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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Maya. Post-BDM. Jayne finds something that helps River, but there's more trouble brewing. NEW CHAPTER
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1765 RATING: 10 SERIES: FIREFLY
The three day trip to Argus went as well as could be expected, especially as most of the crew spent the time keeping metal utensils out of River’s way at the same time as trying to come up with various small, repetitive tasks she could perform. It seemed to work, as she sorted the odds and ends in a box Hank found which had been long forgotten in the cargo bay, undid the tangle of string Freya provided, and she even went through all the seeds she’d collected and was going to plant once she could tend her garden again. She seemed more centred, more relaxed.
The most surprising and effective task, however, was one dreamed up by Jayne.
The morning of the second day everyone sat down to breakfast of protein bars and coffee - it being Hank’s turn to cook, and these were the things least likely to cause a fire - and chatted amongst themselves, talking of mundane things such as how they intended to spend the day, whether Freya was going to be able to help Kaylee or teach lessons, and how they were going to spend the money due them from the delivery on Argus. River seemed to be listening, but her hand edged towards the salt even as Jayne dropped his large one on top.
“River,” he said softly. “Ya don’t want that. Eat your breakfast.”
“Not hungry,” she demurred, still gazing at the salt pot. “Don’t want it to consume.”
Mal glanced at Jayne, wondering if they were going to have to watch River counting out the tiny grains of salt, one at a time, but the big man shook his head slightly.
“Got something for ya better’n that,” he said. Getting to his feet he crossed to the cupboards behind the counter, opening the top one that held his bottle of booze out of the way of tiny, prying fingers, and reached inside. When he turned around he had a small bundle in his hand, which he placed in front of his young wife. “Here. Made this for ya.”
River touched it with awe, eventually unwrapping it as he took his place back next to her.
Everyone else watched as the contents were revealed.
“Knitting needles?” Kaylee said, her voice high with surprise.
She was right. Inside the cloth bundle was a pair of wooden knitting needles and a ball of wool.
“I made ‘em,” Jayne explained. “Last night. Couldn’t sleep so I … well, I figured you could learn how to knit.” He looked at her under his eyebrows. “You can’t, can you?” he asked, just a little unsure.
“No-one ever showed me,” River admitted, running her fingers across the polished wood. There was the very faintest scent of best gun oil, and she realised that’s what he’d used to make them shine, stroking them like they were the finest tools in the ‘verse.
“Where’d you get the wool, Jayne?” Hank asked, his eyes drawn to the odd colours in the ball.
“Bits. Stuff.” The big man was evasive. “But there’s more if you need it, River.”
“Wait a minute.” Simon leaned forward. “Is that … my sweater?” He touched a grey streak in the yarn.
“Sweater?” Jayne shrugged. “Wouldn’t know.”
Simon picked it up, examining it closely. “It is. Damn it, Jayne, it is my sweater!”
“Just lying there, doc.” The big man wasn’t about to allow Simon to get all prissy on him. “Should take better care of your stuff if you don’t want it used for scrap.”
River took the ball out of his hand. “I like it,” she said, putting it against her face to feel the texture.
Jayne smiled. “That’s good.”
“Why didn’t you use something of your own to pull apart?” Simon asked, feeling more than a little annoyed.
“Your sister, doc. Thought you’ve been pleased to help her.”
“But you didn’t ask!”
“Simon, it had a hole in it anyway,” Kaylee pointed out, trying to calm the situation.
“I was intending to mend it, and that’s not the point!”
“And I did put something of mine in there.” Jayne rolled the ball to show an orange section.
“Oh, no,” Freya said. “Not your hat.”
River gasped. “No,” she whispered.
“Not all of it, girl,” Jayne hurriedly assured her. “Just the pom-pom on top. So what you make for the baby has something of my Ma in it.”
She looked down at the ball then up at him. Her eyes were suspiciously moist. “Is this for me to make for him?”
“Yeah. Kinda the first gift.” He half-grinned. “If you want.”
She threw her arms around his neck and kissed him hard.
“Albatross, put the man down,” Mal ordered, swallowing slightly, as always a little surprised by his mercenary‘s occasional flashes of sentiment. “It ain’t exactly appropriate behaviour at the breakfast table.”
Kaylee smiled widely. “I could show you how to knit, but I need two hands.” She glanced down at her shoulder. “Maybe if I talked you through it …”
“I’ll show her,” Jayne said unexpectedly, moving his wife away from him enough so he could look into her face and wipe the tears from her cheeks. “My Ma showed me and Matty how when we were young. Might take me a while to remember all the different stitches, but I’ll do it.”
Simon couldn’t stop himself. “You? Knit?”
“It’s a time-honoured tradition, doc,” Mal put in quickly, in case of bloodshed. “My Ma tried to show me, ’cept I was all thumbs. But I do remember her saying her mother’d told her it used to be men who knit. Back on Earth-that-was.”
Freya nodded. “I heard that too. Sailors, mostly. Not the stars, but the seas.”
“Then I apologise,” Simon said, turning a little pink.
“Nah,” Jayne chuckled. “If’n I’d heard about a man could knit, I’d’a made fun of him too, so I ain’t gonna hold it against ya. This time.”
Zoe stirred. “Jayne, there’s an old sweater of Wash’s I’ve still got. Maybe you could undo that.”
“Really?” The big man was taken aback, along with everyone else at the table. “I mean, I took the doc’s just to wind him up.” He tilted his head at the young man. “Sorry, doc.”
Simon shook his head, gritting his teeth only a little bit. “No problem.”
“And ‘cause I needed more’n I had,” Jayne went on. “But I never thought -”
“It’s for the baby,” Zoe interrupted. “I think Wash would have approved.”
Hank reached over and took her hand, squeezing it gently.
“Oh, that is so sweet!” Kaylee gushed. “I’ve got something somewhere you can use, I know it.”
Bethie piped up excitedly, “That green top Auntie ‘Nara bought me. I’ve growed out of it.”
“Grown out of it,” Simon corrected, but no-one was listening.
“Hey, I ain’t taught her to knit yet,” Jayne said swiftly. “But if’n you all want to contribute, that’d be shiny.”
“Now?” River asked, holding out the needles.
“You eat your breakfast first, xiao nu,” Mal said from the head of the table. “That’s the deal.”
River glanced from him to her husband.
Jayne nodded. “Mal’s right, baby. You eat first.”
With something approaching disgust on her face, River picked up one of the protein bars and took a tiny nibble.
Freya smiled, then looked at Mal. “Well?” she asked. “Isn’t this the point at which you tell everyone if they’ve got jobs to do, to go and do them?”
He let his own lips curve. “Am I that predictable?”
“Course you are, Cap’n. S’why we love you,” Kaylee put in, grinning widely at him. “You gonna help me today?” she asked Freya.
“Good.” She stood up and looked down at her own husband. “Can you look after the children? ‘Cause there’s a few things I … we need to get done.”
Simon nodded. “You need to have another physio session on your shoulder, but that can wait until this afternoon. I‘ll take care of them.”
Ethan sat up. “Can we look up diseases?” he asked hopefully.
“I can bandage you up,” Bethie offered.
Mal laughed. “I think you might’ve bitten off more than you can chew, Simon.”
“The story of my life,” the young doctor said dryly.
Everyone left the table apart from Jayne and River, who was still chewing her way slowly through her breakfast.
“Anyone but me feeling a mite concerned that Jayne’s just given our resident crazy person what amounts to a couple of sharp, pointy, lethal weapons?” Hank murmured as he and Zoe headed for the bridge.
“The rabbit goes in the hole. The dog chases round the rabbit. The rabbit ducks behind the tree and comes outta the hole again.”
“Jayne, I’m not six.”
“Fine. Go ahead. Show me.”
There was a long silence.
“The rabbit appears to have multiplied.”
“That’s just ‘cause ya didn’t bring him round the tree, River. Just pull ‘im back and start again.”
“There’s no logic to this.”
“Sure there is. Just put the rabbit back in the hole.”
“Back in the hole. The dog chases the rabbit …”
Down in the engine room Kaylee leaned against the doorway. “That’s so sweet,” she said. “Who’d’a known Jayne’d have that much patience.”
Freya, laying on the floor and not feeling very patient with a valve she was trying to tighten, sighed. “He’s a tracker. He’s spent hours waiting in the same place, same position for his prey to come along.”
“You’d think she’d just pick it out of his brain. You know, read him.” Kaylee shook her head. “Be easier.”
“That’s not what this is about, though, is it? She wants to learn, and Jayne wants to teach.”
“I know. But it’s like I said. Sweet.” Kaylee sighed, smiling happily.
“I’m not disagreeing with you,” Freya said, then jumped as the wrench sprang loose and caught her across the knuckles. “Mei yu mou qin de xiao gou,” she swore somewhat incomprehensibly as she sucked the graze, tasting sweat and engine grease on her skin.
Kaylee turned quickly back to her engine. “You okay?”
“Fine. Just fine.” She inspected her hand. “Nothing that six hours of surgery and a couple of dozen weaves won’t put right.“
Kaylee laughed. “You’re worse than Bethie.”
Freya peered out from under the housing. “Thanks so much for comparing me to a four year old,” she said, glaring at the mechanic, before retreating and attacking the valve once more.
Back in the galley, the conversation continued.
“Jayne, the hole appears to have got bigger.”
“That just means you dropped a stitch.”
“How can I have? It isn’t on the floor.”
“Let’s start again …”
By dinnertime that evening everyone on board had got sick and tired of hearing about rabbits and dogs going down holes. Except River, who sat in the small lounge area working studiously. As Zoe cleared up after their meal, she glanced across at the young woman, staring intently at the small piece of knitting she had managed to produce.
“She’s doing okay,” Jayne said before the first mate could speak. He handed her the last of the plates. “I think it’s been a while since she’s done something needs practice to get it right.”
“Not everyone can knit, Jayne,” Zoe pointed out.
“Can you?” the big man countered.
He grinned. “Ain’t surprised. Somehow I can’t see you with a coupla needles and a ball of yarn.”
“It’s supposed to be good for keeping the fingers supple. Gallagher, during the war, used to do it a lot. We’d hear his needles clacking away in the middle of the night, ‘til he lost his kit somewhere, and wasn’t able to replace it.” She smiled. “He loved those things more’n he loved a woman, Mal said. And he never did really recover when they went missing.” She chuckled. “Rumour had it the Sergeant was responsible for their disappearance, on account of the noise Gallagher used to make with ‘em, only it was never proved.”
Jayne laughed. “Must be like Mal says, then. Not a girlie thing at all.”
“Nope. I think the captain’s right.” She nodded towards River. “You’d better get her to bed before she wears them needles out and you have to make her a new pair.”
“On our way, Zoe.” He smiled and went to collect his wife.
That night, waking from a dream of flashing needles and dogs chasing rabbits, Mal turned over in bed and reached out for Freya, but there was only empty sheets. Fighting through the sleep that tried to reclaim him, he forced his eyes open and looked around. She wasn’t in the room, and he could see the hatch above the ladder was open.
He sighed and laid back. It wasn’t unknown for her to get up in the night, sometimes from hunger, or occasionally because she couldn’t sleep and didn’t want to wake him, but usually she’d be back quite quickly. He waited, the coolness of the bed next to him keeping him from dozing, but she didn’t reappear.
Pummelling the pillow, he glanced around the room, then sat up. Wherever she was, she appeared to be naked. Her clothes were where she’d left them, tangled with his on the chair, and her robe still hung from its hook.
He threw the sheet back and swung his legs over the side of the mattress. It really wasn’t like her to be wandering the ship nude. Grabbing his pants he stood up, tugging them on and buttoning them enough to stop them sliding off his hips before he hurried up the ladder.
A quick glance into the dining area proved the galley to be empty, and there was no movement further along towards the engine room either. Heading back, he took the stairs towards the cargo bay, his bare feet not making much sound on the cold metal. As he stepped into the large dark space, however, he let out a long breath of relief. In the gloom, her skin glowing, Freya was standing by the bulkhead, leaning both hands on it, her head down.
“Frey?” he called.
She didn’t respond.
He walked down the stairs and across the floor to her, feeling the grating pressing uncomfortably into the souls of his feet. She was by the smuggling compartment, as if communing with something inside.
“Frey, you should be in bed.” He put his hand on her shoulder, but she didn’t move. Ducking his head he looked into her face. Her eyes were open, but there was no recognition in them, nor any other expression, while her lips were slightly parted, her breathing even.
This he understood. She was sleepwalking.
She’d done it a couple of times over the past few years, once when she was recovering from what Wing did to her, and once when he found her in the nursery, watching Ethan dream, just a few days after they brought him home from the hospital and the pacemaker implant. Neither times did she wake when he took her back to bed, nor did she remember it in the morning. It only ever seemed to be when she was worried about something, or particularly stressed, but he couldn’t fathom what might be the cause this time.
“It’s late, Frey,” he said softly, taking her by the shoulders and steering her back towards the stairs. She didn‘t resist. “There’s a nice warm bunk waiting for you, and a nice warm husband to lie next to. Need to be up bright and early for that job, too, so you need to get your beauty sleep.” He put his arm around her and they walked up the steps. ”Not that you need it. You’re beautiful enough as it is. Any more and I’d have to be beating other men off with a stick every time we landed someplace. Not that I wouldn’t either. Not having them coming around trying to steal you from me. I’d set Jayne on ‘em ‘fore that happened.” His voice died away as they walked slowly through the top doorway.
Down below, in the smuggler’s hole within the wall, not more than a couple of feet from where she’d been standing, the three crates were waiting to be delivered. Two were quiet, inert. But deep inside the third, in the centre of the box of stabilisers, a small beacon flashed the Firefly’s position.
to be continued
A.N.: My apologies for the delays in getting these chapters out. I am fighting writer's block here, and if this isn't up to my usual standard, please forgive me. Jane
Saturday, February 16, 2008 4:43 PM
Saturday, February 16, 2008 5:11 PM
Saturday, February 16, 2008 5:37 PM
Sunday, February 17, 2008 12:17 AM
Sunday, February 17, 2008 7:20 AM
Monday, February 18, 2008 12:00 AM
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