BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

JANE0904

Fixed - Part VII
Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Maya. Post-BDM. A party, and some conversations. NEW CHAPTER


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1963    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

Hermione sat in the deep armchair in the yellow drawing room, Caleb asleep in her arms, his blanket wrapped securely around him. She kept touching his face, just gently. “He’s so small,” she said, a mantra she’d been repeating ever since River let her hold him. “So small.”

“You wouldn’t have thought that if you’d had to give birth to him,” his mother said.

Noni blushed.

“Hell, moonbrain, she ain't gotta be thinking about things like that,” Jayne complained. “Not at her age.”

“When is the right age to be thinking about things like that?” River asked, quite seriously, her dark eyes on him. “There doesn’t seem to be an agreed birthday throughout the ‘verse from which sex is allowed, and where there are rules they seem entirely arbitrary.”

“Huh?”

“I’d like to know,” she explained. “Particularly as it’s not something I had experience of, as I was …” She shuddered slightly and didn’t continue with that thought. “Anyway, so far everyone I’ve met seems to be different. Mal was fourteen, yet Freya was much older. Kaylee was very young, but Simon …” Her nose wrinkled at the thought of her brother having sex. “And you -”

“We ain’t talking about me,” Jayne put in quickly.

“Was she nice to you?”

“Huh?”

“The whore they took you to. Was she nice? Did she make it pleasant for you?”

“You really wanna be going into that?”

“I’m curious.”

“And I think you’re doin’ this on purpose.”

River flashed him a grin. “Perhaps.”

“Well, I’m figuring that kinda conversation’s best left ‘til bedtime, and Noni’s too young to be hearing it in the first place.”

Hermione’s head dropped and the blush on her cheeks deepened.

River understood. “I think we might be too late.”

Jayne mock-bristled. “That so? You getting up to something you shouldn’t?”

“No, no!” Noni protested. Then a smile lifted her lips. “I just … there’s this boy I met. On Beaumonde. He … we’ve been waving each other.”

Jayne stood up. “What’s his name? And his Cortex address. ‘Cause I think maybe I should –”

“Stop it,” River said gently. “You’re not going to get involved.”

“But he’s hitting on Noni.”

“Actually it sounds like it’s the other way around.” River looked at the girl. “Is it?”

Noni giggled. “Pretty much.” She dropped her head. “He’s the son of a theatre owner where we played. He … we just got talking.”

“Long as it’s only that,” Jayne said, dropping back into the chair. “Otherwise I think it’d be beholden for me to tell Mal. She’s too young for … that kinda thing.”

“And there speaks a man of great maturity,” River said, tempering her words with a grin.

“That’s right,” Jayne agreed. “Mature. That’s me.”

“How old are …” Noni bit the words off but it was too late.

Jayne laughed. “As young as my hair and older’n my teeth.”

“What?”

“What?” River echoed.

Jayne had the grace to look a little embarrassed. “Something my Ma used to say.”

“Oh. That’s all right, then.”

Noni bit her lip. “I wanted to say … I was sorry to hear about her.” She sniffed a little. “I liked her. A lot.”

“She liked you too,” Jayne said. “And … thanks.”

“You’re welcome.”

“Anyway, it’s Mal you wanna be thinking about when it comes to age,” Jayne said, changing the subject as he pulled Binky from the sheath at his waist and began cleaning his fingernails. “He’s got a birthday coming up that’s just gonna be pure fun. Least, from our point of view.” He growled with laughter.

“Oh?”

“Jayne,” River admonished. “He doesn’t want a fuss.”

“What he wants and what he gets ain’t likely to be similar.”

The door opened silently, and Mrs Boden entered. “Excuse me, but … Mr Cobb?”

“Yeah?” Jayne saw the look on River’s face and stood up quickly, putting Binky away. “I mean, yes, ma‘am?”

“Would you be able to perhaps supply me with a few more of those rabbits? I had not anticipated quite so many mouths to feed, and I’m not sure my stores will stretch that far –“

The big man grinned. “Course I can. Ya want me to skin and gut ‘em too? ‘Way from the house?”

“If it isn’t too much trouble.”

“No trouble.” He headed for the door. “Half dozen do ya?”

“That would be most helpful.” She smiled at him.

He paused, his hand on the doorknob. “Say, you know how to do an Ezra Pot?”

Mrs Boden shook her head. “I don’t think I’ve heard of that dish. Perhaps you could give me the recipe.”

“Well, it was something my Ma used to make, and I ain’t never found anything like it.” He held the door open and let her precede him. “What it is, see, is … you take your rabbit and you …” His voice faded as the door closed behind him.

After a moment, Hermione asked softly, “What’s it like?”

“What?” River said, sitting on the chair arm.

“Being in love.”

River considered. “It’s like knowing all the best secrets in the ‘verse. Or rolling in melted chocolate. I haven’t quite decided.”

Noni stared at her, then laughed, waking Caleb. He mumbled his fingers in his mouth then started to take a deep breath. “River …”

“Give him to me.” River took her son and held him close, crooning over him. Immediately his eyes began to close again, and he drifted off. “He’s a good boy,” she said softly.

Noni watched her, her head slightly on one side. “I like the name Caleb, by the way. Is it for anyone?”

“Mal had an uncle by that name,” River explained. “It’s a long story, but he tried to save a great many people, and Jayne was … well, he respected that.” She stroked her son’s forehead. “And Francis is for Jayne’s father.”

“What about you? Didn’t you want your father’s name to be used?”

River shook her head. “It wouldn’t be appropriate.”

“I don’t understand.”

River wasn’t about to explain, but simply said, “Mal is as close as a father to me. So his uncle is my uncle. In a way, Caleb is honouring my family too.”

Noni’s brow furrowed. “I still don’t understand.”

“You don’t have to.” She suddenly smiled. “Do you want to hold him again?”

The young girl’s face brightened. “Could I?”

---

Later than evening, in the room Kaylee still insisted on calling the ballroom, the massed ranks of Serenity and Cressida gathered, and conversation surged softly like a stream babbling over stones and pebbles.

By the buffet table, groaning with food miraculously prepared by Mrs Boden …

“I can’t believe she managed to do all this.” Simon shook his head. “And so quickly.”

River delicately nibbled at something on a stick. “I think her husband probably helped.”

“Yes, but all of this …”

“Jayne donated the rabbits he shot.”

Simon stared down at the meat on his plate. “Are you saying that this is –”

“Don’t be a boob.”

By the window, looking out onto the Lazarene night …

“So, how did that happen?” Etta asked.

Kaylee touched the strapping. “I slipped. In the engine room.”

“I keep telling Theo, Pol has to be so careful. I’m surprised she hasn’t damaged herself more often.”

“It’s part of being a mechanic,” Kaylee said, glossing over the fact that it was River who had done the damage. “Ya get hurt once in a while, but mostly it’s just nicks or burns.” She leaned forward. “Although I do wonder sometimes whether the fumes make me hallucinate. Is that Mikel holding Pol’s hand?”

Etta smiled. “It certainly is.”

“How long’s that been going on?”

“Almost two months.”

“I’m so glad to hear that. She used to talk about him, when we were discussing engines.”

“Theo says Cressida hasn’t run so sweetly before. He thinks it’s something to do with her being happy.”

“You know, I wouldn’t be at all surprised.”

Back by the food …

“I don’t know how she did it, but she managed to make it taste almost as good as my Ma’s.” Jayne lifted another forkful of stew into his mouth, careful not to drop any on Caleb hanging in the sling across his chest.

Hank nodded. “Have to say, Jayne, it is good.”

“A’course, when my Ma did it, it was really only when we didn’t have the cash to get anything else. So it was kinda using up what was left. And there was only meat in it when Pa managed to bag a few with his rifle.”

“A few what?” Hank asked, chewing happily.

“Rabbits, a’course.” Jayne spooned another helping onto his plate and wandered off.

Hank stared after him, his mouth open. “Bunnies?”

By the fireplace, the logs crackling as the flames consumed them …

“I was Juliet. It was very exciting.” Noni was grinning widely.

“Who was Romeo?” Inara asked.

“Toby.” A slight grimace crossed her face.

“What was wrong with that?”

“I had to kiss him!”

Inara had to smile. “I’m sure found it just as awkward.”

“I think he did. But he kept making me laugh, and Theo got cross with us.”

“Theo?”

“Well, he looked at me and made me feel guilty.” Noni shook her head. “How do men do that?”

“It’s masculine wiles,” Inara explained. “The trick is to turn it back on them and make them feel guilty for making you feel guilty in the first place.”

“Yes, but if it’s our fault -”

“You never admit to that. Not unless it’s to your advantage.”

“Advantage?”

Inara leaned forward so no-one could overhear. “I think we need to do a little advanced training, Noni.”

Hermione nodded, her eyes huge.

By the drinks table …

“He’s a good-looking kid,” Toby said, looking down into the sling and wondering how a man could actually look more manly carrying a baby. “Looks just like you.”

“Gimme a few seconds to decide if I’m gonna take offence at that or not,” Jayne growled good-naturedly.

“Take it that I was complimentin’ ya.” His Dyton accent seemed more pronounced than usual, probably due to the amount of alcohol he’d been consuming. “So, you and River … still strong?”

“You still sly?”

“Yeah.”

“Same.”

“Pity.”

“Not to me.”

“Well, you ever change your mind …”

“You’ll be the first to know.”

“Shiny. Drink?”

“Don’t mind if I do.”

By the chairs resting against one wall …

“They’re watching him again,” River said softly.

Freya, Jesse asleep in her arms, looked in the same direction. “Who, the Reilly girls?”

River nodded. “Letitia and Rosemary, mostly.”

“It’s just a crush.”

“They think he’s suai.”

“Well, he is.” She flinched slightly at the intensity of the look River turned on her. “And he’s yours. Forever. That’s what the Preacher said. And you’ve got the ring to prove it.” She touched the tattoo around the young woman’s finger. “That won’t go away.”

River stared a moment longer, then dropped her eyes. “I know. It’s just …”

“Having children knocks your confidence somewhat,” Freya said, taking hold of her hand. “I know. For weeks I was convinced Mal wouldn’t ever look at me again without seeing a mother, not a lover.” Her lips twitched. “Then we were able to make love, and I realised I was being er bai wu.”

“You’re not stupid.”

“Oh, I was. The truth is, Mal loves me. Jayne loves you. It’s a simple equation.”

“But if there are variables thrown in –“

“It won’t make any difference.”

River turned her gaze back to Jayne. “I think I need to be with my husband a while.”

“Good idea.”

By the small Cortex box, playing music softly …

“You still want that other baby, don’t you, xiao mei-mei?” Mal said softly, standing next to his mechanic as she watched River take Caleb from Jayne.

Kaylee shrugged. “I got Bethie and Hope. Too many women don’t even have one baby. But …” She stopped, closing her mouth firmly.

“But it still makes you feel jealous.”

She jerked her head around to glare at him. “Not jealous.” The fire in her eyes died. “Not really. There’s no way in the ‘verse I’d want River not to have Caleb. Not so’s I could have one.”

“I know.” They watched the new mother for a while longer. “Think this is gonna make her more crazy than she was?” Mal finally asked.

“Prob’ly.” Kaylee could help the snort of laughter. “Hiding in the cupboard.”

Mal grinned too. “Yeah, that’s River.”

“Uncle Mal, will you dance with me?” Bethie asked, materialising in front of him.

Mal went down onto his heels. “Well, looks to me like nobody’s dancing, short stub.”

“Someone has to be first.” She twisted her foot on the floor. “Do you like my dress?” she asked.

“I think you’re very pretty.”

Bethie grinned. “Auntie Frey says it’s women who are pretty. So I’m a woman.”

Kaylee smiled. “I think you’ve a little way to go yet, sweetie,” she said.

“But Auntie Frey said so.”

“Then that must be the case,” Mal assured her. “And if that’s true then as a gentleman I guess I can’t turn down the offer from a pretty young lady such as yourself.” He held out his hands. “Looks like I'm dancing.”

By the tall jardinière containing a wild riot of late flowers …

“She played the part to perfection,” Theo said, smiling indulgently across the room at Hermione. “For someone so young she has great stage presence.”

“She’s very talented,” Freya agreed.

“Of course, it was only on some of the more off-Core worlds, but I see a bright future for her.”

“I'm glad she’s behaving herself.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t say that.” Theo laughed, his great girth vibrating. “But it’s so wonderful to have a young person like her around again. It’s given Etta something of a new lease of life, being able to look after her. And they’re so close, especially after …” He paused, and Freya squeezed his arm.

“I understand,” she said softly.

“I believe you do.” His mod lightened. “And I still want you to come and work for me. Between the two of us, I could see the Hawkins Troupe reclaiming its rightful place in the footlights of society.”

“I've got more than enough to keep me busy here,” Freya said, grinning. “But thanks for the offer.”

“My dear lady, I would sell Cressida to persuade you.” He took her hand and kissed it, bowing low.

“Etta warned me about you,” she said. “All the tricks you actors have.”

“No tricks, I assure you.”

Freya was about to answer but felt a tug on her pants. She looked down.

“Mama, will you dance with me?” Ethan asked, his blue eyes shining. “Daddy’s dancing with Bethie, and I want to.” He glanced at Theo. “Please?”

Theo laughed again, the sound cutting across the conversations in the room and turning all eyes onto them. “I don’t think I've ever heard such a polite request,” he said. “And I think it’s a good idea. Where’s my wife?” He hurried away through the crowd.

Freya smiled at Ethan. “You want to dance with me?”

“’Es. You’re my Mama.”

She felt her heart fill, and her skin warm. “Then I’d be delighted.” She took his hand and let him lead her into the centre of the room where Mal and little Bethie were already moving to the music.

“Shall we?” Simon said to Inara as they stood at the food table.

“Care to take my arm?” Hank asked Pol, putting his drink down.

“Fancy a turn with me?” Sam inquired of Zoe, smiling at her.

“Wanna show ‘em how it’s done?” Toby nudged Kaylee.

“Oh, come on,” River said to Jayne, handing Caleb to Hermione as she pulled her protesting husband out onto the floor.

In a few moments the whole party was dancing, and partners changed hands constantly, flowing through the room. Husbands touched wives only to find them whisked away again, until everyone had danced with everyone else, conversations half held and lost in the noise.

“Sir, are you okay?” Zoe asked as Mal found Kaylee had been pulled from his embrace to be replaced by his first mate.

“Shiny, Zoe.”

“Only you seem a bit distracted.”

“I'm trying to remember the dance steps. And there’s a lot of people in here.”

“Not that kind.” She let him lead her around Simon and Freya. “You’ve had something on your mind since you talked to Theo.”

He concentrated on not falling over his own feet for a moment, then said, “I … we’d best be having a meeting tomorrow, after the Cressida’s gone. There’s stuff we probably all need to talk ‘bout.”

“Should I be worried?”

“Not more’n usual. Well, not much more.”

“Sir -”

“Just enjoy this evening.”

“Is that an order?”

“It is.”

She smiled. “One of your more pleasant ones,” she said, as Hank took her hand and gave him River instead. “More than happy to obey,” she added as she was whisked away.

to be concluded

COMMENTS

Tuesday, March 11, 2008 5:30 AM

FREEVERSE


I love the intertwining snippets of conversation and affection here. Though I must confess, I've found myself agreeing with Hank on the subject of bunnies--plus, on the one occasion that a friend snared rabbits, they took so long to cook! Thank you, Jane.

-freeverse

Tuesday, March 11, 2008 5:47 AM

AMDOBELL


Uh oh, if Mal is worrying about something so am I (gulp). Is it bad that when things are going smoothly I get the jitters waiting for something to go wrong? Love this, am also wondering what in the nine hells Jayne has up his sleeve for Mal's birthday. Just hope it isn't something that will land him in the infirmary. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Tuesday, March 11, 2008 6:42 AM

BADKARMA00


Aw, a good night for all concerned. Loved River's line “It’s like knowing all the best secrets in the ‘verse. Or rolling in melted chocolate. I haven’t quite decided.”

That was just too cool. Love your work, Jane. And thanks for the Rayne bits:)

Tuesday, March 11, 2008 4:49 PM

NCBROWNCOAT


River did get it right about love.

BTW I'm getting the jitters too beause things are going so smooth. I think it may start going bad with Mal's birthday.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008 12:12 AM

WYTCHCROFT


this is the kind of souffle chapter you sometimes write - and i just sit back and smile:) often i don't know how else to respond - just a big damn smile is all:)
you have a unique touch Jane, you really do. many try, many fail - not you.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008 6:07 PM

KATESFRIEND


I loved how you partitioned the sections out by the locations of the room. This has all your wonderful foreshadowing of angst and all the best fluff in one package. Who could ask for more.


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