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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Maya. Post-BDM. The disappearances are discovered, but no-one knows why. NEW CHAPTER
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1845 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
Kaylee’s family were gathering, and by about two o’clock the rest of Serenity’s crew were told, in no uncertain terms, to go and get out from under their feet while everything was prepared for the party that evening. This meant that Simon and Kaylee took the opportunity to go back to Serenity for a little quiet time, while Freya and River tried to block the resulting sexual overflow by playing cards and talking loudly.
Jayne, knowing he needed to be doing something physical, got out the set of horseshoes and set up the pins in the field, where he was joined by Mal, Ethan and Bethie. The little girl soon got tired of the game, and sat under a convenient tree to play with Fiddler.
Ethan, on the other hand, was enjoying himself, being with his father and uncle, and pretending to be a man. “What was my Granma like?” he asked, picking up the horseshoe and aiming carefully, his tongue stuck out of the corner of his mouth.
Mal’s brows raised. “What do you want to know for?”
The little boy let fly, missing the pin by a good two feet. “Know Bethie’s Granma and Granpa. Met Caleb’s Granma. Want to know what mine was like.”
His father half-smiled. “Well, for a start I’m not sure she’d ever’ve been able to guess I’d have a son like you. Actually, I doubt she’d ever thought of me having kids at all. Can’t imagine it happening to you, but I guess it will someday.”
“Four,” Bethie put in unexpectedly, making Fiddler’s back leg jerk with pleasure.
“Four. I want four children. Or more puppies.”
“Stick to the puppies, short stub,” Jayne advised, taking his turn and hearing the horseshoe connect with a clang. “Kids’ll kill ya.”
“Says the man who changes diapers and reads Caleb bed-time stories.” Mal grinned.
“Oh, I ain’t saying I’d ever give up being a Dad. Just it means your life ain’t your own no more. Got to think about the others all the time.”
“Yep,” Mal agreed happily. “Torture, ain’t it?”
“Sure is.” Jayne growled with laughter. “Never thought I’d be one of them liked pain.”
“Masochist. Someone who enjoys having pain inflicted on them.”
“Well, seeing as I’m the one usually doin’ the inflictin’ …”
Ethan looked up into their faces, feeling they’d got off track. “Daddy? Granma?”
Mal went down onto his heels. “Well, she was real pretty. And … well, she got on with everyone. Knew how to deal with folks.”
His father grinned. “Yeah, like me. And she’d’ve liked you. Made you cakes and things, told you stories of when I was young, and the kinda things I got up to -”
“You mean like when you had to walk through town in a dress?” Jayne asked, chewing idly on a piece of grass.
Mal shot him a glare. “That kinda thing, yeah.” He turned back to his son. “And she’d’ve held you close when we visited, kept you warm, just like your Momma does.”
“I’d’ve loved her,” Ethan said softly.
“Best thing about having grandkids, I figure,” Jayne added. “You get the best parts, then when they’re needing changing, or they’re being bad … you just hand ‘em back.”
“I think it’ll be a while before you get those kind of benefits,” Mal pointed out.
“Nah. Get that already with Ethan here and the short stub.” He looked across at Bethie. “Ain’t that right?” He stopped. “Hey, girl, you okay?”
She had paused, ignoring Fiddler as he tried to make her continue tickling him. “Auntie Zoe …” she said, looking up. “And Uncle Hank …” Her brow creased.
“Sir, have you seen Hank?” Zoe approached them from the direction of the house.
“He went fishing, didn’t he?”
Zoe nodded. “With Kaylee’s brother. But they’re not back yet. And it’s almost time for the party.”
“Must be enjoying themselves.” He smiled. “Probably talking about girls.”
It didn’t get the rise he expected. “And he’s not answering his com.”
Mal stood straighter. “He took one with him?”
“He’s not stupid.”
“No, I guess he ain’t.” He looked round at Bethie. “Can you see anything, sweetheart?”
The little girl shook her head. “Not hurt. Just … not here.”
Mal felt something crawl up his spine and make a home at the base of his brain. “Come on. I think we’d better go see if anyone’s had sight of either of ‘em.”
No-one had, and amid the growing mutterings Mal addressed the Frye clan and the rest of his crew. “Jayne, River, you stay put. If Hank or Pete shows up, you let me know, dong mah?”
“No problem,” the big man growled.
“The rest of us search. At least three to a group – no-one goes alone or unarmed.”
“You think –“ Ellie couldn’t finish the sentence, Kaylee holding onto her, giving as much as receiving comfort.
“I think we need to get out there and find them,” Mal said gently. “But this is just a precaution. I’m taking it that they’ve fallen asleep and got their com turned off. Be just like Hank to do that, no matter how often he’s been told.”
“And I’ll be telling him again, you can be sure of that,” Zoe added.
Ellie knew they were just trying to make her feel better, to take away some of the nagging fear.
Kaylee squeezed her hand encouragingly. “Hank’s got a lot better’n he used to be. Time was he’d go wool-gathering and we’d never know where he was.” She smiled a little. “And he’s got Pete with him. How much trouble can a man get into with my brother with him?”
“You’ve obviously forgotten the time your brother decided to join the circus.”
“Ma, he was eight years old!”
Eddie smiled at his daughter, doing her best. “Mal’s right, honey. Pete’s got more sense that the other boys, you know that. If’n someone came after ‘em, he’d take Hank to one of the hides, lay low ‘til they’d gone by.”
“Hides?” Mal’s head went up.
“There’s a few places, out beyond the town, folks’ve built. Mainly in case of Reavers, but there’s also the occasional …” He stopped, and Mal wondered what he had been about to say. “They’re bolt-holes, well-hidden, got some supplies in too. Pete knows where they are.”
“Any out near the fishing hole?”
“One. Bit further on.”
“Then you come with us. The rest of yours can check the other hides.”
“Sure.” He looked to his wife. “Ellie, better get us some provisions. There’s no telling how long we’re gonna be gone.”
“Good idea, Pa,” Kaylee said approvingly. “Come on. I’ll help.”
Mal waited until Ellie Frye had gone into the house. “We don’t need food.”
“No. But she needs something to do.”
“I understand. Do you have any hassle with slavers or the like?” Mal asked, his arms crossed in front of his chest.
“Not really. Port Control’s got a pretty good lock on things, seeing as we service ships, but that don’t mean someone can’t land out in the hills and then walk or ride in. I just don’t see the point, not to take just two men.”
“Look, I can get the rest of the family here in less than an hour,” Eddie said, rubbing his damp palms down his pants. “We can cover a bigger area.”
“That won’t be necessary.”
Eddie swallowed. “You mean –“
“Don’t mean a thing. Just that we need to get going.”
The elder Frye nodded, pushing his anxiety back down. “Boys, get the guns.”
Mal, Freya, Zoe and Eddie moved smoothly towards the fishing hole, four pairs of eyes ranging, sometimes on the horizon, sometimes on the ground under their feet.
“You really think something’s happened to them,” Eddie said at one point.
“Can’t say.” Mal focused on something moving a ways off, but it was just a lone cow, munching on the dry grass.
“Can’t or won’t?”
Mal looked at the older man. “Eddie, we’ve had some trouble of late. Not just what you’ve been told, but … I don’t know. Maybe we’ve brought it with us. I'm just hoping not.”
“Me too.” Eddie couldn’t help the slight shudder that ran through him. “Me too.”
Soon they came on the stream, the water barely moving under a thick layer of weed.
Mal held up a hand and they stopped. “How far?”
“Coupla hundred yards. Just beyond that stand of trees there.”
Doing as instructed, they walked slowly forwards, every sense on alert. Then Freya darted forward, falling to her knees. “Mal.”
“What?” He ran to her side then drew up sharply. She was holding the broken remains of a fishing rod.
“And another,” Zoe called, reaching into the reeds by the water.
“Well, least we know they were here.”
“Here’s their pack.” Eddie squatted down under the trees, opening up the wicker basket. “Whatever happened, they didn’t have a chance to eat or drink anything. Pete’d be sure to put the beer in to cool, ‘cept it’s still here.” He grunted and lifted out something else. “Here’s your com, too.”
“Zoe, remind me to post a notice, will you? Folks carry coms on their person from now on.”
“I’ll do that, sir.” She was studying the ground around them, her face as inscrutable as ever. At least, to anyone who didn’t know her. “The dirt’s kicked up here, but there’s no way of knowing how long ago.”
Mal dropped to his heels. “Looks to me like there was maybe four or five men.” He touched the dirt. “You can see their boot prints. Jayne might pick up more, but –“
“No. They took them.” Freya was staring at the broken rod in her hand.
“They followed them from the house, but …” She shook her head.
“No. Just fog.”
Eddie was looking from one to the other. “You seeing this?” he asked. “You know where they took Pete?”
Freya gazed at him. “I wish I did,” she said sincerely. “But I still can’t … since the measles …”
“It’s okay,” Mal said gently.
She threw the rod down. “No, it isn’t. What’s the point in being psychic if all I get are flashes?” Her hands were fists. “I can’t focus, I can’t tie anything down …”
“Frey.” Just her name, only one word, but it was enough. She took a deep breath, holding it for as long as she could before releasing it slowly through her nostrils, letting the anger slip with it. Mal smiled, just a little. Good girl. He turned back to Eddie. “Come on. Not much point in checking the hide. We’d better get back and decide what we’re gonna do next.”
By the time the rest of the searchers were back, the sun was dropping behind the hills.
“Nothing, Mal,” Cal Frye said. “Sorry.”
“Didn’t expect there to be. Looks like they were taken as they got to the fishing hole. For what reason, well, that’s more unclear.” He glanced at the family standing silent, surrounding Ellie Frye, Kaylee still holding her hand. “I’d have to say, it’s probably because of us. We’ve got enough enemies in this quadrant, and I’d conjure one of ‘em has decided to do something other than sit and whine.” He took a deep breath and looked at Eddie. “And to that end it’d be better if your folks went home soon as you can, and you to pack up what you need for tonight. We’re all going back to Serenity ‘til morning.”
Eddie shook his head. “I ain’t leaving my house, Mal.”
“It’s safer on board.”
“That’s as maybe, but I ain’t running. And we don’t know it’s safe. You don’t know it was Hank was the target. Could be they were after Pete. Stranger things’ve happened.”
“Oh, I think that’s fair certain. But that just makes it me more determined to keep you and yours safe. Lost too many good friends lately to take the chance.” His mind supplied an image of a bright explosion in the blackest sky, and memories of collecting body parts …
“I appreciate the concern. But no-one’s driving us out. Cal and some of the other men’ll stay with us. We’ll be okay.”
Mal glared at him, but could see the determination in his face, a determination he recognised from his daughter. He understood. He didn’t approve, but he understood. “Jayne, River. You’ll stay,” he ordered. “We’ll take Caleb back to Serenity with us.”
“I’ll bring him,” the big man said. “I wanna pick up more guns anyway.”
“Then what?” Kaylee asked. “What’re you planning?”
Mal saw the expression on her face, the hope that he would come through like he always did, and he couldn’t tell her he had no idea. “Oh, something, mei-mei. Definitely something.”
No-one felt particularly like eating, although Kaylee insisted on preparing a meal from the food Ellie Frye had got ready for the party. But after some stilted conversation, and sideways glances to the empty seats, she and Simon had taken their daughters back to their rooms.
“I’ll put ours to bed,” Freya said, shooing them off their seats. “And Ben can bunk in with Ethan.”
“Mama?” The little boy looked at his mother, his coffee skin glowing in the soft light.
“That’s okay,” she said. “Kiss me goodnight and be good for your Auntie Frey.”
Ben climbed onto his seat and gently touched his lips to her cheek. “Daddy be okay,” he said softly, but it was difficult to say whether it was a demand or a promise.
“Of course he will.” Zoe smiled and kissed him back. “Now, hurry on to bed.”
Freya let her hand lay on Mal’s shoulder for a moment. “Don’t be too long.”
“Wasn't intending to be.” He smiled at her, knowing exactly what she was doing.
After a minute or two, hearing the hatch close above his bunk, Mal looked at Zoe. “The kids were quiet tonight.”
“That they were.”
“Not sure I can handle her being all quiet like she was.”
“Considering she talks nineteen to the dozen most days. More.”
He exhaled heavily. “Hell, Zoe, you’re gonna have to work harder at this conversation.”
“Didn’t say you weren't, but you talking to Ben was the most I’ve heard you say all evening.” He held up a hand. “And there’s nothing wrong with that. Not with your husband being missing n’all.”
“Really? I hadn’t noticed.”
She took a deep breath. “Sir, I have to believe he’s fine. And I know why you wouldn’t answer Kaylee. We’re just going to have to wait, aren’t we?”
He leaned back. “Truth is, we could search ‘til doomsday and never find ‘em. But if someone’s taken ‘em for a reason, they’re gonna want to tell us. Rub it into our faces. And soon as they do, I’ll visit such righteous anger on them they won’t know what’s hit them.”
“Is that a promise?”
She pushed her chair back and stood up. “Then I know he’ll come home.”
Mal shook his head. “You got such faith in me, Zoe?”
“I'm still here, aren’t I?” She walked out of the galley, her head high.
He watched her head to the bridge, and found he wasn’t surprised. He doubted she’d even consider sleeping until her husband was back on board.
He woke from a dream where he was chasing someone, or maybe being chased himself, to find he was alone in the bed. When he’d finally turned off the lights and climbed down the ladder, he’d found Freya was already under the covers, her eyes tight shut. He’d taken off his boots but nothing else, and climbed in next to her. He expected to lie awake for hours, going over every detail, seeing what else he could have done, what signs there had been that he’d ignored, but he slid into sleep.
Now, though, he sat up and wondered where his wife was. He didn’t bother rebooting, just tugged his suspenders back over his shoulders and went searching. It didn’t take long – she was in the cargo bay using Jayne’s weights.
“What are you doing?” he asked, watching her from the top catwalk as she raised and lowered the barbell, its rhythm almost hypnotic.
“Couldn’t … sleep.” Each word was punctuated by a lift of the bar.
He started down the stairs. “Don’t you usually tell me when you can’t?”
“I didn’t … want to … wake you.”
“Who said I was asleep?”
“You were snoring.”
“Faking it. Just so’s I wouldn’t succumb to your primal urges.”
She chuckled, and had to force the bar up into the cradle rather than have it crash to her chest. She sat up and glared at him. “That could’ve been nasty. You shouldn’t try and make someone laugh when they’re bench pressing.”
“And you shouldn’t be doing it without a spotter, either.” He stepped down onto the bay floor. “And I mean it. You should tell me if you can’t sleep.”
“Maybe I didn’t want to succumb to your primal urges, either.”
He smiled, just a lift of the lips. “I doubt anyone on board’s doing that right now. Or sleeping,” he added quickly.
“No.” She wiped her neck with her towel. “Not even Jesse.”
“Oh?” He looked up towards their bunk. “How come?”
“Ethan and Ben are talking. She got fed up and is playing with one of her dolls.”
“You can see that?”
Freya nodded. “Not much else, though. Just us. My family.”
“You know, that’s more’n most parents can do. More than I can.”
She looked shrewdly at him. “But if you’re used to being able to keep tabs on people, even if it’s just have an idea where they are …”
“Peeking’s bad. Bethie keeps telling you.”
“And she’s worse than all of us. It irritates her no end that she can’t read everyone at the moment.”
“We’ll find him, Frey. Him and Pete.” He sat next to her on the bench, putting his arm around her. “You know we will.”
She leaned into him. “You promised Zoe.”
“And I try and keep my promises.”
“And I'm all sweaty,” she pointed out.
“So? If I can’t put up with a little sweat on my wife, I ain't that much of a loving husband, am I?”
She smiled. “And you are certainly that.”
He kissed her, his lips soft on hers. “You feel like you can get some sleep yet?”
“Well, I …” She stopped. “What was that?” she asked.
She pulled back a little, her head on one side, listening hard. “That.”
Mal narrowed his eyes as he tried to … There. A scratching, almost like … “Someone’s outside.”
Freya leaned over and picked up the shotgun she’d kept by her, then stood up, ratcheting a shell into the breach. “Ready.”
He couldn’t help the flash of pride that burned through him as he strode to the controls, knowing she was taking up position at his back. He pushed down on the button to lower the ramp, keeping the inner airlock doors closed. Then he peered through the small windows.
For a long moment there was nothing, and it occurred to him that perhaps he’d managed to catch whoever it was under the ramp itself, but he disregarded that. Surely they could have moved fast enough to get out of the … Wait. There. Something on the edge of the light spilling from the Firefly.
“Tzao gao.” Crossing back to the controls in two strides he slammed his hand down onto the control to open the inner doors, at the same time activating the com. “Simon! Cargo bay. Now!”
to be continued
Tuesday, July 1, 2008 10:00 AM
Tuesday, July 1, 2008 10:44 AM
Tuesday, July 1, 2008 10:45 AM
Tuesday, July 1, 2008 11:14 AM
Tuesday, July 1, 2008 12:46 PM
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