
Someone coming, Mal thought. Maybe there was time after all. Maybe not. He was rolling, being pushed towards the sound of the river, booming with the race of fast death. Then he was falling, hitting a wall of cold that shocked all the breath out of him, and darkness claimed him.
Freya ran through the snow, not caring about the cold, not feeling it, just running. He was fading, and as hard as she tried to hold on he was slipping through her fingers like sand. She knew the others were behind, Zoe, Hank, River … Simon with his medbag … but she was losing him.
“Frey?” Jayne was ahead, staring at them hurtling towards them. “What –“
“Mal,” was all River said as they passed him.
“Qiang bao hou zi de hun dan,” he muttered, turning and following them, back the way he‘d come.
Freya stopped, skidding in the snow, staring down.
“Freya,” Zoe said, pulling up beside her, then she saw where her friend was looking. Red blood on the white snow. Lots of it. Too much.
Jayne swore again, then started to look around. “There’s a trail,” he said quietly. “More blood. Looks like someone was dragged. Or maybe rolled.”
They followed him, Freya at his shoulder, River only a step behind. Then they were at the river, rushing past in the darkness, the sound of branches crashing against boulders just a short distance ahead.
“Frey …” Hank began, his face as white as the snow.
“Someone went in here,” Jayne said, hunching down. He pointed to the signs. “Looks like they were swept away.”
“Jayne,” Zoe said warningly.
“Weren’t saying it was the Cap. Just that someone -”
“It was him,” Freya said suddenly. “I felt the water …”
“Maybe you felt wrong,” the big man said, looking at River, anger heating him as he saw her shake her head. Still, he went on, “Might not even be his blood. Could be some other poor bastard got –”
“It’s his,” Simon said, looking at the small scanner in his hand. “I’ve just tested … it’s his.”
“We need to search,” Freya said. “Along the banks. Maybe he managed to climb out. There might be a pool, an eddy … he might have got caught and he’s waiting for …” She fell to her knees, and immediately Zoe was down with her, looking into her face.
“I can’t feel him,” she said, no sound coming from her mouth, just forming the words. “I can’t feel him any more.” Her eyes were anguished, tormented. “Zoe …”
The dark woman looked up at Jayne. “Go get the sheriff, or whatever passes for law in this place. We need to organise a search party.”
“In that?” The big man nodded towards the swollen river.
Jayne nodded and jogged off.
Freya was beginning to shake. “We have to find him, Zoe,” she whispered. “We have to find him.”
“We will, honey,” Zoe said, taking her into her arms. “Don’t worry about that. We’ll find the captain.”
River didn’t speak, just hugged her arms around herself, shivering with more than the cold.
Kaylee was sitting holding Bethany, just moving backwards and forwards, trying to let the rhythm soothe her little daughter.
“Momma?” Bethie stiffened.
“What is it, sweetheart?”
“Oh, Momma. Uncle Mal …” She turned her face into her mother’s chest, and let the tears burst from beneath her eyelids.
“No,” Kaylee moaned. “No. It can’t be.”
She looked up, saw Ethan standing in the doorway, his stuffed alligator clutched to his chest. His eyes were huge, terrified. “Baby …” she said softly, holding out her arms, and he ran to her, clambering into her lap next to Bethany.
“Daddy …” he whispered, tears rolling down his cheeks.
“There ain’t no sign,” the sheriff said, chewing on his wad of tobacco. “This river goes into the sea, not thirty miles from here. He’ll be long gone by now.”
“Did you search both banks?” Zoe asked, glancing at Freya, sitting so quietly in the corner of the office, River standing ramrod straight at her side. Each woman had a blanket thrown around their shoulders, but they were gaining no warmth from them.
The sheriff was sympathetic, but knew it was pointless sugar-coating the inevitable. “Both. For around ten miles. But no-one comes outta that river, not this time of year, even if they’re able-bodied. And if he was hurt going in …”
Zoe took a deep breath and held it for a moment before exhaling slowly. “Yes.”
“All we found was that.” He pointed to the coat on the table, its leather drying stiffly. “Caught up on a tree root. Nothing else.“ The bullet hole was clearly visible, right where a heart would beat beneath it.
Freya put out a trembling hand to touch it, feeling it almost crack under her fingers. “Needs to be cleaned,” she said, almost a whisper. “He won’t like it when he comes back, finds it like this. Need to use saddle soap, maybe oil, get it soft again.” She stood up, gathering it to herself, the blanket falling from her. “Need to … need to …” She stared at Zoe. “Need to …” Her knees gave out as her eyes rolled into the back of her head, and Jayne only just managed to catch her in time before she slid to the floor.
to be continued
Sunday, December 2, 2007 8:29 AM
Sunday, December 2, 2007 9:44 AM
Sunday, December 2, 2007 1:08 PM
Sunday, December 2, 2007 7:41 PM
Monday, December 3, 2007 6:36 AM
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