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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Maya. Post-BDM. Mal meets Stewart Macallum and Jayne talks to Simon about Hank. Okay, I know I'm just teasing you. But you like it. NEW CHAPTER
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1940 RATING: 8 SERIES: FIREFLY
Stewart Macallum was in his late sixties with a shock of white hair brushed back from a wise, weather-beaten-into-submission face. Taller than Mal by an inch, he was broadshouldered and fit, wearing his long black duster coat like a badge of office. As he climbed alone from the front seat of the buckboard, Mal walked down the ramp to join his first mate.
“Sir? Any news?” she breathed, not taking her eyes off the man in front.
“Jayne just called. Simon’s made a deal. Be a day or two, but we‘re getting the antiviral.”
Zoe wasn’t one to leap up and down or even get emotional, not when they were on the job, but he could feel her relax, just a little. “That’s good, sir.”
“Captain Reynolds?” Macallum stepped forward, pulling off heavy leather gloves.
“That’s me.” Mal stepped forward. “You’ll be Macallum.”
“That I will.” There was a faint accent in the man’s voice, a burr that spoke of a place a long way from Newhall. They shook hands, each taking a moment to judge the other. “My goods intact?”
“All here.” Mal nodded over his shoulder. “Kinda filled my ship.”
“It’s my wife’s fault.” Macallum smiled suddenly, the lines on his cheeks merging. “She likes to buy, and I like to indulge.”
“Got one of my own,” Mal agreed.
“Then you’ll know how it is.” His eyes lit on Zoe. “And is this her?”
“No. This is Zoe. My right hand.”
The older man‘s eyes raked up and down Zoe‘s form, but in an almost benevolent fashion. “I’m thinking this one keeps you on your toes too, right?”
“Since I was wet behind the ears.”
For a long moment Macallum seemed be considering them both, then he must have liked what he saw, because he slapped his gloves in the palm of his hand and said, “Captain, would you have a glass handy? I’ve brought a fine bottle of sipping whiskey with me, and I hate to drink alone.”
Mal raised one eyebrow. “Shouldn’t we get your cargo unloaded first?”
“Mary’s waited near a month for that piano – she can wait an hour longer.”
“Aye, that’s in the big crate. At least, that’s what I’m hoping. A baby grand.” Mal must have looked baffled, because Macallum laughed and slapped him on the back. “It’s a mite bigger’n the uprights you and I are used to, Captain, but it’s just a joanna by a fancy name.”
“I conjure it’s destined for a place more refined, too.”
“I think you’re right.”
Mal glanced at Zoe. “Would you -”
“I’ll get the glasses, sir,” Zoe said, heading back inside.
“Quite a woman,” Macallum commented, watching her backside disappearing.
“She’s married to my pilot.”
Macallum grinned. “That a polite way of warning me off?” He shook his head. “It’s all right, Captain. At my age I’ve taken the decision to stick to looking. Besides, Mary’d gut me if I did so much as consider touching.”
“Got one of them, too.”
“Do you fight?”
“Occasionally,” Mal conceded.
Macallum’s dark eyes gleamed. “Makes the making up even better, don’t you think?”
He glanced into the darker cave of the cargo bay. “Any trouble on the way?”
“It’s been a quiet trip,” Mal said. “Everything’s above board, tariffs paid and signed for. I’ve got all the manifests and dockets ready for you.”
“I’m sure it is.” Macallum glanced down at the gun on Mal’s hip. “Not always the way, though, I’ll be bound.”
Mal allowed a small smile. “I wouldn’t know what you mean, sir.”
“And I like a man who’s respectful.” He put a hand on Mal’s shoulder. “Makes me inclined to treat him well. Particularly when there’s a beautiful woman just inside with a rifle in her hands.”
Mal didn’t even look. “Frey, come on out and meet our client.”
Freya oozed into the daylight, her gun tucked under her arm. “Mr Macallum.”
The older man dropped his head a little. “Mrs Reynolds.” He looked up at her from under his eyebrows. “And were you planning on shooting me?”
“I imagine it does.” Macallum held up his hands. “Ma’am, can we call a truce? It‘s too nice a day to ruin it with bloodshed.”
She smiled slightly. “I’ll think about it.”
“Does she trust anyone?” Macallum asked in a loud aside.
“It takes a while.” Mal looked at Freya. “Put it away, ai ren.”
“Okay.” Still, as she leaned the rifle against the airlock wall, both men noted that it was still within easy reach.
“Well,” Macallum said, thrusting his gloves into his pocket as he walked back to his buckboard, reaching into the back seat and pulling out a bottle. “Where’re those glasses?”
“What’s it doing?” Dr Stokes asked.
Simon looked up from the display. “It’s recalibrating. Sitting here for nearly a year has, well, thrown its systems out of synch, so it needs a while to settle down again.”
“I don’t know. It might be as little as a few minutes, or as long as half a day.” Simon shrugged. “As long as it takes.”
“Then I’m going to get something to eat.” Stokes stretched his back, rubbing his hands through his reddish-brown hair. “Can I get you something?”
“Sandwich’d be good,” Jayne growled, stirring from where he was sitting on the floor. “And something to drink.”
“I think I can manage that. I doubt Rita’s back yet from visiting her husband, but I can usually find my way around a kitchen.”
Simon massaged the back of his neck where he was starting to ache. “Husband?”
“Julius Hammond. My partner.”
“The other doctor?”
Stokes nodded. “He came down with the initial symptoms of the measles two weeks ago, and yesterday he started showing the red tide. Like your daughter, it’s too late for the antiviral to help, but he’s a strong man. He’ll survive.”
“Still, it must be troubling for her.”
“Of course it is. And she knew the people who’ve died already.” He smiled. “But as soon as I tell her we’re going to be able to make the antiviral, that’s going to cheer her up.”
“I’m glad of that, Dr Stokes.”
“Please. Call me Ray.”
Stokes grinned. “So. Food and drink. I’ll be right back.” He hurried out.
“He seems okay,” Simon said as the door swung to.
“Yep.” Jayne settled back.
“Aren’t you bored here?” He perched on one of the lab stools.
“Nope. Not really. I’ve watched men through a scope a lot longer’n this. Course, I always tended to shoot ‘em at the end, but … I’ll let you know if I can’t take any more.”
“Please do.” Simon smiled slightly. “I wonder how Kaylee’s taken the news.”
“About that medicine? Knowing that girl, she’s probably grinning like a loon and huggin’ everyone.”
Simon chuckled. “I imagine you’re right.”
“Figure the Cap’s considering ducktaping her mouth ‘bout now and throwing her in the hold.”
“Then I’ll remonstrate with him severely when we get back.”
“You do that. I’ll hold your coat.”
They sat in fairly companionable silence for a few minutes, Simon keeping an eye on the ViroStim, until the big man coughed.
“What is it, Jayne?”
“I … can I …?”
Simon looked round at him. “What?”
Jayne took a deep breath. “Can I … ask your advice?”
“Is it to do with River?”
“No.” Jayne shook his head firmly. “Everything’s fine ‘tween us. We’re good. We’re more than good. In fact we’re shiny.”
“Glad to hear it. So what do you want advice on?”
“Well … if you knew someone had a problem, and they didn’t accept they had a problem, but you knew they had, how’d you make ‘em realise they had a problem?”
“What kind of problem?” Simon leaned forward. “I’m a doctor, Jayne. Whatever’s troubling you, I can help. Is it that rash again?”
“No it ain’t!” Jayne glared at him. “And it ain’t me, either.”
“I … not sure I should say.”
“It must be one of the crew,” Simon surmised. “Unlikely to be anyone else. And apart from the measles there are no medical problems I’m aware of.” He narrowed his eyes. “Tell me, Jayne.”
“It’s … it’s Hank,” Jayne finally admitted. “That er ba dao of a pilot’s been gambling again.”
“But he promised Zoe -”
“’Xactly.” Jayne sat back.
“Did you talk to him about it?”
“Tried.” Now the big man looked a little sheepish. “Probably not too well, but … he don’t even admit he’s got a problem. Thinks it’s fine to go ahead and break his promise to Zoe.”
“Is he winning?”
“Ah.” Simon crossed his arms. “That makes it more difficult. You might persuade a man who’s losing that he’s addicted to gambling, but a man who’s winning –“
“Told me it weren't none of my business. Me.” There was grudging respect in his voice.
“You must be getting softer in your old age.”
“Nope. I reckon I was took by surprise.” He eased his buttocks on the floor. “But that don’t help Hank.”
“And you want to?” Simon couldn’t help the look of surprise.
“It ain’t …Not that I wanna help. But he’s our pilot. And Zoe’s like to kill him when she finds out.”
“And you don’t want that to happen.”
“Hell, I just wanna be around when it does.”
Simon shook his head. “Not that much softer, then.”
Jayne rested his wrists on his bent knees. “So what do we do?”
“You’re a doc. You know how to treat these things.”
“Not … really.”
“You mean they don’t teach top three percent how to handle addicts?”
“He has to want to stop. If he doesn’t then … well, short of tying him down we can’t exactly stop him.”
“You mean you don’t got a shot that’d work?”
“It’s not like drugs, Jayne,” Simon explained. “Then I could give him an injection that would make anything he took cause him to be sick. Really sick. But when it comes to gambling, so far no-one’s come up with a pill that will make a man throw up at the sight of a playing card.”
“Gambling?” Ray Stokes stood in the doorway. “Someone’s got a problem?”
Simon and Jayne exchanged glances. “A friend,” the big man said, aware he hadn’t noticed the door opening, and inwardly berating himself for it.
“Then you have my sympathy. It’s not good for anyone.” He crossed the room and looked around for somewhere to put the tray he had in his hands.
“Do you have much trouble with it in Monument?” Simon asked, moving test-tubes.
“Some. Not that folks have that much money to throw around in the first place to get into that predicament, but once they do …” He shrugged. “I wish I could do more to help, but you’re right. There’s no drug yet can help.” A small played across his lips. “Gambling, alcohol, love … too much of any of them and you end up the same.” He sighed then looked at them both. “So. Sandwiches?”
“We’re never going to get all of this on there,” Mal pointed out, feeling the last of the good whiskey slipping down his throat to warm his belly. He nodded from his cargo bay to the buckboard. “Not even a tenth of it, let alone that piano of yours.”
“Oh, my boys are waiting around the corner with a container,” Macallum said. “I just wanted to check you out first.”
“Making sure you could trust us?”
“Something like that.” He poured another measure into their glasses, the women abstaining. “I’ve dealt with a lot of men over the years, and more than my fair share of bad ones. Those willing to shoot you and take what they want, or giving you short shrift on their delivery. I tend to meet the people who work for me now, make up my mind before handing over any money.”
“And what’ve you decided?” Mal asked, letting the soft perfume of the alcohol waft up his nostrils.
“I think you’re a mostly good man, with maybe a tendency to bad habits.”
Freya laughed. “I think you’re right.”
Mal glanced at her, but didn’t respond. Instead he said, “It can be a hard life.”
“Oh, I know. I came out here from Aberdeen nearly forty years ago, with nothing but the clothes on my back and a willingness to work hard. Had to do some things I’m not proud of, but I carved out a home for me and mine, and sent three sons and two daughters out into the ‘verse with more than I ever had. Now I think I’ve got the right to sit back and enjoy some of the rewards, but I still appreciate the need in others.”
“Aberdeen.” Mal nodded. That explained the accent. “Not exactly an easy start to begin with.”
“No, that’s true. But now I’m a man of standing, and folks look up to me.” He smiled. “Like folks look up to you.” He sipped from his glass.
“You’ve been checking up on me?”
“Not to would go against the grain.” Macallum smiled. “Don’t worry. It was mostly okay.”
“Ain’t that kinda damning with faint praise?”
The two men perused each other silently.
Eventually Macallum broke the silence. “Although I do have one question for you. You know about our little problem?”
Mal deliberately didn‘t look at the two women. “Measles? Yeah. We know.”
“The doctor in town is a good man, but he’s not really got the expertise, nor the supplies to treat it. I’ve been doing my best, of course, trying to get the Alliance to release more of the medicine, but so far I’ve hit a brick wall.” He shook his head. “My kind of influence only goes so far, it seems.” Turning his glass around, he watched the amber liquid swirl from one side to the other. “In fact I’m more than a little curious as to why you landed here at all, knowing about our dilemma. You could‘ve just asked a transfer out in the middle of nowhere, dumping my stuff and picking up your pay without seeing a living soul.”
“I don’t think you’d have liked that.”
“No, I wouldn’t. But I’d have understood.”
Mal sighed. “Well, the truth is, it’s not just here on Newhall, sir,” he said slowly. “Looks like we picked it up ourselves from Verbena.”
“You’ve got it on board?”
“Then I’m sorry for you. I wish we could help, but without the medicine …” His voice trailed off.
Mal glanced at Freya, who nodded almost imperceptibly. “Well, sir, I think that might be being rectified as we speak.”
Macallum’s eyes darted between the two. “What do you mean?”
“There’s a chance there’ll be enough antiviral for everyone soon.”
He leaned forward. “Son, if you’ve got supplies -”
“No, sir. Not supplies. But our medic is helping your own doctor to make what we all need.”
Macallum had to close his mouth. “That damn machine the Alliance dropped off?”
“Our medic has enough training to be able to use it,” Freya put in. “He’s teaching your doctor.”
“Could be your man’s gonna end up being a hero around these parts,” Macallum said, shaking his head in wonder. “They’ll probably be putting a statue up in his honour.”
“I think he’d like that,” Zoe said dryly, adding very quietly, “It beats getting a hamster named after you.”
Macallum didn‘t hear. “Do you really mean it? You’re not just yanking my chain?”
“No, sir,” Mal assured him. “Be a couple of days, but you won’t need to worry after that.”
He released a deep breath. “Then the town’s beholden to you all.” He threw the remaining whiskey down his throat and straightened up. “And it’s time to get my purchases unloaded.” He turned and waved.
“Someone watching us?” Mal asked, not surprised in the slightest.
“Of course. I didn’t get to be my age by being stupid.”
“No, I don’t reckon you did.” Mal finished his own drink. “We can give you a hand.”
“The more the merrier,” Macallum said, all smiles again as a large container truck pulled around the corner. “And … I know my wife’s going to suggest it, as soon as I tell her what you’re doing for this town, but … you should come to dinner. Tonight.”
Mal shook his head. “Thank you, sir, but I think we’ll stay close to the ship. What with most of the kids being ill -”
“Kids? You’ve got children on board?” The older man seemed shocked.
“It’s our home, sir,” Zoe said, walking out to meet the men stepping down from the truck. “That’s what homes have.”
to be continued
Monday, April 28, 2008 10:22 AM
Monday, April 28, 2008 11:20 AM
Monday, April 28, 2008 11:31 AM
Monday, April 28, 2008 11:34 AM
Monday, April 28, 2008 1:47 PM
Friday, May 2, 2008 1:48 PM
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