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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Maya. Post-BDM. Serenity leaves Ariel, but all isn't as it seems. NEW CHAPTER
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1761 RATING: 10 SERIES: FIREFLY
The shuttle docked, and immediately the door opened. Mal stepped out, with Simon helping Jayne through. The big man had rallied somewhat on the trip back, mainly due to being forcibly fed water with some glucose dissolved into it.
“You’re badly dehydrated,” Simon explained. “That’s why you threw up.” He shook his head. “And you should have come to me as soon as you started to feel ill.”
“Kinda came on me sudden,” Jayne said, leaning back on the bulkhead. “Just ached a bit, then … wham.”
“And what if there’d been shooting?” Mal asked, more than a little exasperated. “I needed to know, Jayne. What if we’d been on a job that went wrong, and you were needed? I doubt you could even hold a gun right now, let alone fire it.”
“I ain't that bad.”
“Keep drinking,” Simon ordered. “Or I’ll put you on a drip when we get back.”
Jayne grimaced and took another mouthful, swallowing it painfully. “Anyway,” he added to Mal, “this job ain't exactly ever gone right, has it?”
“Well we’re gonna make it right,” Mal said. “Taking it back.”
“Still think we shoulda burned it,” the ex-mercenary muttered, but only really to himself.
River was waiting. “Jayne.”
“You gonna keep him in line?” Mal asked. “Tell him he ain't allowed to do that again?”
“I shall remonstrate with him,” the young woman promised.
“But you’re going to the infirmary first,” Simon ordered.
“Hang on there,” Mal put in, holding out a restraining arm. He’d noticed movement in the cargo bay. Stepping to the railing, he looked over. “We got company?” he called to Zoe, who was watching Kaylee take a man and woman through towards the lower quarters.
“Yes, sir. Young couple.”
“Good. Get them settled in. We’ll be taking off as soon as we can.”
“Did we get paid?”
“Sort of.” Mal dropped the pack over the edge, Zoe catching it automatically. “I’ll explain later.”
She stared at the bag, as if it was about to burst into flames. “Tzao gao.”
“Couldn’t have put it better myself. Make sure it gets back somewhere … safe.” Mal turned back to Simon. “If we’ve got paying customers we don’t exactly want them to think they’re on a plague boat. Will it make any difference if Jayne stays in his shuttle?”
“Well, I –“
“Be more comfy among my own things,” the ex-mercenary said, leaning on the doorway. “And it ain't far if’n I need to get there.”
Simon took in the man’s pallor, the sweaty quality of his skin. “And if I tell you to go there, you go, dong mah?”
“Then …” Simon warred with himself mentally, but the look the big man was giving him tipped the scales. “I’ll get my medical kit, check you over inside.”
“Thanks, doc.” Jayne pulled himself forward, heading for his own bed, even as River put her shoulder under his arm. “Not my fault,” he said softly.
“My Jayne needs to rest,” she said, helping him across the catwalk to their home.
“He’s in a bad way, doc,” Mal said after they’d disappeared.
“I know.” Concern knotted the younger man’s forehead. “And there’s no reason for it. The antibiotics I gave him should have cleared this right up.”
“Then you’d better go take a look at that culture you got growing. If I'm likely to be out a gunhand, I’d like some fair warning.” Mal strode away towards the bridge.
“He didn’t mean it,” Freya said quietly from the doorway to the shuttle. “He’s as worried about Jayne as the rest of us.”
“If I hadn’t got used to what Mal says not being the same as what Mal means by now, I wouldn’t be very good at my job, would I?”
“And you are, at that.” Freya patted his arm and followed her husband. “Which is useful. ’Cause those antibiotics aren’t up to snuff.”
Simon stared after her for a moment, then hurried down the stairs to the infirmary. There was something else he hadn’t checked, after all. Maybe he wasn't as good at his job as everyone thought.
Bethie watched as her mother prepared the evening meal. Something wasn't right, but every time she tried to put her finger on it, it seemed to skitter away. Something to do with Uncle Mal? Maybe. The passengers? Perhaps. She wanted to speak to Auntie River about it, but she was busy looking after Uncle Jayne. He was sick, and it was like a weight on all of them. That and the thing that had come back with them again. Auntie Frey had said they were taking it home, but it still made everything feel wrong. Maybe Auntie Frey could … but she was still a bit wary of going to her, after the business with Ethan.
She chewed on the edge of her nail.
“Sweetie?” Kaylee glanced at her daughter. “You all right?”
“Shiny.” Bethie threw a quick smile then went back to work on her finger.
“You keep doing that and I’ll have to get your Daddy to paint something nasty on you to stop you,” Kaylee pointed out. “Else you’ll end up half way up your arm.”
“You sure there ain't anything?”
Bethie realised her mother was gazing at her. “’M fine, Momma. Just hungry.”
Kaylee smiled. “Never knew a minute you weren’t.” She turned back to the stove. “Not long now. Do you want to help set the table?”
“Okay, Momma.” Anything to stop worrying.
“Mal, I’ve figured it out.” Simon stood in the entrance to the bridge.
“Oh? What particular thing is this?” Mal looked round from the pilot’s seat, giving Freya a break to bathe Jesse and get her ready for bed.
“Why Jayne’s not improving.”
“Best to come in and explain it to me, then.”
Simon crossed the small room and dropped into the other chair. “It’s the antibiotics themselves.”
“The culture I took shows the infection is pretty virulent, which is why Jayne’s in the state he’s in, but the antibiotics should still have stopped it.”
“So you said.”
“So I wondered … I tested the antibiotics themselves.” He sighed heavily. “Most of them are just coloured water.”
Mal sat up straighter. “Where’d we get them from?”
“Zoe picked them up on Ariel when we were here before,” Simon explained. “I couldn’t exactly go out, not on a Core planet, so –“
“All of ‘em?”
“Most. Out of the ten phials she bought, eight are fakes.”
“Xian dao shen, that could’ve killed the man.”
“In point of fact, that was quite possible.” Simon shook his head. “This particular infection could have run riot, shut down his kidneys, his liver … you seriously could have been burying him.”
“Do you have enough? Of the real thing?” Mal quickly checked their position, making mental calculations. “If you need to get more, we can change course, head to –“
“No. It’s all right. What I have is enough, so long as nobody else decides to damage themselves. I've already given him a full strength dose from what’s left. He should be fine in a few days.”
“Good to know.” He glanced down the corridor. “Remind me to knock over a hospital soon, will you?”
“Don’t worry, I will.” Simon tapped his fingers on the arm rest.
“What?” Mal asked.
“I just … I wondered if there was any way of letting the authorities know? I’d hate to think someone else was relying on it, maybe died because it wasn’t real.”
Mal gazed at him, and was reminded that underneath it all, under that slight veneer he’d gained over the years, the rough edges he’d acquired, Simon Tam was still a law-abiding individual. If a person overlooked the breaking his sister out of the Academy, planning the St Lucy’s robbery, and a few other master criminal activities, of course. “Maybe we can,” Mal agreed. “I can perhaps get word to Sam, and he could pass it on to the powers that be.”
“Isn’t that long winded?”
“Better than having to explain to the Feds how come we needed that stuff in the first place.”
“I take your point.”
“I’ll wave him ‘fore we eat.”
“I’d be grateful.”
“That’s always good, too.” Mal smiled.
Mal and Ethan were almost the last to arrive at the dinner table, and as he stepped down into the galley, the young man he’d glimpsed earlier stood up.
“Captain Reynolds?” he asked, his face shining and eager.
“That I am.”
“I’m Cody Dean, sir. And this is Sadie Russell.” He indicated the girl at this side. “I just wanted to say … thank you. For taking us on board.”
“Well, you’re paying,” Mal pointed out.
“I still wanted to thank you.” He held out his hand. “Thanks.”
Mal had to smile as they shook. Zoe had warned him about the boy’s enthusiasm, but it was a little overwhelming, nevertheless. “You’re welcome, I guess,” he said. “Did Zoe introduce everyone?”
“Yes sir, pretty much.”
“Well, Freya’ll be along in a while. She’s just making sure our daughter’s asleep.”
“I didn’t know ships like this had children on board,” Sadie Russell said, her voice pleasantly low.
“More’n you’d imagine.” Mal helped Ethan climb into his chair. “You'd be surprised.”
“Our son’s already in bed,” Hank added.
“So’s Hope, my other daughter.” Kaylee put a dish onto the table. “We’re eating later than usual.”
“Oh?” Cody raised his eyebrows. “I hope it wasn’t us put you out.”
“No,” Mal said. “Just had a little business to take care of, that’s all.”
Freya stepped down into the dining area, and Cody, who was about to sit back, shot to his feet again. “Ma’am.”
She smiled. “It certainly makes a change to see such nice manners on board,” she observed.
“Hey, nothing wrong with our manners,” Hank complained.
“No, you never had any,” Zoe said.
“True, true. But Simon used to.” He grinned at the young doctor. “Ain’t that so?”
“A lifetime ago.” Simon shook his head. “It seems like I’ve been on board this ship forever.”
Kaylee swatted him with the back of her hand. “As if you’d have it any other way.”
Mal chuckled, seeing Cody staring at his crew. “You’d better sit down, son,” he said. “As much as I’d like it, we don’t stand on ceremony here.”
“Besides, the food’s ready,” Kaylee added, handing a platter of bread to her captain. “You know, Frey’s right. Good manners is real nice. Cody here only wanted to help me get all this ready. I almost had to throw him out of the kitchen.”
The young man blushed. “I just … don’t like feeling useless.”
“You can always help wash up after,” Mal suggested, only to feel Freya’s foot come down on his. “Except you’re a guest, as my wife here has just reminded me.”
“I don’t mind.”
“Let’s eat,” Freya said firmly. “Before it gets cold.”
“Ya don’t have to stay in here with me,” Jayne complained, but only mildly.
“I want to,” River said, sitting cross-legged on the end of the bed.
“Ya could be down there with ‘em all, laughing and telling jokes.”
“I don’t tell jokes.”
“Making sure everyone has what they want.”
“Kaylee’s doing that.”
“Keepin’ everyone in line.”
“Hell, River …” He threw his hands up into the air. “Can’t you let a man die in peace?”
She gazed at him, her dark eyes huge in the dim light. “You’re not dying. Simon said so.”
“And he’d know?”
“Yes.” She held out the bowl again. “You have to eat.”
He peered inside. “Looks like mush.”
“It’s proteins, vitamins and carbohydrates. That’s all you need to know.”
“Looks like the food Zoe used to give Ben.”
“I ain’t a baby, Riv.”
“Prove it.” She put the bowl under his chin. “Eat.”
“I’ve brought mine to eat with you.”
“Bet it’s better’n this.”
“It’s the same. Just not … mushy.”
He stared at it. “Moonbrain …”
“Eat. Or Caleb and I will leave you. Forever.”
He was about to make a joke, then swallowed at the seriousness on her face. “You wouldn’t, would you?”
“If you don’t eat, you won’t get better.” She shrugged. “So maybe we won’t actually physically leave you, but you’d leave us. And I won’t have that.” She handed him a spoon. “Eat.”
“I am sick, ya know,” he grumbled, picking up the bowl and stirring the sludge. “Gorramit …”
As Mal listened and contributed to the conversation around the table, Freya surreptitiously watched Ethan. He was moving his food around his plate, scarcely even tasting it. Every so often a forkful would vanish below the edge of the table, coming up empty, while the sound of satisfied canine jaws working assiduously came from underneath.
Eventually she leaned over. “If you feed that dog much more, he’s going to get so fat his little legs won’t be able to reach the ground.”
Ethan stared at her, and she could clearly see the image in his mind of Fiddler shaped like a fat salami, all four of his feet a good inch off the floor, kicking madly. He snorted with amusement. “Sorry, Mama,” he said nasally.
“Aren’t you hungry?”
He shook his head. “Can’t taste nothing.” He touched his nose gingerly. “All bunged up.”
“I know, and Bethie did apologise.” She smiled at her son. “Come here.” Lifting him from his seat she put him on her knee. “You’re getting heavy,” she said, stroking his hair from his face.
“Big boy,” he agreed.
“But you won’t grow up tall and strong like your Daddy if you don’t eat.”
“Don’t want it.”
“No, okay. But that’s no excuse to feed Fiddler until he goes bang.”
He giggled. “He wanted to help.”
“Mmn.” She glanced under the table to where the little dog was waiting hopefully. “Well, I suppose one meal isn’t going to hurt.” Ethan suppressed a yawn, wincing as it made his nose hurt. “Are you tired?”
“Then I think an early night wouldn’t be amiss either.” She got to her feet, and Mal looked up.
“Just putting Ethan down.”
“You okay, big feller?” Mal asked his son.
“Sleepy.” Ethan yawned again.
“Well, soon as supper’s done, and if you’re still awake, I’ll come read you a story, how about that?”
Ethan smiled. “’Es please, Daddy.”
Freya carried him down the corridor to their hatch, putting him onto the deck so he could negotiate the ladder himself. As soon as he reached the bottom he started to pull off his clothes, leaving them where they fell. With an indulgent smile, Freya picked them up, following him into the nursery. Just like his father, she thought.
Jesse was fast asleep, her thumb in her mouth, half the covers pushed back. She murmured something unintelligible as Freya straightened the bed, but didn’t wake.
Helping Ethan into his pyjamas, Freya said, “Is your nose really congested?”
The little boy nodded. “Feels like I got two fingers up there.” He went to demonstrate, but she pulled his hand down gently.
“Then maybe I have just the thing. You get into bed.” She headed into the other room as he scrambled under the blanket, but was back in a moment, a slim metallic cylinder in her hand.
“What’s that?” Ethan looked at it curiously.
“It was a gift from your Auntie ‘Nara. When I was carrying you.” She sat down on the edge of the bed. “It’s meant to be calming, and she said I needed that, but all I found was that it cleared my sinuses.” She took off the lid and twisted the base. Immediately the scent of eucalyptus, menthol and lavender began to fill the small room. “Can you smell that?”
Ethan sniffed experimentally. His eyes widened. “’Es.”
“Then I’ll leave it here.” She put it down on the bedside table. “It’s got a timer, so you don’t need to worry about it. But it should help you sleep.”
“Thank you.” He snuggled down. “Stay with me?”
“Well … all right. I’ve had all I wanted, so … a story?”
“If Daddy comes down we don’t tell him, okay? He likes reading you stories.”
“He does all the noises,” Ethan agreed, and giggled. It turned into a yawn.
Freya smiled at her son, and for the umpteenth time gave thanks for her good fortune in having such a family. Jesse snuffled in her sleep as she picked up Ethan’s favourite book, and opened it. “Once upon a time …”
“So where do you plan on going after Persephone?” Mal asked, glancing round as River stepped silently into the dining area carrying the used plates.
Cody shrugged. “Not sure. Maybe stay there. There should be some work around.”
“Well, we know a few folks. Might be able to put you right. What kinda thing do you do?” He blinked a couple of times to try and clear his vision, which seemed to be a little blurred.
“Oh, anything that pays.”
“That’s a mite general. Can you be more specific?”
Simon interrupted with a huge yawn, belatedly covering his mouth with his hand. “Oh, I'm sorry,” he said quickly. “That’s really rude. Do forgive me.”
“Teaching Bethie bad habits,” River said, then shaking her head as if there was ringing in her ears.
“I think it’s catching, doc,” Mal said, nodding at Hank who was doing exactly the same thing, then being caught by surprise as his own jaw dropped.
There was a sound in the corner of the room, by the easy chairs.
“Mama, I think Fiddler just threw up,” Bethie said, as the little dog skulked out. He was looking very sorry for himself.
“Oh, no.” Kaylee stood up, putting her hand on the back of Simon’s chair to stop herself swaying.
“Honey?” he asked, looking up at her, but unable to focus properly.
“I don’t feel well,” Bethie added, holding her stomach.
“Not sure I feel too good myself, short stub,” Hank agreed. “Didn’t think I’d eaten that much …” He clamped a hand to his mouth, swallowing hard.
“What the hell’s going on?” Mal said his own belly rolling a little. He tried to stand up, but found he had no strength.
River stared at Cody and Sadie, who had small smiles on their lips, and she pushed through the fog surrounding her to look into their minds. “Drugs,” she whispered, backing away from them and turning to run from the galley.
Simon jerked his head up, but he couldn’t tell what he was looking at. He tried to push himself to his feet, but his arms gave way and he sat down heavily, gulping like a fish.
Zoe, her reflexes dulled, tried to grab one of the sharp knives on the table, but her hand overshot and she knocked over the water jug. As it dripped off the wooden surface, she slid down onto the floor. Hank reached down to help her but ended up next to her, even as Kaylee tried to reach Bethie, her legs not belonging to her.
Mal managed at last to lever himself to a standing position, but he was swaying, his head dropping. Frey, he thought as strongly as he could, even as his mind fogged and his body gave up.
Down in the bunk Freya dropped the story book, her head lifting. “Mal.”
“Daddy?” Ethan looked her, his eyes wide, scared.
“Hide,” she ordered. “Like I showed you.” She got to her feet, feeling heavier than she should. “Now, Ethan.”
“Yes, Mama.” He scrambled from the bed, opening the small hideaway in the bulkhead that Jayne had built for him. Gathering Jesse into his arms, wrapped in her blanket, he slid inside, the wall closing after him.
Pausing only to make sure her children were safe, Freya grabbed her gun, sticking it into the back of her pants. She started to climb the ladder, but each step was more difficult, and as she reached the corridor her vision was clouding. She tried to get to the galley, but her legs were like jelly. She fell forward, unconscious before her face hit the decking.
River could feel them, one by one, switching off, even as she pulled her way along towards the shuttle. Have to get there, she told herself. Have to … Jayne?
Moonbrain? Pulling himself up, his massive strength no more than a kitten, he watched in horror as she stumbled in, beginning to fall. He went to catch her, but slipped to his knees. “What the hell …?”
“Drugs,” she whispered.
“Need to get my guns …” he murmured, but collapsed. A moment later he felt her weight land on his back. “River …”
But there was no response. He lay there, fuming, not able to move an inch, not even twitch a toe. River’s weight on him told him she was unconscious as much as the fact that, no matter how hard he thought at her, she didn’t answer. At least he could feel her breathing.
Finally there was the sound of the shuttle door opening, just as a shudder ripped through the ship. Something had locked on, he knew, even as River was lifted off him. But that meant …
He was rolled over, and he looked up into the face of Cody Dean.
“Still awake?” Cody said conversationally. “See, that’s what comes of not eating up all your food.” He grinned. “Well, we can put that right.”
Jayne would have cursed, if he could, but a boot flashed towards his temple, and his internal lights went off.
to be continued
Wednesday, April 2, 2008 6:46 AM
Thursday, April 3, 2008 2:13 AM
Saturday, April 5, 2008 4:48 AM
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