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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Maya. Post-BDM. Simon has fallen foul of a potential murderer, and it's up to Mal and Jayne to hurry to the rescue. NEW CHAPTER
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1971 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
“I'm getting pretty pissed off at being looked at like I'm lower’n a boil on someone’s backside,” Jayne grumbled, staring back at the man across the bar. “And it’s too gorram early to be pissing me off.” He intensified the wattage of his glare, not blinking, and the man turned away, thoroughly intimidated.
“You put people off much more, ‘n’ they ain’t gonna want to talk to us at all.” Mal took a sip of what he’d been assured was a mug of coffee, but his tastebuds refused to believe it. Even Jayne’s brew was better than … well, maybe not.
“It ain’t like they’re saying much, anyways,” the big man groused.
Mal had caught up with Jayne after leaving the clinic and ascertaining, via a Cortex booth, that Judge Temple wasn't going to be available until after lunch. Rather than head back empty-handed, without the warrant to go through the clinic’s database, he’d decided to use the time wisely and infect as many of the good citizens of Newhall with measles as was humanly possible, Well, at least see what he could get them to tell him.
He’d found Jayne almost immediately, sitting morosely at a table in a bar that, even at this time of the morning, was doing a bustling trade. Kuerk was right – booze and church, and probably the same folk doing both. An untouched bottle of beer sat in front of the ex-mercenary.
Falling into the seat opposite, Mal had ordered a coffee and tried to find out what was eating his gunhand this time. “Is it River?”
“Bit,” Jayne admitted. “She ain’t well, Mal. And she’s just a slip of a woman, and it’s taking maybe more out of her than she can afford to lose.”
“This time tomorrow she’ll be feeling better.”
“Yeah, I know that’s what Simon says, but –“
“No. It’s what I say. I'm promising, Jayne.”
“Yeah, but –“ He brought himself up short. “I know it’s your wife and kids too. I get that. But I ain’t had to worry about no-one like this for a long time. Not sure I can do it.”
Mal chuckled. “Of course you can. It’s called growing up.”
“Hell, avoided that as long as I could.” A smile finally cracked his face. “I reckon seeing Caleb born kinda put the hat on that.”
“I wouldn’t worry. I don’t think you’ve got there yet.”
Jayne sat back. “What, you think I ain't a responsible married family man?”
“Well, three out of four ain’t bad.”
It was then Jayne had seen the man glaring at them. “Hwoon dahn.”
“Just take it easy,” Mal advised.
“They just make my trigger finger itch. And I've been to almost every bar in town. I was gonna go to the local cathouse, but … you know they ain't got one?” He looked scandalised.
“Why would you be wanting to see whores, Jayne?” Mal asked slowly. “Taking care to remember what I’d do to you if you even thought about being unfaithful to that little girl.”
“Aw, Mal, you know I wouldn’t do that.” He leaned forward again, this time as if they were party to a conspiracy. “But men talk when they’re in the company of loose women, about all sortsa things. If anyone’d know what was going on in this town, it’d be the whores. ‘Cept there ain't any.” He sniffed in disgust. “Got more’n their share of churches, though.”
“God-fearing people, Jayne. Can’t help getting the notion that if Hank had been caught committing adultery he might not be threatened with being hanged, but it’d be a close run thing.”
“Considering what he’s done, if’n he had taken up with another woman, how come you ain’t threatening him with a date with the airlock?” Jayne almost pouted.
“Oh, I would have. Although I'm not sure Zoe would have let him survive that long.”
Jayne chortled at that. “No. Reckon she’d’ve had his balls as big, hairy ear-rings if that happened.”
Mal winced. “You’ve got a colourful turn of phrase.”
“’N’ I was being polite, too.” He grinned. “But they’re all like that, ain't they? The women on board.”
“That they are, Jayne. That they are. And it’s best we don’t forget, being mere men and liable to fall at any moment.” He sighed happily. “Come on. I think we’d better –“ He was interrupted by the comlink in his pocket beeping urgently. Pulling it free he pressed the transmit button and said, “Yeah?”
“Cap, something’s happened to Simon!” Kaylee’s voice seemed to fill the bar, and everyone turned to look.
Mal was immediately on his feet and out of the door, Jayne behind him. “Tell me.”
“Bethie saw it. Something. Started screaming. Frey and Riv, they can feel it too, so it ain’t a nightmare, but they can’t tell what. And I can’t get hold of him!”
He could tell she was almost in tears. “Kaylee, mei-mei, do you know if he was leaving the clinic?”
“No. I haven’t heard from … Cap, what if –“
“The beacon, Kaylee. Simon’s personal beacon. Is it working?”
On Serenity’s bridge Kaylee wiped her eyes on the back of her hand. “I don’t know. I didn’t think to –“
“Well, check that first. If we know where to look it’s gonna be that much easier to find him.”
Kaylee nodded, even though she knew the captain couldn’t see, and tuned the sensors to the beacon’s signature pulse. And again. Then a third time. “Zhan cao chu gen.” She could barely speak. “I’m not getting anything, Mal.” It showed the extent of her extreme concern that she used his given name. “Those gorram cheap parts ... I shoulda –“
Freya, coming up unseen behind her, leaned forward, her hand resting heavily on the back of the pilot’s seat. “Mal, I think he’s still at the clinic. We don't know what happened, but River and I both think he’s still there.”
Mal looked at Jayne, and they started to run towards the medical building. “Frey, thanks but you go back to bed. Kaylee, contact Zoe, have her meet us there.”
Kaylee nodded, watching anxiously as Freya sat down in the co-pilot’s seat, tremors visible throughout her body even as she wrapped her thin robe closer about herself. “Mal said you were to go back to bed,” the younger woman pointed out.
“You need me here,” Freya said simply. “Ain’t going anywhere. And you’d better call Zoe.”
Kaylee smiled gratefully and changed frequency.
Zoe sat on the stool and looked at her husband, not saying a word. She didn’t have to. He was doing all the talking for them both.
“I really didn’t know what I was doing, Zoe,” he was saying. “And I didn’t kill her. I don’t even remember her. And I would never have gone off with another woman, you know that. Not because of what you’d do to me if I did, but just because I would never want to. And I know you’d kill me anyway if I even thought about it.” He paused for breath. “Are you actually going to answer me?”
“What do you want me to say?”
His eyebrows raised. “How about that you forgive me?”
“Zoe, I told you, I didn’t do it on purpose. I would never cheat on you, you know that.”
“That isn’t the problem. And you know that.”
Hank sighed. “I'm sorry.”
“I don’t think that’s going to be good enough.”
“I won’t gamble. Ever again.”
“I don’t believe you.”
“Zoe, I promise you I’ll –“
“You promised me before. And now look what’s happened.”
“That isn’t really –“
“You’ve got a problem. A big problem. And until you admit it I can’t help you.”
“But I win!” He was trying desperately to make her understand, his hands tightening on the bars until his knuckles were white. “Zoe, I win. It isn’t really gambling.”
“I know. And that’s what makes it worse.” She studied him, his grey eyes, the untidy brown hair, and wondered for just a moment what she’d fallen in love with, and even more, why she had. It had been against her better judgement, and she still felt the occasional pang of guilt that maybe she was betraying Wash, sullying his memory somehow. But always those grey eyes and the untidy brown hair would pull her round, remind her that Wash wouldn’t want her to be alone, not after he’d spent all that time teaching her how much fun it was to be a couple. She owed it to him, to both of them, to try. “I’ve never really told you about my father, have I?” she asked.
Hank was thrown by the apparent change of subject. “Um, no?”
“My Pa wasn’t always a space rat. He came from a pretty fair home, only son ‘n’all. Place like Mal’s, I always figured. Inherited the whole shebang after his parents died, and that could have been the end of it. Met my Ma, got married ... she showed me a couple of pictures once, and they looked so happy. Like it was gonna last forever. Then he started to gamble.” She heard him take a sharp breath, but went on quickly, as if the words might refuse to come out otherwise. “Little things at first. Occasional horse race. A game or two in town on a Friday night. Then Saturday too. And Wednesdays ... until he was barely home. My Ma threatened to leave him if he didn’t quit.”
“I didn’t know.” He stared at her, so calm, so stoic, as she told him more about her family than she had ever done.
“My Pa promised to stop gambling then, and it was true he didn’t go to town anymore. He just found other ways. Cortex betting mostly. Sometimes he’d win, and that’d convince him he was on a streak, so he’d bet more. Then when he lost he bet even bigger, just to win it back.”
“He lost. The house, all the money ... everything went to pay the debts. My Ma nearly left him then.”
“Why ... why didn’t she?”
“She loved him.”
He tried to make light of it, anything to make it not sound so real. “Zoe, this sounds like something out of one of my books.”
“Maybe it does. But it’s the truth. They had to leave, start over. A freighter was delivering goods and Pa talked the captain into taking them both on. Boxer was a good man, understood when Ma told him about Pa’s problem. Made sure he didn’t get the cash, or have access to anything on the Cortex. It took a long while, coupla years, before he could control it better. Then I was born, and Ma said he cried ‘cause otherwise he knew he wouldn’t’ve been around to see it.”
“You’re not as bad as that, not yet, but you will be. I want you to see Ben grow up, Hank. But if it’s a choice, and you don’t make the right one, I’ll put you off Serenity myself.”
“Sweetheart, I'm not addicted. I could give up whenever I wanted.” Even he could hear the note of pleading in his voice.
“But you didn’t.” She sat back, gazing at him. “Even though you knew I hated it, and I wanted you to stop.” She shook her head, a single curl coming loose and bouncing on her shoulder. “It’s always a sure thing, isn’t it? You get the word from someone, so you have to put a few credits on a race. And you win. Makes you feel good. You tell yourself it’s nothing, that it’s just a little money. And this is all apart from the fact that you’re naturally talented at cards. Makes it kinda worse, actually. ‘Cause you’re good at it. But that don’t mean it ain't an addiction.”
“Yeah, well, if Mal don’t figure out who killed that woman, I don’t think we’re gonna have to worry about that for too much longer anyway,” Hank joked, then wilted at her glare. “Does he ... does he know about this? Your Pa, I mean.”
“No. Never felt the need to tell him.”
“Oh.” He wasn’t sure if he felt thankful that she had confided in him, or scared that she was about to walk out of his life forever. A little of both, he decided. “You know, you could just consider this whole mess tao tai.”
Zoe glared at him. “This is not natural selection.”
“Karma, then. For something I did in another life.”
“Hank, it was something you did in this life.”
“I know.” He glanced at Warner, just outside in the corridor, making like he wasn’t listening. “Zoe, I love you. I’ll do anything to –“
The comlink in Zoe’s pocket buzzed.
“You shouldn’t have that in here!” Warner hissed, darting inside and reaching for the small unit.
Zoe merely stepped out of his way. “Yes?”
Kaylee’s voice, tense, worried. “Zoe, Mal wants you at the clinic. Something’s ... something’s happened to Simon.”
“On my way.” She glanced at Hank. “Gotta go.”
“I know.” He managed to dredge up a smile. “Come back?”
“I’ll think on it. Otherwise I’d have to tell Ben what happened to his Daddy.” She pushed past Warner and left the station at a run.
Mal flung the door to the lab open. “Stokes. Where’s Simon?”
The doctor jerked his head up, surprise and maybe something else on his face. “What?”
“Simon. Where is he?”
“I don’t know.” Stokes slid the drawer closed under the counter. “I came back a few minutes ago, but he wasn’t here. Why?”
Mal wasn’t about to go into details. “We need to find him. Where’s he likely to have gone?”
“I don’t know. Maybe he went to the wards.”
“Um, down the corridor to the left.” Stokes watched Serenity’s captain stride out, and he bit his lip. Glancing out of the window to the ground, he quickly went through all the options open to him. He’d wiped all the results from the computer, and had been about to destroy the samples when Mal came in, but if Simon woke up and remembered, if he wasn’t around to minimise any damage if the medic told anyone what had happened ... Stokes swallowed and pulled what little courage he had out of his boots, then shouted, “Here!”
Mal slammed back into the lab. “Simon?” Stokes pointed outside. Mal ran across the room and looked down. “Jayne!” he yelled, staring for a moment at the young man lying some thirty feet below then heading back for the door. “He’s outside!”
Jayne, opening cupboards and office doors, lifted his head. That did not sound good. “Gou niang yang de.” His face darkened as he ran back towards the entrance, his boots pounding on the floor, almost catching up with Mal and Stokes as they headed back into the sunlight.
“This way,” Stokes said, leading them around the building towards the back, through a gate into what looked like a disused garden.
“Where is he?” Mal asked, looking round.
“That’s my window.” He pointed up, crossing the unkempt grass towards a line of bushes.
Mal pushed through, pausing only a second at the sight of Simon face down on the hard-packed earth, hidden from casual view. “Jayne, get a stretcher.”
“On it.” He backed up then disappeared through the gate.
“Let me see,” Stokes said, pressing past and going down onto his knees.
“Is he alive?” Mal joined him the other side.
Stokes felt for a pulse. “Yes.”
“I don't know yet.” He ran experienced hands over the body in front of him, letting his professionalism mask his fear. “A broken left arm, probably some ribs gone on that side, possible internal injuries ... and he’s got a bad head wound too.” He glanced up at his window above them. “I’m surprised he didn’t break his neck. He must have fallen.”
“Yeah.” Mal leaned forward. “We need to roll him. Ease his breathing.”
Stokes looked at him in surprise. “Do you have medical training, captain?”
“Nope. But a man picks up bits during a war, even if it was barely enough to keep me and mine alive and kicking. ‘Sides, there was a time I didn’t have a medic on board Serenity.”
“Then help me. Support his head and shoulders, but try not to jar that arm.”
Between them they got Simon onto his back as gently as possible, but the result wasn’t much better. The front of his shirt was stained with blood, still redly wet.
“What the hell ...?” Stokes pulled the fabric away, revealing two long cuts in the flesh of Simon’s chest, at right angles to each other. “Something in his pocket.” He tapped, and it sounded metal.
“Gorram beacon,” Mal ground out.
“Never mind.” He noted there was more blood on Simon’s face, leaking from his nose and lips, let alone the gash in his hairline.
“Mal.” Jayne thundered back up carrying a stretcher, Zoe at his side.
“Is he –“ she began.
“Alive. But we need to get him inside so the doc here can start work.” He looked up at his first mate as Jayne set the stretcher down on the earth. “Better get Kaylee here, though.”
Zoe nodded, taking the comlink from her pocket, and wondering if they were about to lose another member of the crew.
to be continued
Sunday, May 11, 2008 1:30 AM
Sunday, May 11, 2008 3:27 AM
Sunday, May 11, 2008 12:41 PM
Sunday, May 11, 2008 12:46 PM
Sunday, May 11, 2008 2:23 PM
Tuesday, May 13, 2008 11:41 PM
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