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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Maya. Post-BDM. Simon is in mortal danger, but who will save him? NEW CHAPTER
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 2258 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
Jayne watched as Stokes filled the hypo, the gold liquid almost hesitant in transferring from the ampoule. Then his line of sight was blocked as the doctor leaned over his patient. Jayne moved to try and get a better view, the senses that had kept him alive this long kicking him in the hindbrain now. Then he saw, on the edge of his vision, Mal’s eyes widen, and he could feel the action about to happen. The Captain lunged forward, dragging Stokes away from the bed.
“What the hell are you doing?” Stokes shouted, struggling to get free.
“Zoe! The hypo! Check it!” Mal was barely holding on, his strength failing. “Jayne, take him.”
Without even a thought to ask why, Jayne did as he was ordered, wrapping his strong grip around the man, holding Stokes’ arms by his sides. “Gorram it, keep still. Don’t wanna hurt ya.”
“What’s going on?” Kaylee asked, looking from one to the other in scared confusion.
“Yeah, I wanna know that too,” Jayne echoed.
Zoe leaned down, looking at the hypo still in Simon’s arm. She pulled it carefully out, a single drop of blood appearing at the injection site. “It’s empty,” she said, her face expressionless but her voice dripping acid.
Mal tried to catch his breath. “Did he –“
“No. It’s not been depressed.”
Stokes struggled harder, but in his throes his hand opened and something fell to the floor with a clatter. Mal darted forward and picked it up, the liquid inside it glowing. “Son of a bitch,” he breathed. He held it up in front of Stokes. “This it? The antiviral? Then what were you trying to inject Simon with?”
“Let me go!”
“Air.” The voice was thin, dry, but it was Simon’s. They all turned to look. The young doctor was struggling to sit up. “Air,” he said again. “Embolism.” He coughed. “Enough to kill me.”
Mal’s face darkened and he glared at Stokes. “Not the first time, I'm guessing.”
“You mean he pushed Simon?” Kaylee looked mad now, her small hands clenching into fists.
“That he did.”
She was suddenly in Stokes’ face. “He was helping you and you tried to kill him?”
“It wasn't like that!” he insisted.
“Then tell me what it was like! Pushing a man out of a window. You tell me what that was like!”
Mal put his hands on her shoulders, drawing her against him, afraid she was going to attack the man. “Mei-mei.”
She could feel his warmth at her back. “How did you know this time?“ she asked, trying to control her emotions.
They all understood.
“What’s going on here?” Claire Stokes stood in the doorway to the room, a tray of medical instruments in her hands. “Ray?”
“God, no,” Stokes whispered. He struggled again. “Claire, don’t. It’s okay. I'm just –“ But it was too late. He could already see her eyes glazing, and tried desperately to get free.
“Gorram it, you stay still or I'm gonna have to – Tzao gao!” Jayne cursed as he felt a line of fire along his ribcage.
Claire had dropped the tray, in the same moment snatching a long thin-bladed scalpel from the air as it fell, darting forward and stabbing at the big man holding her husband. He’d turned at the last moment, and the blade only sliced skin along the bone, but she drew it back for a killing blow.
Mal let go of Kaylee, pushing her to one side out of the way, intent on stopping the woman from attacking Jayne, but Zoe was quicker. She moved between them, her fist flying out to connect with Claire Stokes’ jaw. The nurse dropped like a sack of wet sand, lying on the floor in a pool of red hair.
“Claire!” Stokes yelled, finally pulling from Jayne’s grasp as the big man reached for the wound in his side. He dropped to his wife’s side, stroking her face and murmuring her name.
“What the hell happened here?” Mal asked, looking down at them both, but he didn’t wait for an answer. “Zoe, call Kuerk. Someone’s gonna get locked up here, and there’s more’n a few questions I want answered. And bring back something to tie this woman up with.”
Zoe nodded, heading out of the room to find a link.
“You can’t do that!” Stokes said, glaring at him. “She … she doesn’t know. She won’t remember.”
“She won’t remember doing this.” He pulled her into his lap, his fingers tangled in her hair.
Mal didn’t speak, but there was an inkling of something threading its way through his mind.
Kaylee had climbed to her feet and was helping Jayne lift his t-shirt. “Stand still,” she ordered as he squirmed, trying to get away from the pain.
“Then be careful!”
“I am being careful.” She glared at him. “Big baby.”
“Mal, help me up,” Simon said, trying to push the covers off. “I have to see to Jayne.”
It was with a surprisingly gentle hand that Mal pushed him back onto the bed. “You ain't going anywhere, doc. I think we can handle a scratch like that.”
“Scratch?” Jayne was indignant. “Feels like the gorram ‘Siris Canyon.”
“And I can put some weaves on it,” Kaylee insisted, sniffing hard.
“Hey, you crying, girl?” the big man asked, changing his tune immediately. “It ain't that bad.”
“I know. Just shut up.”
“I told you I didn’t want surprises in my town,” Kuerk said, his hand resting on the pistol strapped to his hip.
“Hey, these kinda surprises I could do without, too.” Mal leaned against a filing cabinet in the sheriff’s office, wishing he could lie down and let the ‘verse get on without him for a while.
Kuerk had shown up at the clinic with two deputies in tow, just as Claire Stokes started to come round. Her husband was right – she was disoriented, almost phased out, protesting weakly as one of the men put restraints on her.
“That’s not necessary,” Stokes complained, submitting to the cuffs himself. “She won’t hurt you.”
“Don’t plan on taking the chance,” Kuerk said. “Get ‘em back to the station.” He waited until they’d been taken out to the hover, then turned to Serenity’s captain. “Tell me.”
He went through the facts as he knew them, showing the sheriff the hypos, explaining what they’d found out. Kuerk asked Simon a couple of questions, then stood for a long moment, staring at the wall, before striding out. Mal followed, curious, in time to hear Kuerk calling his office and telling them to get Paxton on the wave.
“Paxton?” Mal asked.
“Doctor in a town a distance off. I think we’re gonna need his help.”
“I can get him,” Zoe offered, materialising at Mal’s elbow like she grew there. “Take one of the shuttles. It’ll be quicker.”
“Shiny.” Kuerk’s calm exterior seemed ruffled as he fed the information back through. He looked at Mal. “You’re coming with me. Stokes ain't the only one I’ve got questions for.”
Now Mal stood in the corner of the office, his arms crossed, ignoring the nausea trying to assert itself from the antiviral. Under guidance from Simon, Kaylee had given him the injection while he tried not to see her hand shaking, looking instead at the tray of ampoules and noting a dozen of them missing. He’d half-smiled, knowing Zoe had taken them with her when she’d gone for the shuttle. At least his family were going to be okay now.
Kuerk shook his head. “You should’ve told me. Soon as your medic went out that window, you should’ve reported it.”
“And what would you have done?”
“How? Fingerprints weren’t going to be any good. It’s Stokes’ lab - they’d be everywhere anyway. Same for DNA. And maybe you wouldn’t be looking too hard.”
Kuerk’s eyes narrowed. “I do my job, Captain.”
“Yeah.” Mal sighed, closing his eyes briefly. “Sorry.”
The door opened and Warner stuck his head through. “You ready for him now, boss?”
“Bring him in. And how’s Claire doing?” Kuerk asked.
“Sitting in the cell complaining. But it’s like she’s drugged. Not really with it, you know?”
“Doc Paxton better take a look at her when he’s got time. But bring Stokes in here.”
“Yes, boss.“ Warner nodded and retreated behind the door again.
Kuerk exhaled heavily. “You know, there was a time I knew exactly what was going on in my town. Down to the last detail. But this, Stokes … Claire … it’s got me wondering whether I shouldn’t retire.”
“I wouldn’t,” Mal said. “Places like this need good men.”
“Now, Captain Reynolds, I was planning on hanging your pilot. And from what you’ve just said, somehow I don’t think you consider me a good man.”
Mal was saved from having to answer by Warner coming back inside, bringing Stokes with him.
There was no fight left in the doctor, and he sat down willingly in the chair placed for him in the centre of the room. His eyes, though, were haunted, as if he’d seen horrors he just wanted to forget. Warner went to stand in the corner, but switched on a recording machine sitting on the table first.
Kuerk perched on the edge of his desk, glaring at Stokes. “Well, Ray? You gonna tell us what the diyu happened?”
“It was my fault.” His voice was low, almost inaudible, but insistent. “Whatever you think Claire did, it was my fault. She‘s not responsible for her actions.”
The sheriff glanced at Mal, then said, “That‘s something we‘re gonna be letting a jury decide. But right now you’re going to have to go through it from the beginning.”
Stokes looked up at him and nodded. “I didn’t mean it to happen, you know. Claire and I were happy, but then Rita arrived and … things changed.” He dropped his head, staring at the restraints on his wrists. “She was an offworlder,” he went on. “She didn’t understand about the way people are here. She married Stan, but ... she thought it would be different. And when it wasn’t ...”
“Go on.” Kuerk crossed his arms. “I take it you started an affair.”
“It wasn’t anything at first. Just a drink after work. Then lunch together. I can’t even tell you when it changed.”
“But you started sleeping together.”
Stokes nodded. “At the clinic. You have to understand, I love my wife, but Rita was … different. We couldn’t go to a hotel, use either of our houses, but there were plenty of empty rooms with beds there. It became a habit.”
Mal stirred uncomfortably, hearing Freya’s voice in his head from before.
“Love. No. Sorry. Not love. Obsession, maybe.”
“Obsessed,” he murmured.
“Yes.” Stokes looked up, eager to agree. “That was it. I was obsessed with her.” The haunted look came back. “Then she told me she was pregnant.”
“What did she do, threaten to tell her husband?” Kuerk asked.
Stokes nodded. “Rita said she was going to task for a divorce. I tried to explain Newhall doesn't look well on this kind of thing, but she was adamant. Kept saying she couldn’t do this without me, that she wasn’t intending to, even if she had to tell everyone. Including Claire.” A tremor ran through his frame.
“So you decided to kill her.”
“No!” Strokes jumped to his feet, but quickly sat down again at the click of the safety on Warner’s gun being removed. “No. I didn’t want to … I just wanted to get her away.” He rubbed his hands together. “I arranged to meet her in the bar, where I knew Claire wasn‘t likely to find us. Stan was sick, so if anyone saw they’d think I was just trying to take her out of herself. I had a little money, and I was going to give it to her, tell her to leave. Maybe even promise to follow her later, but just … get her out of Monument.”
“Only she wouldn’t go.”
“She said it wasn’t enough. Was about to make a scene. Then I saw this card game, and the money sitting in the middle of the table, and …” He swallowed and looked at Mal. “I'm sorry. I didn’t know he was … He was just another man in a saloon, winning at cards. I didn’t …”
“What?” Kuerk leaned over him, his hands on the arms of the chair. “Figure him for a man with friends?”
“It was going to be easy,” Stokes insisted. “Rita went and got the Volmenox, we dosed up a shot of whiskey and …” He licked his lips.
“And Rita made a play for him, persuaded him to follow her outside,” Kuerk filled in.
“He didn’t have to go.”
“Not what I heard. And you knew exactly what that drug’d do to him, didn‘t you? Make him all … pliant.”
Stokes wouldn’t look at him, didn‘t reply. Instead he went on, “I followed them until they came to that alley, then we pushed him inside. It was easy. Except …” He swallowed. “She had a knife.”
Kuerk couldn‘t help it. “Are you saying she attacked you?” he asked incredulously.
“I don’t know what happened. She was hysterical, saying I’d promised to leave Claire, go away with her, and then … she was on the ground.”
“No.” Mal spoke. “It didn’t happen like that.”
Stokes head jerked up and he glared at the other man. “You weren’t there! You don’t know!”
“Maybe not, but I was in that hospital room. Saw what your wife did when she thought you were being threatened. Heard you trying to stop her.” He stepped forward. “What happened? She follow you? Saw you with your lover and … what? Came over all murderous there too?”
For a moment they could see Stokes was going to deny it, to continue to take the blame. Then he seemed to collapse into himself. “It’s an illness. She can’t control it. She’s on medication, has been for a long time, but with all this going on, the measles, everything, she can’t have been taking it regularly, and …”
Mal and Kuerk exchanged glances, knowing they were finally getting to the truth. The sheriff nodded and said, “Better tell us the rest.”
“You’re right,” Stokes said, a broken man. “Claire followed me. I didn’t think she knew about Rita and me, but she must have guessed. Rita and I were arguing, and then suddenly Claire was there, Rita was against the wall and my wife was …” He stared into nothing for a moment, then covered his face with his hands.
“Who decided to frame Hank?” Mal asked quietly.
“Me,” Stokes admitted, pulling himself together. “Claire was in no fit state. You’ve seen her. After one of her episodes it takes her several hours to recover, and she never remembers. It was my decision to make it look like your pilot killed Rita. I covered him in her blood, put his hand on the knife … and took Claire home.”
“And my medic? Simon? Why’d you try to kill him, or are you gonna say Claire did that?”
“No, that was me.” He sighed. “He found out I was the father of her baby. I couldn’t risk him telling anyone.”
“Well, I guess that about covers it for the moment,” the sheriff said, shaking his head. “You’ve made a xue jiu out of this whole mess, Ray. You should’ve come to me, told me. Explained. I could’ve spoken to the Judge, got Claire the help she needed, even maybe found a way for her not to be …” He stopped. “Ain’t gonna happen now, though. Stan’s not only lost the woman he loved, but Claire’s probably gonna be locked up in some institution for the rest of her life.”
“I thought –“
“No, you didn’t. Everything you’ve done has been a reaction to something. If you had been thinking with more’n your balls beforehand, we none of us would be here now. And Rita wouldn’t be lying on a slab down in the morgue.” He looked up at Warner. “Take him back to his cell.”
The deputy nodded, helping Stokes to his feet. As he led him towards the door, the doctor wriggled around to look at Mal. “And Simon? Is he going to be all right?”
Mal gazed at the attempted murderer. “It’ll be a while, but ... yeah, I’ve a notion he’s gonna be okay.”
“Good. I'm glad.” Stokes licked his lips. “Tell him I'm sorry, okay? He’s a good man. I really didn’t intend to hurt him. We neither of us intended to hurt anyone.”
“I’ll be sure and tell Judge Temple you said that,” Kuerk said, nodding to Warner to take him away.
“What about Hank?” Mal asked, leaning against the wall again as the door closed, feeling tiredness sweep through him.
“I just need to talk to the Judge.” He chuckled at the look he received. “It’s all right, I’ll be waving him now.” He glanced at the clock. “I think at this point I’m going to enjoy waking him up.”
“I’d take that as a kindness. So’ll Hank.”
“You want to go tell him?”
“Conjure he’s figured it out, seeing as your men had Stokes back there.”
“Perhaps. But he’d probably like it confirmed.”
“Oh, I think he can wait a while longer.” He gave his slow, lazy smile, then grimaced, a hand to his chest, just below his throat. “You got somewhere I can –“
“Throw up?” Kuerk grinned. “Yeah. Just through there.” He nodded towards a door in the corner, then said, “You think Rita brought that knife with her?”
Mal shrugged. “I think we’ll never know for sure.”
Hank stepped out into the dawn light, the sun just beginning to kiss the darkness back from the horizon. Above him a few stars still glittered, and he smiled. He couldn’t wait to be out there amongst them again.
“Better?” Warner asked, standing behind him.
Hank turned. “Much,” he agreed.
Warner laughed. “Well, I don’t think you’ll be back any time soon, but if you do, look me up. We can go have a drink.”
“You’re on. You know, for a lawman, you’re not bad.”
“For a crook, neither are you.”
“Hey, I’m a pilot. I just fly the spaceship,” Hank protested.
“Yeah. Right.” Warner grinned as he closed the door.
Hank smiled and turned towards the docks, taking a deep breath of freedom. It had never tasted so good.
He strolled down the main street, pondering the fact that while Monument City was pretty much still asleep, there was some activity here and there. For instance he could hear the low murmur of music, and as he got closer there was an occasional voice, a burst of laughter. They were coming from a bar, which a somewhat subdued sign announced to be Picadee’s. Stepping closer, he peered through the window, and through the grime could just see a game was going on. Just then someone laid down his hands and leaned forward, claiming the pot. Hank couldn’t see the cards, but just knew he could beat them.
He took a step towards the door … and stopped, appalled. A minute ago he’d been anxious to get home, back to Serenity, to see Zoe and Ben, make sure the antiviral had done its job and stopped the measles in its tracks, desperate to know they were feeling better … and here he was considering - no, needing to go inside this bar and take these guys on.
A little voice in his head piped up. “Just a couple. No more. Take the first big pot and go. No-one’s going to notice if you’re half an hour. Hell, no-one knows they’ve let you out yet. Just a few hands …”
He wanted to. He could feel it, the itch in his fingertips to be holding the deck, flicking the boards onto the table, analysing the faces of his opponents, learning their tells. It would be so easy just to give in.
Zoe was right. Run-tse duh fuo-tzoo, but Zoe was right. Even the thought of little Ben waiting for him to come home, of what his Amazon of a wife would do to him if she found out … even that got buried beneath the need.
A wave of nausea rolled through him. Zoe was right. He was addicted to it. Disgust followed the nausea, even more so when he realised the need was still there. His fists clenched, the nails biting into his palms. “Just one hand. One. They’ll never know.“ He leaned over, spilling his guts onto the street.
Finally there was nothing left, and he gave one last dry heave before standing up, wiping his mouth on his sleeve, trembling slightly. Glancing through the window once more, he turned on his heel and started to trudge back towards the ship, feeling the need get stronger with every step. He so wanted to turn back, to open the doors and smell the stale beer, the smoke, hear the clatter of coin on the old wooden table … he was panting as he reached the corner and stopped abruptly.
The big man pushed off from the wall. “Ain’t easy, is it?”
Hank swallowed, tasting bitterness in his throat, and glanced back guiltily. “You saw?”
“Mal ask you to keep an eye on me?” A trace of belligerence soured his tone.
“Then why -”
“Just figured they’d be letting you go.”
“And what would you’ve done if I’d gone in there?” The belligerence was turning to anger boiling up inside, needing something or someone to hit out at. “Followed me and dragged me out, kicking and screaming?”
“Nope. Not my place.”
“Then what? What’d you do?”
“Nothing. Been disappointed, maybe. Torn you limb from limb when you got back, if Zoe hadn’t done it first. But I didn’t have to. You made the right choice.”
The anger was unexpectedly dowsed. “It’s hard,” Hank blurted out. “Damn hard. I wanted … I still want to go back.”
“But you didn’t. First step to tackling this.”
“Why do you care?”
Jayne shrugged. “Not sure. Maybe ‘cause I seen others like ya. Taking what they think’s the easy path and ending up with crap all. Or maybe I don’t wanna see that little boy back there growing up without a daddy. ‘Cause that’s what he’d do, if’n Zoe found out you broke your word. You’d never see him again.”
Hank paled. “I know. And I don’t think I could live with that.”
“Then hold onto it. Each time the demon tries to tell you it’s okay, that one hand ain’t gonna kill no-one, you remember it. Hell, have it tattoo’d on your arm. I’ll do it for ya.”
The pilot laughed, somewhat shakily. “I might just take you up on that.”
“’N’ if you feel the need, if that thought ain’t enough, you come to me. I’ll break one of your legs for ya. No charge.”
Hank wasn’t sure if the ex-mercenary was joking or not, and finally decided maybe it wasn’t an empty offer. “Thanks, Jayne.”
“Don’t thank me yet. This is gonna be hard. Maybe the gorram hardest thing you’ve ever done. But I mean it. You come to me Or to Freya. Even Mal. You don’t go through this alone.” He stretched, wincing slightly as the cut along his ribs pulled, and the scent of Jayne wafted to Hank’s nostrils. “Now, can we get back? I got a wife and son of my own I wanna check up on.”
to be concluded
Saturday, May 17, 2008 6:22 AM
Saturday, May 17, 2008 6:43 AM
Saturday, May 17, 2008 7:29 AM
Saturday, May 17, 2008 3:25 PM
Sunday, May 18, 2008 1:54 PM
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