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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Maya. Post-BDM. Mal tells the crew about Theo's news. CONCLUDING CHAPTER for this story.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1099 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
“I am sorry we can’t stay longer,” Theo said, clasping Mal’s hand. “But business is business.”
“We won’t be dirtside much more ourselves.” Mal shrugged. “We need work, and all these extra mouths to feed …”
Theo laughed. “Ah, the problems of having a big family.”
“Ain't it just.”
“And don’t tell me you’re intending to stop at two yourself.”
Mal smirked. “I'm captain. I get to do what I like. Comes with the territory.”
“It does.” Theo gazed at the younger man. “Will you at least think about what I told you? Consider coming in on the right side, if the time comes?” He was trying not to wheedle, but his tone came close.
“I'm not sure the time’ll ever come.”
Theo noted the set line of Mal’s mouth, the determination in his eyes. “As I said before, you’re stubborn.”
“And it’s kept me and mine alive for a long while, Theo.” He sighed. “Look. There are others … people who’re pretty much of the same mind as you, people who might …” Mal stopped. “You let me know if you hear anything. Anything more’n rumours. I’ll pass it on. ‘N’ I’ll do the same back. That’s about all I can promise.”
“It’s more than I expected,” Theo said frankly.
“Had me a good night last night.”
“And a conversation with your wife?”
Mal grinned. “Frey’s always made me see sense. Well, most of the time.”
“I think that’s what wives are for, Mal.” Theo chuckled. “As well as for making us go grey.”
“Hey, speak for yourself,” he protested, then grinned. “But you got that right.” They shook again. “So you keep to our agreement, and don’t go getting involved in anything might hurt Noni, okay?”
“I promise.” Theo let go and stood back. “And you keep your family safe.”
“I intend to.”
The actor strode back to his ship, where Hermione was waiting in the hatchway, waving frantically to all the people outside the house. She moved aside to let Theo in, but was immediately back.
“Bye, Uncle Mal!” she shouted. “See you soon!”
“Be good,” he called above the sound of the Cressida’s engines starting to rise. “And do what you’re told.”
“Do what you’re told!”
“Can’t hear you,” she responded, but the grin on her face was enough.
“Yeah, right,” Mal murmured. He waved again as the hatch closed, stepping back. Cressida lifted off the ground, throwing dust and debris into the air, and he had to close his eyes for a moment, blinking hard to clear them. As soon as he could see again he looked up, barely in time to see the ship vanish into the clouds, and Lazarus felt emptier than it had a minute ago.
“Sir,” Zoe said behind him. “Ready for that talk now?”
Mal glanced over his shoulder at her. “I think so. Dining room. Five minutes.”
“Ain't my fault,” Jayne insisted. “They’re the ones keep following me around.”
River glared at him. “And you encourage them!”
“Not a bit.”
“Then you don’t discourage them.”
“River, what’s all this about?”
She looked at the floor, suddenly finding something intensely fascinating about the motes of dust dancing around her feet. “Nothing.”
“Nothing. Right.” He went to put his hands on her shoulders but she stepped back, so he crossed to the dining table and sat down. “Seems to me there’s something.”
She shook her head. “No.”
“Okay.” He put his feet onto the polished wood. “’Cause all I did before was show ‘em how to use my guns. Reckon even girls learning how to be women under Inara need to know how to defend themselves. That was all. If’n they took it into their heads that I was some kinda hero, that’s up to them.”
“They’re children!” She lifted her head, glaring at him.
“Maybe. ‘Cept Val and Phoebe ain’t that much younger’n you. And on some planets they’d most be married by now. But that ain't the point.” He put his hands behind his head. “Maybe it’s right that they look up to me. Like a father figure. Hell, it ain't like Mal’s making that good a job of it.”
Suddenly she was in front of him, her fists balled. “Mal is a good father. To all of us.”
Just as quickly he sat up, taking hold of her arms and pulling her down to his lap. “I know, moonbrain. And I'm just teasing you, trying to make you see this is all just crazy talk.” He held her close, even though her body was stiff in his embrace. “Simon said there might be something like this, ‘though I’d never’ve thought it was you getting jealous over little spits like them girls.”
She turned her head to look at him, her gaze boring into the depths of his blue eyes. “Fat.”
“No, you ain’t.”
She touched her belly, still soft from carrying Caleb. “Am.”
He suddenly chuckled. “We likely to have an argument over that, now, too?”
“Not if you agree with me.”
He put his hand on top of hers, rubbing gently in circular motions, feeling her begin to relax. “Your bro’s amazed how quick you’re fixing back up, River. Took Kaylee a lot longer, and Frey too. But you’ve been holding my son safe, and that changes things. Can’t expect them things to go back to how they were just like that.”
She rested her head on his shoulder. “Why not?”
“’Cause you’re human.”
“Sure you are. Crazy, yeah, but you’re still a person, and persons don’t –“
He was interrupted by the door opening.
“I'm not getting a good feeling about this,” Hank was saying.
“I don’t think anyone is, dear,” Zoe responded, following him inside, putting Ben down to the floor.
“If the Cap want to talk to us all, I'm thinking it’s bad,” Kaylee commented.
Simon nodded. “Otherwise he’d wait until we were sitting down to eat.”
Inara was silent, but held tightly to Sam’s hand.
“Do you know what this is about?” Hank asked River.
“There’s darkness. A fog.” She shook her head. “And I won’t peek.”
“Not asking for that, honey, just an idea. Are we likely to end up dead?”
“Like … how soon?”
She didn’t answer, just gazed at him with her huge dark eyes, and everyone felt a chill settle around them.
The door opened again, and Bethie bounced in, Ethan close behind, Hope holding his shirtsleeve. “Momma, Ethan wants to know what’s going on,” the little girl announced.
Ethan rolled his eyes, but kept quiet.
“We’re just gonna talk, Bethie,” Kaylee said, going down onto her heels and brushing her daughter’s hair out of her face. “That’s all.”
“Can we listen?”
“Don’t think that’s a good idea, pumpkin,” Mal said from the doorway. “It’s grown-up talk.”
Bethie glared at him. “I'm nearly grown-up.”
“Not nearly enough. Not today.” He smiled at her. “You go on and play somewhere else for a while.”
“But Uncle Mal –“
“No arguing.” His voice was firm, his manner unshakeable.
Bethie looked for support from her mother and father, but found none. She sighed heavily. “Come on,” she said, taking Ethan and Ben by the hand. “Let’s go play with the puppies. While they talk about important things.”
“Important,” Ethan agreed, leading Hope out into the hall.
Freya closed the door behind them. “You know Bethie’s probably aware what you’re gonna talk to us about, don’t you?” she said, looking at Mal.
“Can’t help that. But it’s not something I want the other kids to hear about.”
Hank swallowed. “Is it really that bad?”
“It might be.”
The pilot sat down next to his wife, taking her hand. “Better get on with it, then.”
Mal glanced at Freya, who nodded slightly. Walking to the empty fireplace, he hooked his thumbs into his pockets and began, “Theo and me had a conversation yesterday. ‘Bout things he’s heard, things he’s seen …” It didn’t take long to go over the little information he had, added to what Andrew Brooks had worked out, but by the end most of the people in front of him looked shocked.
“Sir, that’s …” Zoe for once found herself without words.
Hank stirred. “You know, that kinda makes sense. Oh, not the rest of it, but the revolution part.” He realised everyone was looking at him oddly. “It’s just … before I joined you, I did a lot of odd jobs, flying this and that. And one of my previous captains was a staunch supporter of the Independent cause. He kept going on about arms being stockpiled, that what goes around comes around. I just thought he was crazy, but maybe he wasn’t. Well, maybe not so much. He still carried on talking to a parrot on his shoulder.”
“Lots of people talk to pets,” Freya put in.
“Yeah, ‘cept this one had been dead more’n a decade.”
“Needless to say I left his employ at the earliest opportunity.” He laughed shortly. “Then I come here and it’s like déjà vu.”
“I don’t recall ever talking to a dead parrot,” Mal pointed out, but he was glad the pilot had spoken. His comments had broken a little of the tension in the room. “Least, not for a while.” He straightened his shoulders. “But at least we’re a bit better informed now.”
“Are you sure they ain’t after Bethie?” Kaylee asked, her fingernails digging into the palms of her hands.
“No. Can’t say I am, because I'm not,” Mal admitted. “Theo didn’t see much and not one of us can guarantee she ain’t mentioned elsewhere.”
“Mal, I couldn’t bear anything happening to her.”
“I know, mei-mei. And you know I’d die ‘fore I let that occur. So’d any one of us. Hell, all of us.” He looked around at his crew, who were all nodding in agreement. “But it ain’t like this is something new. We’ve always been chased by someone or other … now we’re just adding to the list.”
“I'm sorry, Mal,” Simon said. “It’s all my fault.”
“How’d you figure that?”
“It’s me they’re after, and that’s putting all of you at risk. Perhaps it would be better if I –“
“No!” Kaylee jumped to her feet, glaring at him. “You stop right there!”
“Kaylee, I was just going to suggest –“
“No! One more word and I’ll …. I’ll … sick Jayne on you!” She was furious, her anger fuelled by fear. “You ain’t going nowhere!”
He reached for her. “But if it –“
Kaylee backed away and pointed at him. “Jayne.”
The big man stood up slowly. “My pleasure.”
Simon looked to his sister for protection, but she just shrugged and said, “I’m not going to stop him.”
“Jayne, you sit back down,” Mal ordered. “This ain't the time for bloodshed. Not yet. Keep that until you’re in your bunks.” He looked back at the young doctor. “But she’s right, Simon. Told you once before that you were safer on the move, and that ain't changed. So no more talk about you leaving Serenity.”
Simon looked at him then nodded, relaxing just a micron. “Okay.”
“But we need to take precautions. Be sensible.” He lifted his chin, ready to give orders. “You don’t go out alone, and you carry a beacon at all times you’re off the ship. You and River. Bethie too.” He looked at Kaylee. “Can you rig something? Small enough so it ain’t obvious?”
“Sure.” Her brow furrowed in concentration, already planning it in her mind. “Prob’ly got most of the parts, but I might need to buy some bits.”
“You make a list, give it to me. I’ll make sure you get what you need.” He turned back to Simon. “You don’t use the Cortex ‘less you have to. You wanna talk to someone, you write, or you tell me and I’ll do it.”
“I hardly contact anyone,” Simon pointed out.
“Well, I'm sorry you ain’t got many friends, but that’s probably for the best.”
“It’s nice to be so popular.”
Mal suppressed a smile at his dry tone. “People, just remember, we ain't no worse off than we were before, but this’s just brought it closer to home.”
“Do you think Theo was right, sir? That we can’t trust our friends either?” Zoe asked.
Mal shrugged. “There’s maybe a handful of people I’d trust with our lives, if it came to it, but I don’t think they’re who Theo meant.”
“Badger,” Hank put in.
“Can’t say I class him as a friend, so he’s more the kind I was thinking of. Acquaintances and the like.”
Jayne growled. “Wouldn’t put it past that weasel to sell us out,” he muttered.
“Neither would I, but we just make sure we’re careful when we’re dealing with him and his ilk.”
Sam spoke up for the first time. “What about the virus on Persephone? Do you think he was right about it happening elsewhere?”
Mal shrugged. “There’s been nothing on the Cortex. I checked. But if someone were experimenting, a small outbreak, on a moon with maybe a few hundred settlers … could be done, and no-one’d be any the wiser.”
“Dillon might know,” Freya suggested. “He said he was going to keep a watch on things like that.”
“Might be worth waving him.”
Jayne stirred uneasily. “He thinks it was the Alliance, don’t he?”
“That he does, and I'm inclined to that way of thinking myself.” Mal rubbed one hand through his hair. “But I've been wrong before.”
This time Mal let the corners of his mouth lift. “’Ccasionally.” He looked at his crew. “It’s possible we’re all jumping at shadows here. Theo can’t swear what the rest of the message said, just that it mentioned Simon Tam and Andrew Brooks. Might be it was just a notification of the old man’s death, and for the news to be passed on to Simon if anyone saw him.”
“You don’t think that,” the young man said.
“No. I reckon I don’t. So we take precautions. We’re careful who we deal with. Like always. We make sure we’re armed when we leave the boat. Like always. And we tell people where we’re going. Like we’re supposed to.” He shook his head slightly. “I ain't saying we’re in a worse situation than we were, ‘cause we ain’t. We’ve always been the underdog in these things, and we’ve gotten pretty good at looking over our shoulder. It’s just … maybe … we need to remember it more. And we take care of our own.”
Inara sat forward. “And you’ve always got a safe place to come back to here. You know you can stay as long as you want.”
Mal smiled. “Thanks, ‘Nara. And it’s good to take our ease once in a while, but this is your home. Can’t be putting our troubles onto you all the time.”
“You just said. We take care of our own. And that means all of us.” She looked at Sam for support, and he nodded in agreement.
“I know people, Mal,” the therapist said. “People who are very discreet. I can ask them to keep their ears open.”
“Dillon too,” Freya added. “And I could always ask Alex …”
“Maybe we’ve got more friends than you thought,” Hank said.
Mal chuckled. “I guess maybe we do. It’s warming to think we ain't alone out here in the black.”
“I’ll remind you you’re not in the black at the moment,” Inara said. “You’re here, and you’re safe. All of you.”
“Maybe it’s a good thing we can’t have more kids,” Kaylee said suddenly.
“What?” Simon stared at her.
“If’n it is your genes, we could –“
“No, bao bei.” He took her hands. “I want another baby just as badly as you do. I love our little family and I want what you want. And even knowing we’ve got hwoon dahns after us won’t change that.”
She sniffed, realising how strongly he felt by him actually cussing. “Guess not.”
“And we couldn’t keep Bethie safer unless we locked her up in a tower somewhere.”
“She could grow her hair,” River put in. “Like Rapunzel. Then a knight in shining armour would come along one day and climb up it to rescue her.”
Now Kaylee had to smile. “Nah. Not a knight. A pirate, maybe.”
“Sound much more like it,” Mal agreed, grinning. “You know, I can see her running off one day with a guy wearing swords and an eyepatch.”
“Over my dead body,” Simon deadpanned.
Everyone laughed, even as Inara stood up. “Come on,” she said, smiling. “Mrs Boden is going to get very annoyed with us if we don’t leave this room so she can set up for lunch.”
“Does she ever get annoyed?” Zoe asked.
“I believe so, at least from what her husband says.”
“Must be something fierce to see,” Kaylee put in. “It’s always the quiet ones are the worst.”
“’Sides, I'm starving,” Jayne added.
“You always are,” River responded, putting her hand on his arm.
“Hey, Mal, can’t we persuade her to come on board with us?” he asked. “Kinda like the idea of eating actual food once in a while.”
“It’s not that bad,” Freya said.
Jayne just glared at her.
“I don’t think she’ll be leaving Inara anytime soon,” Mal said. “Not that it hasn’t crossed my mind.”
The door opened and Bethie stuck her head around. “Are you finished? Only Ethan wants to go to the beach, and I still haven’t seen the rabbits, and –“
Mal held up his hand. “It’s okay, short stub, we’re finished.”
“Good.” She grinned, showing all her little teeth. “And it’s nearly lunchtime.”
He looked at Kaylee, managing a severe expression. “Are you sure she isn’t Jayne’s?”
The big man chuckled until River elbowed him. Kaylee didn’t even deign to grace that with a response.
Mal watched until everyone had left apart from Freya. “You okay?” he asked quietly.
“’Cause you don’t sound too sure.”
“I was just thinking about the Alliance. Maybe another war …”
He pulled her towards him. “I told Theo I wouldn’t fight. He wanted me to lead, but … you’re more important than anything else, xin gan. You and Ethan and Jesse.”
She looked into his blue eyes, soft and loving. “I'm glad. But if we need to –“
“I’d kill every single Fed to keep you safe.”
She didn’t even need to peek: she could tell by his tone he meant every word. “With a spoon?” she asked, her lips twitching.
“Yeah.” He thought a moment. “Might need two, though.”
“I’ll keep them ready.”
He laughed, the sound warming her very soul. “So. The beach, huh?” he said, putting his arms around her waist.
“He probably wants to see you fall in the mud again.” She felt his body press against hers, and she revelled in the closeness.
“Nah. I think he wants to see his Mama get all messy.”
“Don’t want to disappoint him, then, do we?”
He grinned, leading her towards the door. “Surely don’t.”
A.N: This title, and its predecessor BROKEN, really comes from Kaylee's line from OUT OF GAS: "Sometimes something’s broke can’t be fixed." As you can tell, there will be more to this. In a while. After these messages from our sponsors ... J
Thursday, March 13, 2008 9:17 AM
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