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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Maya. Post-BDM. Just rounding off this arc with a little fluff, but the possibility of more angst to come. Hank makes confession, and Mal makes a new friend. CONCLUDING CHAPTER
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1998 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
It took more than a week before Simon was well enough to be transferred to Serenity, but Dr Paxton finally announced that he could go home, as along as he promised to rest.
“I’ll make sure of that, doc,” Kaylee said firmly, glaring at her husband.
“Hey, what did I do?” the young man demanded to know.
“You shoulda waited. Not said anything until the Cap was there. Then maybe you wouldn’t’ve got pushed out the window.”
“I wasn’t well.”
“That’s no excuse.”
In that time the antiviral had been distributed throughout the town, and everyone on Serenity was feeling a lot better. Monument City wasn’t sure how to handle her crew, though. Simon had undoubtedly saved them from a lot of suffering, maybe even a few lives, but there was still an undercurrent that they were trouble. There was even a rumour that Rita Hammond wouldn’t have died at all if they hadn’t been there.
Macallum had said pretty much the same thing straight out. “So I don’t think it’d be a good idea for you and yours to come back here any time soon.”
Mal smiled. “I take it that job offer ain’t on the table no more.”
“You weren’t going to take it anyway, were you?”
Mal chuckled. “No. Honest truth, we’re better off going from place to place. Never was one for putting down roots dirtside.”
“I’m not sure if I want you to be expanding on that little comment.”
“Like I said before, I look into the people work for me, so probably better not.” Macallum stuck out his hand. “Captain, if you ever need anything, you wave. And I mean it. Anything. Mary’d make me sleep out in the bunkhouse if I didn’t stick to that.”
“She’s done that before?”
“Let’s just say I’ve made an acquaintance of a bedroll or two.”
They laughed and shook hands, then Macallum climbed into his buckboard and flicked the reins, the old vehicle disappearing in a cloud of dust.
Zoe glanced at her captain. “He’s a good man, sir.”
“That he is.”
“You could have taken up his offer. Maybe made this a base for us.”
“Nope. Got all I need right here.” He looked into her dark face. “Why, you feeling the need to have your feet on solid ground?”
“No, sir. But it does the kids good, once in a while.”
“Frey’s said the same. But there’s things going on -”
“I know, sir. And I’m a space rat, you know that. Born and raised in the black. Likely to die there too.”
“Only not for a while.”
“Oh, no, sir. Not for a while.”
“Unlike Hank.” He glanced over his shoulder. “How’s it going with you two?”
“It’s … going.”
“I conjure it’s gonna take a while for you to trust him again.”
“A good long while.”
“Just … don’t be too hard on him. He’s trying.”
“Yes, sir,” Zoe said, walking back inside Serenity. “That he is.”
Mal smiled at the double meaning and went to fetch his wife and children to take them for a walk, something they’d been doing on a regular basis, giving them fresh air and the chance to get stronger. And maybe this time Ethan wouldn’t wander off. Mal shook his head. Thinking they’d lost him had almost given both of ‘em a heart attack, until they’d got back to Serenity and found him waiting for them. Maybe those reins Kaylee mentioned wouldn’t be a bad idea after all.
The delay in getting back into the black also gave Hank the chance to take the first steps. He’d waved Sam to give him and Inara the good news in person, and asked what he should do. Dr Nazir had given him a list, even offered to talk if he needed it, and Hank had promised to do so, whenever they were in range. As he switched off the wave, though, he had to smile. It looked like Inara had hit Sam quite hard on the arm, and was demanding to know why he hadn’t told her about this in the first place. It looked like he had a lot of explaining to do.
Still, Hank took his advice, and at dinner that night he waited until everyone had finished eating, then coughed and stood up.
“Guys, there’s … there’s something I wanna say to you. Need to say to you.”
All eyes turned to the pilot.
“Well, go on,” Mal said, “No-one’s gonna try and stop you.”
“Thanks. I think.” He looked around. “I reckon you all know what I’m about to say, although most probably think I’d never say it.” He turned to Kaylee. “You were right, you know. What you said before. And I’m sorry I lied to you.” His gaze travelled to the rest of his crewmates. “I’m sorry I lied to all of you.” He stopped, his hands twisting together.
“Need to say it,” Jayne muttered, and River patted his hand.
“Jayne,” Mal warned.
“No, he’s right.” Hank took a deep breath. “I wish I weren’t, and for the life of me I wish I’d never started, but … I’m addicted to gambling.”
There was a collective sigh of relief around the table.
“Oh, Hank,” Kaylee whispered, her eyes just a little moist.
“I honestly can’t say how it happened, it just did. And I … it made me say things I regret. Mostly lying to you.” He looked down at his wife, who was carefully studying the plate in front of her. “I need help, Zo. It’s gonna be bad, and there’ll be days I … Jayne said he’d put me out of action if I wanted, and I really don’t want that, but I need your help.”
She didn’t answer, but as he sat down again she put her hand on his, squeezing.
“Jayne, what did you say you’d do to him?” Mal asked, trying to ignore the lump in his throat.
“Said I’d break his leg for him. If he asked.” Jayne looked around the table. “What?”
“Big softie,” River murmured.
Mal sighed. “Well, as appealing as that sounds, and I for one would like to thank Jayne for his offer, but I’d rather you didn’t. Leastways, nothing that’s gonna stop my pilot flying my boat.”
“Besides,” Zoe said quietly. “He doesn’t need someone else to do it for him. Not when he has me.”
Hank smiled, somewhat nervously.
Now they were back in space, ambling towards Persephone, and a meeting with Badger.
“Can I kill him if things don’t go well?” Jayne asked, bouncing the silver ball in the corridor outside the bunks. “Seeing as I ain’t gonna be allowed to damage Hank.”
“I think Frey’s got first refusal on that, but I’m sure she’ll let you give a hand.” Mal stepped down into the galley. “Ain’t that so?”
Freya turned from pulling a mug from the cupboard. “Isn’t what what?”
“That you’re ready to play.” He grinned. “Gotta get back to strength.”
She eyed the pair of them. “And you think this is a good idea?”
“Hey, don’t drag me into this!” Simon declared from the armchair in the lounge area.
“Be good for us.” Mal leaned on the counter and looked at his wife. “We’ll let you win again.”
“You didn’t win before,” Freya pointed out.
“Win what?” Hank asked, following Zoe down the steps.
“Mal thinks we’re going to play hoopball.”
“Hey, good idea!”
“I’m in,” Kaylee added from the other doorway. “And I’ll get Bethie up. She can keep score.”
“How is the short stub?” Mal asked, smiling at her. “Feeling any better?”
“A lot. Simon said she can get up today, if she’s good.”
“Great.” He grinned wider. “So a game it is.”
“Dibs on Frey on my team,” Hank put in quickly.
“Your team?” Zoe looked at him, raising her eyebrows by a millimetre.
“I meant yours, sweetheart.” He tried a smile. “Long as I’m on it.”
“You’re trying too hard.”
“Anyways, it’s boys versus girls,” Jayne said, stretching. “Got payback to get.”
“You think?” Zoe turned her gaze on him.
“Yeah.” He bounced again. “Come on.” He walked out of the room towards the stairs, only pausing when he heard Mal speak.
“What was that?” Mal asked.
“What?” Freya took a mouthful of coffee.
She paused, listening. “Sounds like … no idea.”
“Something might be about to fall off my boat and you don’t know what it is.”
“Do you?” she asked in turn.
“Well, no, but that’s not the point.” He glared at her. “It sounds like something humming.” He looked at Kaylee. “You got any light you wanna shed on this?”
The young mechanic cocked her head. “Don’t hear nothing, Captain.”
“Everyone going deaf on my boat?” He strode into the corridor, stopping by the open hatchway to Jayne’s old bunk. “It’s coming from down there.”
“There ain’t nothing down there to make a noise,” Kaylee pointed out.
“Then you explain why I’m hearing things. And I’d take it as a kindness if you’d remember who’s the captain.” He dropped down the ladder, Freya a pace behind him. At the bottom he peered into the darkness, then switched on the light. “Ethan?”
His son was standing guiltily in the corner, half turned away. “Yes?” he asked, not looking at them.
“What you got there?”
“Don’t look like nothing. Come here. Let me see.” Mal took a step forward but Ethan was too quick for him. He’d swerved round his father and bolted up the ladder before either could stop him, faster than they’d seen him move before, something grey and small under his arm.
“Ethan?” Freya called, but her son didn’t stop. She was up the ladder just as quickly.
“What the hell’s going on?” Mal demanded to know, following her.
“I don’t know.”
Voices in the galley drew their attention, and he could see the rest of the crew clustered around something.
“Ethan, you come here and …” Mal’s voice died away as Kaylee moved to one side. “Oh, no.”
The little boy was standing in the middle of the group, holding a small kitten to his chest. “Mine,” he said quietly.
Mal stepped down into the kitchen area, glaring. “Is that what I think it is?”
“Mine,” Ethan said louder, his eyes looking suspiciously shiny.
“Well you ain't keeping it.”
Ethan took a step back, leaning against Jayne’s strong legs as if for protection.
“Aw, Cap’n, it’s sweet!” Kaylee ran her fingers over the tiny head, and was rewarded by a purr far too large for the kitten’s body.
“It’s not sweet!” Mal glared at his crew. “What is this, mutiny?”
Hank tickled one of the tiny pink feet poking out from under Ethan’s arm. “He’s a cutie.”
“She,” River supplied, playing tag with the kitten’s tail.
“It’s a girl?” Hank grinned. “Then she’s even cuter.”
“No, she ain't!” Mal couldn’t believe it. Not one of the people who were supposed to be his friends, his family, were agreeing with him.
“Mal, give it up,” Freya suggested quietly, moving round him towards her son. “You know you ain't gonna win. And she is Ethan’s. He did find her.”
“I know, but –“
“Brought her on board. Kept her hidden. Fed her. Watered her. Cleaned up after her.”
“I know, but I – he did?”
“I think someone found him a box and something like kitty litter.” Freya reached out and touched the soft grey fur.
“Mal, it’s just a cat,” Jayne said quickly.
“You?” Mal’s jaw dropped. “And what kitty litter?”
“Some of River’s earth.”
Mal turned his attention to the young Mrs Cobb. “Did you know about this?”
“No. Well, yes, but not so I allowed myself to notice.” She smiled at him. “She’s really pretty.”
“River …” He turned to look at Freya. “You knew about this too?”
“Not until just now, no.” Ethan’s walls are a little wobbly, she added in his mind. “She’s only a cat, Mal.”
“Exactly!” He shook his head. “It not occurred to anyone that we’ve got a dog already?” When nobody answered him, he went on, “Dog? Cat? Big fights, fur everywhere, blood … ringing a bell with anyone?”
“She’s a kitten,” Simon put in unexpectedly.
“You too?” Mal couldn’t believe it. Stabbed in the back by his own doctor, even if he was sporting bandages.
“I think it’s an excellent idea.”
“Yeah, but only ‘cause it ain’t gonna live with you.”
“So it’s living with us?” Freya asked. “Just so I can clarify this.”
“Yeah. No.” He glared at her. “You’re putting words into my mouth, woman!”
“Well, take your foot out and I won’t have to.” She took his hand and pulled it towards the kitten. “Mal, look. She’s ever so sweet.”
“Frey, it ain't staying.”
“You wouldn’t space her!” Kaylee shot back, her voice a mix of disgust and affront.
“I didn’t say that. But next planetfall –“
Mal stopped, mid tirade, and looked down at his son. “Ethan?”
“Why don’t you like her?”
Familiar blue eyes stared back at him, and he felt his resolve weakening. “Ethan, it ain’t that I don’t like her, but a boat ain't a place for a cat.”
“Bethie has a dog.”
He has a point, he heard in his mind, but chose to ignore it. “And that’s another thing. Like I said, dogs and cats fight.”
“Not always,” Zoe put in, rewarded by a look that should have melted her on the spot.
“I can teach her,” the little boy insisted. “Maybe they’ll be friends.”
“Please, Daddy?” His gaze was hopeful, his eyes full of unshed tears, and the lip …
Mal looked at his boy, deciding Bethie must’ve been giving him lessons, then up at the crew, finally to his wife. You know you’re going to let him. “Gorramit,” he breathed.
Ethan grinned. “Thank you, Daddy!” He kissed the top of the kitten’s head, who let out a tiny ‘rowr’.
“So what’s her name?” Kaylee asked, sitting down and pulling Ethan onto her lap, stroking the soft fur.
“Don’t know,” Ethan admitted. “We didn’t … been calling her cat.”
“Maoli,” River said. “She says her name is Maoli.”
Simon nodded gingerly. “Wild cat. It seems to fit.”
Mal couldn’t help the sigh that threw itself from his throat, resting his hands on his hips.
Freya put her arm through his. “At least it’s not another puppy,” she murmured.
“This ain't Serenity. It’s a zoo.”
On Newhall, a man of medium height with brownish hair stopped by the sheriff’s station. “’Scuse me, I wonder if you can help me?”
Rudi Kuerk looked him up and down. “If I can.”
“I was looking for a Malcolm Reynolds. I understand he was docked here?”
“He was. Left a few days ago. You a friend of his?”
“From the war.”
“Well, like I said, he’s gone. Didn’t say where he was heading, either.”
The man sighed a little. “Never mind. I'm sure I’ll catch up with him. Sooner or later.”
Sunday, May 18, 2008 1:46 PM
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