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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Maya. Post-BDM. The mud is about to hit the fan as Hank goes out for a 'drink' ... Okay, folks, the teasing is over. NEW CHAPTER
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1788 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
Hank looked at himself in the mirror over the small sink and smiled. He’d showered and changed after helping unload the cargo, and now wore one of his white shirts and dark navy pants. His hair, while always untidy, was at least freshly washed, and he felt good. He’d actually enjoyed humping the crates off Serenity – although he was a pilot he tended to do a bit of everything, but heavy lifting once in a while made him feel more … masculine. He laughed, and his reflection joined in the joke. He’d have to tell Zoe that one.
Right now his wife, though, was in the shuttle with Ben, having a little mother/son time. He’d begun sniffling a short while ago, and Zoe had taken him to join the others. Of all the children, only Jesse seemed untouched. Not that he was worried. Well, not too worried. Simon was going to get the antiviral, they’d been paid, and now there looked to be the possibility of more work.
Macallum had been insistent as he climbed into the buckboard. “I'm not taking no for an answer, Captain Reynolds. You and your wife will join me for and mine for dinner. Seven pm. We’re the big house some ten miles outside town to the east.”
“It’s kind of you to offer –“
But Mal wasn't able to decline.
“Seven pm. And maybe we can talk a little business. I might be in the market for a good man to run some errands for me. Could be a once a month thing, maybe more.” He fixed Mal with a stern eye. “We’ll talk about it tonight.” With that he whipped up the horses and followed the container truck out of the dock.
So now Mal and Freya had gotten spruced up and taken the hovermule to dinner, with strict instructions to the rest of the crew to let them know if anything happened, and for Kaylee to keep an eye on Jesse, even though she was in bed and not likely to wake, and to keep monitoring the coms in case Simon needed something, and to – Kaylee had taken affront at that point and told them both to get out. Still, Mal had practically had to drag Freya off the boat, promising they wouldn’t be late back.
Hank ran his hands through his hair and stood up straight. Time to go.
“Much longer?” Jayne asked, cleaning his fingernails with a small knife he’d taken from his boot.
Simon looked up from the calibration screen. “Nearly done. After this I should be able to start introducing the sequences and we’ll be ready to run.”
Stokes ran a hand through his dark hair. “I don’t know how I’m ever going to thank you.” He’d come back from his ward rounds, his shoulders slumped. He’d lost another patient from complications, not as a direct result of the measles, but it hadn’t helped.
“Just let me have what I need from the first batch. That’s all.” Simon ran a finger over the touch display, almost purring in satisfaction. “Okay, that’s it.” He smiled. “Now the sequences.”
“Don’t sound like leaving’s gonna be too imminent,” Jayne complained. “’N’ I'm hungry.”
Stokes handed Simon the first set of data tabs. “I can always make some more sandwiches.”
“Them things? Ain't enough in one o’them to keep a fly going. I need something more that’ll stick to my ribs.”
“Just a little while longer,” Simon promised.
“Well, my stomach already thinks my throat’s been cut,” Jayne said, pointing at the young man with the knife.
“You don’t have to stay.”
“Mal’d skin me alive and River’d pin my hide to the wall, you know that, doc.”
Stokes tilted his head. “Why do you call him that?” he asked.
“Doc. I heard you calling Simon that before. Why?”
“Term of endearment,” Jayne explained, thinking quickly. “Plus the fact that he ain’t really, so it winds him up, and I'm married to his sister.”
“Your sister?” Stokes stared at the younger man.
“Yes, a lovely little ship of semi-incestuous couples,” Simon added dryly.
“I didn’t mean –“
“No, it’s all right. Actually Jayne’s being on his best behaviour at the moment. Otherwise he’d be carving his name into the furniture.”
“Don’t think it ain’t occurred to me.”
“Where’re you off to?” Kaylee asked, leaning over the railing.
“Just going for a drink.” Hank smiled up at her.
“Kaylee, my sweet, I don’t actually have to tell my wife everything I’m planning on doing.” He glanced outside. “Do you think it’s likely to rain?”
“Maybe. And you’re changing the subject.” She walked to the stairs and sat down on the top step. “If you’re going gambling Zoe’ll have your hide.”
He allowed himself to look shocked. “That’s an awful thing to say.”
“Well? Are you?”
“I'm just going for a drink, Kaylee. That’s all. Wanna come with me?”
She smiled. “No. I need to be near Bethie and Hope.”
“Well, if I put my sorry self inside that shuttle, that’d make it too crowded, and then Zoe would get mad at me, and we’d fight, there’d be blood, probably mine … I’m better off going for a drink.” He grinned, his best boyish flash of teeth.
“What if you don’t feel well? You’re at risk too, you know.”
“I don’t get sick, Kaylee. Just got a good constitution, I guess.” He slapped his hands together. “Well, I’ll be off.”
“You got a com? ‘Cause you know the Cap’ll tear you a new one if you go out without.”
Hank sighed. “Yes, Kaylee, I have a com with me.” He tapped his pocket. “I've also got a clean hankie and new underwear on, in case I get knocked down. Happy?”
“Nope, but I guess I ain't gonna be able to stop you.” She stood up. “Just a drink, mind. Else I’ll be telling on you.”
“Just a drink,” he promised, and strolled out into the evening air.
The stars were brilliant points of light above them as Mal drove the hovermule back towards Serenity, Freya at his side. The day’s warmth had dissipated, and he was glad Freya’d thought to bring her shawl against the cool air blowing against their skin. He’d offered her his coat, but she’d just shaken her head and climbed aboard.
Not that his coat hadn’t caused comments. It turned out that Macallum’s eldest daughter had fought for the Independents, getting wounded a couple of times but managing to survive the war. Neither of them recognised her name, but that wasn't surprising with the number of browncoats there were before Serenity Valley. Still, it broke the ice somewhat.
Macallum had shown them a capture of a pretty woman in her mid thirties, her arms around a man who looked shocked at his good fortune.
“Up and married a construction company owner on Minton,” Macallum said, looking at his daughter. “She’s already got three children, and looking to pop another soon.”
“Of course, we don’t get to see them as often as we’d like,” Mary Macallum added, taking the capture, her soft voice regretful. “But she’s promised to bring the whole family to stay once the baby’s born.”
“Pretty much like the rest of them,” Macallum went on. “Spread out over half the sector and not remembering to wave.”
“Now, now, Stewart, they have lives of their own.”
“A wave? How long does that take?”
It was obviously an old argument, and one that was never likely to be resolved.
Macallum had taken the opportunity at dinner to go over his idea of a possible regular supply run. “I need a man I can trust to bring in … well, whatever’s needed. And I have a notion I might be able to trust you.”
“That gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling, but I can’t agree to anything without discussing it with my crew.” Mal managed to look apologetic.
“Then do, do. Unless Mary decides to buy up the rest of the Cortex, it won’t be for a while.”
His wife reprimanded him gently, but as Mal sat in the hovermule, he knew he wasn’t going to agree. The way things were, with Simon in particular being actively sought by … someone, and with Bethie on board, let alone River and Frey … he couldn’t help but feel being tied to a regular route might be a very bad decision. It would only take the Alliance or anyone else to hear of it, and they’d be sitting ducks. Better to be on the move, never staying in any one place too long. Even their irregular trips to Lazarus had begun to make him increasingly wary.
Freya, of course, had picked up on his reticence, and smoothly changed the subject, asking about a piece of furniture she’d called a credenza, or some equally unlikely name, and Mrs Macallum had been delighted to give her chapter and verse on where and when it was bought, her husband dragged in when the issue of how much it cost had come up.
“Nice folks,” Mal said, manoeuvring around the large outcrop of rock that marked the boundary of the Macallum homestead.
Freya smiled. “They are.” She pulled the shawl tighter. “And honest, too.”
“You read them earlier, didn’t you?”
Her smile grew wider. “Of course. I don’t intend letting you walk into a trap.”
“That’s good.” He pondered a moment. “You know, that Mrs Macallum kinda reminds me of my Aunt Daisy.”
“The one who used to give you toffee?”
“That’s her. Uncle Zach’s wife.” He glanced at her. “You remember everything I’ve ever said?”
“Quite a lot.”
“Even when I've been stupid and said things I didn’t mean?”
She wrinkled her nose slightly. “I've forgotten those.”
He grinned. “And people wonder why I love you.”
“Do they? Which ones?”
“Those who don’t know you like I do.”
She laughed. “Sweet-talker.” She settled quietly for a moment, then said, “You can say no.”
He knew what she was talking about. “Can I?”
“He won’t take offence.”
“I just kinda … be like closing the stable door, and sometimes we do need the work.”
She put her hand on his leg. “Then say you’ll do it on an as and when basis.” She slid her fingers up his thigh.
Mal barely scraped by a tree. “Woman …” he admonished.
“Want me to drive?” she asked, teasing him. “Too much of that good liquor, I think.”
“Hardly touched a drop,” he insisted.
“No, I noticed.” She took her hand away, and he felt the loss. “They’ll be all right,” she said softly, her voice hardly carrying on the breeze.
“Course they will, ai ren,” he agreed. “Got the best doctor in or out of the Core on our side. He ain't gonna let a thing happen to those kids, or us.”
She leaned as close to him as she could, managing to lay her head on his shoulder. “I didn’t know I was going to be like this, Mal,” she confessed. “I didn’t realise having children would make me so anxious.”
“Hey, me neither.” He glanced down at her. “Never thought I’d have children at all.”
“Not even with Inara?”
He sighed. “Frey, honey, if you’re gonna pick at that old wound, can we do it when we get home?”
“No, I'm sorry.” Her hand was back on his thigh. “I think maybe I'm the one who’s had too much to drink.”
“Yeah, well, you and that Mary Macallum were putting ‘em away faster’n we could pour.” He twitched as she pinched him. “Come on, we’re nearly there.”
The dark bulk of Serenity was closing, and even as they watched light spilled over the top of the cargo bay ramp as it lowered. Mal pulled up the hovermule.
“Mal?” Jayne materialised from the shadows.
He tensed. “Simon with you?”
“Here, Mal,” the young man said, stepping tiredly forwards and just managing to avoid the ramp as it hit the ground.
“How’d it go?”
“Good. Good. Just a matter of waiting, now.” He yawned hugely, belatedly covering his mouth with his hand. “Sorry. Staring at screens for hours.”
“Yeah, don’t know how he manages it,” Jayne agreed, slapping Simon on the back and nearly propelling him into the cargo bay.
“Could you be a little less fulsome with your praise?” the doctor begged.
“Make the most of it,” Mal advised. “He might be wanting to string you up by your thumbs tomorrow.”
“Or worse,” Jayne leered, then ran into the bay, taking the stairs two at a time and striding into his shuttle.
Mal steered the hovermule inside and set it down on the deck, turning off the engine. In the sudden silence Kaylee’s “Shh!” was very loud.
They looked up. She was standing on the catwalk outside shuttle one, wearing a pair of shortie pyjamas. “Shh,” she repeated, her finger to her lips. “Everyone’s asleep.”
“Sorry, mei-mei,” Mal grinned, climbing down and putting out his hand to help Freya. “Didn’t know it was that late.”
“It’s not, but being sick’s tired ‘em all out.”
“Is Jesse all right?” Freya asked, joining her husband.
“She’s fine. Checked on her about twenty minutes ago and she’s sleeping like a baby.”
“Sounds like he’s got half a bushel of hay up his nose, but he ain't the only one.” She glanced over her shoulder towards the shuttle. “I know you wanna see him, but he’s spark out too. Best wait ‘til morning.”
“Well, I –“
Mal put his arm around her waist. “Let him sleep,” he advised.
She looked into his blue eyes. “Okay,” she agreed, somewhat grudgingly.
“Everything okay otherwise?” Mal looked back up at his mechanic.
“Everything’s shiny, Cap. Hank went out for a drink, but that’s it.”
“He did?” Mal raised one eyebrow. “Zoe know?”
“Um, well, actually … I don’t think so. She’s been in the shuttle with Ben all evening, and I … well, I …”
“Didn’t like to break it to her?”
“Something like that.”
“Is he back?”
“I reckon so. I think I heard movement earlier while I was getting food for everyone, and I took a look into his bunk a while later, and I could see he’d gone to bed already. Didn’t want to disturb him.”
“That’s thoughtful,” Freya said, stretching like a cat. “I think I might do the same.”
“What, go to bed with Hank?” Mal asked, winking at Kaylee.
“Thanks, but I think I’ve got over that phase of sleeping with pilots.” She stuck her tongue out at him and started up the stairs. “If you’d care to join me we can carry on that discussion on whether you’d like to have had children with Inara.”
Kaylee’s eyes widened, but Mal said quickly, “Ignore her. She’s had too much to drink.”
“Drowning my sorrows,” Freya threw back over her shoulder. “Sick children, a husband who doesn’t love me … what else is a poor woman to do?”
“Poor …” Mal couldn’t help it. He burst out laughing as Freya disappeared through the top doorway.
Kaylee grinned, even as she shushed him again. “You wake ‘em up, you can tell ‘em stories ‘til they go back to sleep,” she threatened.
“Wouldn’t mind that, mei-mei¬, but I got a wife I need to remonstrate with.” He glanced at Simon who had spent the entire conversation leaning on the wall. “Lock up, will you, doc?”
“No problems, Mal.” He waved a hand wearily.
Mal nodded thanks and followed his other half.
Kaylee walked down the stairs as Simon pressed the button to close the bay doors. “Are you okay, honey?”
“Fine. Just tired.”
“Not got a fever or anything?” She reached him and put her hand on his forehead.
“No, no fever.” He took her hand and turned it palm upwards, placing a kiss in the centre. “Honestly.”
“Well, long as you’re sure …”
“I just need a good night’s rest now that I know the children will be okay.”
“Well, you’re gonna sleep in our room tonight.” She slipped her arm through his.
She smiled, not her usual Kaylee grin, but the one she kept for him, softer, with so much love in it that it almost ached to see. “No, Simon, not alone. I’ll stay with you. Zoe’s with the babies, so they’ll be okay.”
“Yeah. She fell asleep telling ‘em a tall tale about when she and the Cap were in the war.”
“Suitably edited, I think. But it was funny, and she was doing all the voices, then the next thing I knew she was flat out on the cot next to Ben. Didn’t have the heart to wake her.”
“I'm surprised Hank didn’t come looking for her.”
“I think he’d had one too many, like Freya.” She patted his hand. “Come on, ‘fore you fall down.”
“Okay, Mrs Tam.”
“Like that,” she murmured as they walked towards their quarters. “Really like that.”
Hank was enjoying himself immensely. He’d won the last three pots after a dry spell where he folded as soon as he could, and this next one looked even better. He wanted to smile but kept his poker face as he thought of the padding he’d left in the bed to make it look like he was inside asleep. If he knew his Zoe she’d probably stay with Ben all night, so he had plenty of time to make this game count, and maybe the next, before he had to get back, the nest egg a healthy bit heavier.
The man opposite him, chewing on a foul-smelling cigar, glared at him and said, “Full house.” He laid his cards on the table.
For just a moment Hank let him think he’d got him beat, then he placed his own cards down one at a time. “Four of a kind,” he countered as the queens made their appearance.
The man’s jaw dropped, and the cigar fell from his lips. Swearing, he stood up and started to brush at the embers burning into his pants. “How the hell did you get that?” he asked as Hank pulled the pot towards himself.
“Talent,” the pilot explained. “Sheer talent.” He grinned. “Another hand?”
His opponent sneered and gathered his last few coins, shoving them into his pocket. “Qu ni made,” he growled, and stalked out of the bar.
“You know, I hate sore losers,” Hank commented. He rubbed his hands together. “Gentlemen, now that he’s gone, shall we up the ante?”
The rest of the players nodded, and he could see in their eyes that they were just waiting for him to make a mistake, to take all the cashey money out from under him.
“Sir?” He looked up. It was the girl who was dealing drinks. “This is for you.” She put a glass at his elbow.
“From the gentleman at the bar.” She nodded towards the long wooden counter, but he couldn’t tell which one of the many men ranged there had sent the drink over.
“Tell him, thanks, but I ain't that way inclined,” Hank joked.
“Oh, I don’t think it was that,” she said, leaning forward so he could get a good view of her cleavage. “I think he just admired the way you took Lennox down.”
“That was his name?” When the girl nodded, he grinned. “Then tell him thanks.”
“I will.” She sashayed away, and for a split he watched the movement of her hips, then turned back to the table. “I think it’s my deal,” he said, taking the deck in one hand and the glass in the other. “Cheers.”
His head was ringing. Literally. It felt like someone was standing in his brain, swinging wildly on a bell rope. And each hit of the clapper against metal sent a thrust of agony across his eyes and down his spine.
He tried to lick dried lips, but his tongue was like sandpaper, rasping unbearably. As his senses slowly returned, he thought he was lying on the ground, on his chest, but even that he wasn’t sure of.
He needed something. Painkillers, for preference, but he’d take poison at this moment in time. Lots of it. Pretty much immediately, or he was going to die. Please. Soon.
The bells kept ringing as he tried to unglue his eyeballs, finding they hurt almost as much as the rest of him.
Come on, he said to himself. Got to get up. Got to get back to … God, where? His brow furrowed. Come on, Hank, you … oh, yeah, Hank. Least you know who you are now. But where do you need to get to? A vision of a dark-skinned woman swam into his mind, her arms crossed, and an expression of intense dissatisfaction on her face. Ah. Zoe. I think you’re my wife. Only a wife could look quite so pissed. He smiled suddenly. Serenity. Yes. That’s it.
He managed to gather his wits enough to climb to his hands and knees, feeling dirt under his palms. With another effort of will he forced himself to his feet, leaning against the wall. That’s it, he told himself. Never again. Never, ever again. He could feel his shirt sticking to his back damply as he pushed himself upright.
He cracked his eyes open a little, seeing light in front of him. Go towards the light, he heard his inner voice saying. Is death supposed to be this painful? he responded, but wasn't surprised not to get an answer.
He was in an alleyway, he decided. Between two buildings. And the movement in the light was people. Good. Maybe they could tell him how to get back to the ship. He staggered forward, trying to get his legs under control.
As he reached the entrance, he tried to speak, but his mouth was too dry. Then he heard a sharp intake of breath.
“Dear God.” An unknown voice, and all the people were staring at him.
“Mommy, why’s that man got red all over him?” asked a child, holding onto a woman’s hand, pointing at him.
Hank looked down, at his shirt, his hands. No. It couldn’t be. Despite the pain from the excess of alcohol, he couldn’t feel any injuries, and certainly nothing to account for all the blood. All the blood. Staining his white shirt. Blood. His mind rebelled. Not his. Somebody else’s.
He turned slowly, looked back into the alley next to the white clapboard building, aware of a growing crowd of churchgoers in their Sunday best gathering behind him. He took a step forward, then another, then …
“Tzao gao …”
He could see a foot. In a shoe. A woman’s shoe, high-heeled and bright red. But the ankle was twisted, the leg at an unnatural angle. And there were drops of thick liquid on her calf.
He looked down at his hands.
A woman screamed behind him.
“Fetch the sheriff!” someone shouted.
“Don’t let him run!”
And all he could do was look down at his hands …
to be continued
Tuesday, April 29, 2008 7:45 AM
Tuesday, April 29, 2008 8:56 AM
Tuesday, April 29, 2008 11:10 AM
Tuesday, April 29, 2008 12:37 PM
Friday, May 2, 2008 2:02 PM
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