BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

JANE0904

World Without End - Part XIII
Friday, January 18, 2008

Maya. Post-BDM. The night before and the morning, and various conversation. NEW CHAPTER (Please forgive if it isn't up to scratch - not too well at the moment!)


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1819    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

River sat quietly, her hands folded in what remained of her lap, her eyes closed. She was listening to the small sounds of the night as it pressed in around her, the old building behind her creaking and groaning as timbers cooled, insects playing their symphonies in the trees, and out beyond the wall something small and furry ended its life in a high-pitched squeak, and something else flew back off on silent wings, its prize clasped tightly in razor talons.

Almost at the edge of her perception she could feel others, the souls who had come to this place seeking redemption, safety … or just someone to talk to. Some stayed, became Shepherds like Book, others took what they needed and moved on, but they had all left their imprint on the Abbey like pictures on a capture tab. If she reached out just a little more, she could see them, clustered around the old building like moths to a flame …

“What are you doing?” Freya asked, standing observing the young woman as much as she could in the starlight.

“Communing.”

“Who with?”

“Whoever wishes to speak to me.” River opened her eyes and looked up. “Is that for me?”

Freya looked down at Jayne’s coat in her hands. “It is. It’s somewhat chilly out tonight, and I don’t want you catching cold before the wedding tomorrow.”

“You know that’s a fallacy, don’t you?” the young woman said, standing up anyway and slipping it on. She hugged it around herself, like Jayne’s arms.

“Fallacy or not, you have to keep well. For all our sakes.”

River sat down again. “Why are you here?” she asked, arranging her knees under the large jacket. “I thought you were tired.”

Freya joined her on the stone seat. “Mal’s put Ethan and Jesse to bed, and he’s reading them a story about a boy who jumps through doorways into different worlds. It’s fun and energetic and will keep them awake for ages, so I thought I’d come and find out why you aren’t in bed.”

“Not sleepy.”

“Big day tomorrow.”

“A beginning. And an ending.”

“Ending?”

“No more River Tam. I become someone else.” She laughed, a tinkling sound like water over stones. “Still crazy, but I will be River Cobb.”

Freya grinned. “Good name. And I have to say, I never thought I’d see the day Jayne got wed.”

“I worked long and hard to get him,” River admitted, her smile faltering. “And nearly didn’t.”

The older woman understood. “There’s hiccups in every relationship. Take Mal and me. I never thought I’d marry him. Or even sleep with him again. Or even –“

“He loves you.”

“I know.”

“Like Jayne loves me.”

“You know, I think you’re right.” Freya patted River’s thigh. “If there’s any two on the boat closer, I'm not sure who it is.”

“We fit. Pieces of a puzzle, making the whole greater than the sum of its parts.” She turned back to the dark, her eyes closing again. “Do you know whose garden this was?”

Not even a little phased by the apparent non-sequitur, Freya shook her head. “No. Not even sure I’d even know it was a garden without daylight.”

River took in a deep breath. “But the scent is so clear.” She pointed to her right. “Box, over there, forming the small borders to the beds.” Her finger moved a degree to the left. “Japonica, coming into its third blooming before the frosts arrive.” Another degree. “Wild cherry, ready for picking.” She glanced at Freya. “Try.”

Shrugging slightly, Freya did as she was told and closed her eyes. As she breathed slowly, she became aware of a dozen different scents, all interlinked and building on each other, then a dozen more, further out, then more … She gasped. “River, are you doing this?”

“No. Well, perhaps a little.” She squeezed Freya’s hand. “Come with me.”

In her mind’s eye Freya saw the landscape warm, glow with light, showing her the cherry trees, the japonica bushes, the chrysanthemums coming into bloom fifty feet away. Further away was an apple orchard, ripe fruit laying on the ground, and between were strawberry plants and tomato beds, all of them lit as if from within. And amongst them, tilling the earth and gently removing weeds, were the spectres of a hundred men, all with their hands in the soil, each visible through the others.

“River …”

“Shh. So many have earned peace here,” she whispered. “Watch.”

One of the figures stood upright, brushing the dirt from his hands, and moved towards them. His face was dark, gentle, his hair caught up in a leather thong at the back of his head. He was smiling beneath his grey moustache, not at her, Freya realised, but at River.

“Book.” It wasn't a question. She recognised him from the painting.

“Yes.”

The Shepherd didn’t speak, but he might as well have done. There was such a feeling of contentment, of understanding, of absolution, that it made Freya’s heart beat wildly.

“He looks so familiar,” Freya said softly. “I thought so before. Like someone I knew once.”

“Yes?” River was smiling, as if being told something wonderful.

“He helped me. Saved my life. And my soul.” Freya gazed at the figure. “His name was Amon.”

River nodded, as if she’d always known, even though Freya never spoke about her mentor. “Good men,” she asserted quietly.

“Oh, yes.”

“Frey?”

Mal’s voice. She opened her eyes and the darkness flooded back, and she had to blink hard several times to see him at all. “Mal?”

“What’re you two doing out here?” he asked, his arms crossed. “Time all good women were asleep in their beds.”

She managed a laugh. “Good job there aren’t any of those around, then.” She stood up somewhat stiffly. “But you’re right.” She looked down at River. “You too.”

River got to her feet, Jayne’s coat still wrapped around her. “Perhaps I could.”

“You go off now,” Mal said firmly. “Ain't having you complaining tomorrow.”

She glared at him, visible even in the darkness. “As if I would.” She turned and walked off, her feet barely touching the gravel path.

Mal turned to Freya. “Having a nice girlie chat?” he asked, pulling her into his arms.

She let his warmth revive her, and she slid her hands around his waist. “Talking to ghosts,” she explained.

He looked down his nose at her. “Ghosts.”

“Shades. Spirits. Apparitions. Ghosts.”

“I conjure I know what they are, darlin’. Just don’t see any around here myself.” He pulled her closer. “Only my ai ren. Which I'm more than happy about, seeing as I intend to kiss you right now.” He suited the action to the word.

She smiled, her lips curving against his. “And what else did you have in mind?” she murmured.

“Well, I thought …” He whispered into her ear.

“Then I think we’d better go home for that,” she said delightedly. “I don’t think I want an audience.”

“No?”

“Not this time.” She took his hand and led him back towards Serenity.

---

As day broke and the sound of the Abbey going about its morning duties filtered into the small room, Zoe sat for a long time on the edge of the narrow bed, the sheets still rumpled up behind her from her relatively sleepless night.

She stared at herself in the small mirror over the drawer unit. She looked pensive. Her full lips curved, echoed by her reflection. So she should be. This was a big step, but she was convinced it was the right one. From when River first told her of her plans, asked if she was still wanting to make it a double wedding, she knew it was time. She loved Hank, and wanted to be with him for the rest of their lives.

“Sorry, baby,” she whispered to the shade of Wash. “If you were still around I know you’d be dancing at River’s wedding with me, but you ain't. And he makes me happy.”

She waited for a moment, almost expecting – no, hoping for a response, a blessing, but of course there was none. The smile grew. Honestly, she didn’t know what she’d do if there had been.

Her lips drew down again. No. That wasn't the problem.

Standing up and pushing her damp mane of curls off her shoulders, she adjusted the towel she was wearing a little higher above her breasts before pulling her bag out from under the bed. Opening it, she peered inside. It lay at the bottom, almost accusingly. It was the only dress she owned, and it was certainly beautiful. White, self-striped, very slinky … and the last time she’d worn it – the only time she’d ever worn it – was at Wash’s funeral. Hank would never know, but the others … With a sigh she closed the bag and threw it back onto the floor. Hank deserved better.

There was a knock at the door at the same time as Kaylee’s voice called out, ”Zoe, you decent?”

“No.”

“Pity.” The door opened and Kaylee and Inara peered in. “See, told you she wasn‘t anywhere close to being ready,” the young mechanic said, shaking her head.

“I'm trying to get dressed here,” Zoe complained.

“Yeah, and you look like you’re getting a long way.” Kaylee crossed the room and sat down on the bed, her floral dress riding up her knees.. “Hey, not bad.”

“I wouldn’t know. It felt like it was full of rocks to me.” Zoe picked up her hairbrush and began dragging it through her locks.

“Would you like me to do that?” Inara asked, closing the door softly, making sure her black and gold sari didn’t get caught.

“No.”

“Oh, you should,” Kaylee gushed. “She’s sooo good at it, makes me all tingly just to remember.”

Inara laughed. “You’re a very sensual human being, Kaylee.”

“Think so? Maybe I should ask Simon.”

Zoe glared at them. “What are you doing here?”

“We’ve come to help,” Kaylee informed her, bouncing slightly on the mattress.

“You mean get in the way.”

“Zoe, sit down,” Inara ordered. “This is your wedding day, we are your bridesmaids, and we’re here to make sure things go well.” She lifted up the small case in her right hand. “I have make-up, and we’ll do your hair, and you will look stunning.”

“Stunning,” Zoe repeated, sitting down heavily on the hard chair. “Yeah, walking down the aisle naked. I think that’s gonna be pretty stunning.”

Kaylee stopped bouncing. “Naked?”

Zoe sighed heavily. “I should have listened to you,” she admitted. “We should have gone back, found someplace else, got some damn dress or other to wear.” She closed her eyes. “Stubborn. That’s me. Too gorram stubborn for my own good.”

Kaylee and Inara exchanged a glance, then the ex-Companion held out her left hand. “You mean this dress?”

Zoe’s eyes flew open.

---

In the other corridor, Hank peered out of the door as footsteps echoed past on the stone flags. “Hey. Simon.”

The young doctor turned, resplendent in his morning suit, the cutaway coat emphasising his shoulders and slim hips. “Morning,” he said, smiling. “All ready?”

“Nope. Could you …” He stopped.

“What is it, Hank?”

“Are you any good with …?” Hank coloured, beckoning the other man closer so that no-one could overhear.

“With what?” Simon was intrigued.

“Only yours always looks good, and I ain’t never had the knack -”

“Hank. What do you need?”

“Are you any good with hair?” He ran his hand through his untidy brown locks, making it stand on end.

Simon laughed. “Come on. Let’s see what we can do.”

---

“Gorram qiang bao hou zi de hun dan,” Jayne muttered under his breath. “This is just jie er lian san.” His fingers, those fingers he could usually rely on to be so steady he could take the eye out of a flea at a hundred yards, those very fingers which could take apart and reassemble Vera in less than the time it took to sneeze, now had decided to do anything but what he wanted, and had become all thumbs.

A surge of temper ran through him and he dragged the tie from around his neck, throwing it to the floor. “Wo cao ni ye ye de sao pi yan!” he shouted.

“Is that any way to talk in an Abbey?” Freya asked from the doorway.

“Aw, hell, sorry, but …” He stopped, staring at her. “Wow,” he managed to say.

She looked down at herself, colouring a little. “You like it?”

“Surely do. That the dress Mal bought ya? The one you wore last time we were on Persephone?”

She nodded, stroking the heavily pleated bronze fabric, and rearranging the long gold belt around her waist. “Although I was somewhat pregnant at that point.”

He grinned. “Yeah. I think Mal said Ethan mentioned something about a whale.”

“I wasn’t that bad!”

“But it looks better now. Now you’re …” He mimed a flat stomach. “You know.”

“Why, Jayne, such flattery will go to my head.” She stepped into the room and picked up the tie. “Do you want me to do this for you?”

“Would ya?”

“Of course. I made you buy it.”

He leaned down enough so that she could slide the offending strip of fabric back around his neck under his collar. “Thanks,” he murmured.

“Jayne. You’ve got …” She pointed to a patch on her own cheek.

He ran his fingers across his skin, finding a piece of tissue still adhering from where he'd trimmed his goatee. “Oh, yeah,” he said quietly, balling up the paper and flicking it away. “Surprised I didn’t slice my own throat, the way my hand was shaking,” he admitted.

Pulling the tie up to his neck, she said, “You look suai.”

“Nah. I look pretty much what I am. A man-ape in fancy clothes.”

She stepped back, looking him up and down. “You know, you’re pretty much entirely wrong. You look very handsome, and River is going to be so proud to stand by your side.”

“Ya think?”

“I know.” She smiled at him, at the black shirt and dark blue waistcoat, the thin tie of the same colour, over black pants. “Might even consider taking you for a turn myself.”

“Now, you said that a year or so ago I mighta taken you up on it,” Jayne chuckled. “’Cept now I don’t think dynamite’d come between you and the Cap.” He glanced in the mirror, then back at her. “Frey - would you be my best man?”

Her eyebrows raised. “But that’s Simon’s -”

“Saw him going into Hank’s room a while back, so I reckon he needs him more than me. But I’d rather … if you wouldn’t … I mean if it’d been up to me … and Zoe was Mal’s when you two got hitched …”

Freya put her hand on his chest. “Jayne, I’m honoured. And flattered. But I think there’s someone else might be better. More appropriate.”

“More …?”

She glanced at the door, just as someone knocked.

“Yeah?” Jayne called.

Matty stuck his head into the room. “Wondered if you might like some help - oh, morning, Freya.”

“Morning,” she said, smiling. “And I think I’d better go check everything’s in hand.” She smoothed her dress again and walked out, patting Matty on the arm.

“Don’t look like you need my help,” Jayne’s brother said, leaning on the doorway, studying him. “You look … okay.”

“Thanks.” Jayne tugged at his waistcoat. “Though … Matty, got something I need to ask ya.”

---

Mal adjusted the small flower he’d filched from the garden in the buttonhole of his jacket, and watched as the children sat on the grass, playing quietly. They’d had orders not to get messy, so Bethie was regaling them all with a story, for a change without dinosaurs or pirates, but apparently with a lot of animal noises instead.

“What’s she telling them?” Freya asked quietly, coming out of the doorway into the morning sunshine.

“I think it’s about Noah.” He pulled at his floppy bow tie, trying to loosen it a little. “Although it might be about a zoo.”

Smiling, she gently knocked his hands away. “Let me.” She neatened the ends. “You look very handsome, Mal.”

He stroked her cheek. “And you look beautiful, ai ren. Makes me remember our wedding day.”

“Me too,” Freya agreed. “I love you, zhang fu.”

“I love you too.” Leaning forward he kissed her, feeling her melt against him, her arms around his waist, her hands cradling his back.

“Is everyone ready?” Shepherd Seymour asked, coming up behind them. “Oh, sorry. Am I interrupting?”

Mal reluctantly let go of his wife and turned, smiling. “A little. As for the others, I think they’re probably dressed, but … ready? Wouldn’t like to be the judge of that.”

Seymour laughed. “Maybe not. But it’s almost time for the ceremony to begin. Perhaps you could gather the participants. The other guests are already seated.”

“Well, I think we’re supposed to be looking after the kids.” Freya indicated the group on the lawn where Bethie had added hand movements to the noises.

“I’ll bring them to the chapel,” Seymour promised.

“Are you sure?”

“Of course.” He smiled. “We don’t want your crew to be late for their own weddings, do we?”

“That we don’t,“ Mal said, taking Freya by the hand and leading her back inside. At the junction of the corridor he paused. “You know, you go get the boys, I’ll see to Zoe and River.“

“Why, do you want to give them the fatherly pep talk?” Freya teased.

“Last chance to change their minds, maybe.”

“I don’t think that’s gonna happen.”

“No. Me neither. But as I’m giving them away …”

“No, you’re right. Besides, Jayne and Hank should be there first anyway.”

He kissed her again lightly. “See you in a minute, xin gan.”

“Don’t be long,” she requested, heading off towards the men’s quarters.

Watching her leave, her curves accentuated by the heavy bronze fabric of her dress, he thanked every deity he could remember for having been given the privilege of knowing her, let alone taking her into his bed, into his life. He turned, heading along in the other direction. At River’s door he knocked.

Xiao nu?” he called, this time feeling it was most appropriate to call her daughter. “It’s time.”

to be continued

COMMENTS

Friday, January 18, 2008 4:32 PM

BADKARMA00


Totally awesome, especially the garden scene. Stunning. Just Stunning. Possibly your best work ever, Jane.

Good dialogue between Jayne and Freya as well, touching and honest. Two good friends, who maybe understand each other even better than their respective spouses.

I just can't see how this could have been any better.

Saturday, January 19, 2008 2:31 AM

AMDOBELL


Loved this to itty bitty pieces and am I the only one who had a little tear in my eye when River is showing Freya the ghosts of the garden and Book joins them? I would have loved it if when Mal appeared Freya had found a way to show him to Mal. Might have eased his mind a little knowing the good man was still there in some way and would watch over the weddings. I also loved Inara and Kaylee surprising an anxious Zow with what is sure to be the perfect dress for her wedding. Brilliant job, Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Saturday, January 19, 2008 5:28 AM

KATESFRIEND


I loved your little jaunt into the supernatural with Book and Amon. Your description of the garden was unworldly enough to be very real depiction of the unseen world. Great!

Sorry you're under the weather. If THIS is what you can accomplish when you're sick, nothing can stand in your way!

Waiting for the next section eagerly. Bethany's Noah was a perfect parallel with couples pairing up on a boat. And loving that Mal is going to be giving the brides away.

Saturday, January 19, 2008 6:09 AM

SLUMMING


Beautifully done! With your opening disclaimer, I was expecting a lot less, and I was pleasantly disappointed! Every word of this was simply lovely!

Monday, January 21, 2008 4:25 AM

COLT999


Good Stuff. Everyones interaction was great. I think I liked Hank asking Simon for help the best.


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“His name’s Jayne?”

“What’s wrong with that?” the ex-mercenary demanded from the doorway.

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He slammed the door behind him, making the plates rattle on the sideboard. “It’s okay, girl, I ain't gonna hurt you.” The cook, as tradition dictated, plump and rosy cheeked with her arms covered to the elbows in flour, but with a gypsy voluptuousness, picked up a rolling pin.

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“Did we …” “We did.” “Why?” As she raised an eyebrow at him he went on quickly, “I mean, we got a comfy bunk, not that far away. Is there any particular reason we’re in here instead?” “You don’t remember?” He concentrated for a moment, and the activities of a few hours previously burst onto him like a sunbeam. “Oh, right,” he acknowledged happily.

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