BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

JANE0904

Games - Part II
Thursday, August 7, 2008

Maya. Post-BDM. Continuing their visit with the Fryes, Mal and Eddie have an honest discussion and Hank is finally successful. NEW CHAPTER


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1694    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

The sun was climbing high in the sky when Mal went to find Freya. Eventually he located her sitting on the back porch, her legs stretched out, a tall drink at her side. Her eyes were closed as she absorbed the warmth, reminiscent of a cat, and he reminded himself to be wary of her claws.

“I'm going fishing,” he announced, as if it hadn’t been obvious from the poles over his shoulder and the basket in his hands.

“Really.” Frey opened her eyes and studied him. “And who said you could do that?”

“Me.” He grinned at her. “And Hank’s coming.”

“Ah.”

“Ah … what?”

“You’re employing psychology.”

“Wash your mouth out.”

She laughed. “No, I mean it. Kaylee’s made you think. Now, you know you can’t do much more to help her than we’re all doing, but you figure maybe you can do something for Hank. You know he’d be afraid to go near the fishing hole otherwise, so you’re making him face that fear. Being there for him.”

“Just wanna go fishing.”

“And you’ve had this desire for how long?”

“I’ll have you know I used to fish back on Shadow. Down in the creek.”

“Catch anything?”

“Nary a minnow.” He put the basket down and rested the poles against it. “But that’s not the point. It’s not the catching. It’s the attempt.” He turned back to her, closing the gap so he could lean forward and put his hands either side of her on the arms of the chair.

“I still say you’re using psychology.”

He smiled. “Frey, if’n I am, you’re not to hold it against me. Just thought it’d be good for Hank to get back out there. You know, catch that old pike Eddie keeps talking about.”

“Just you and Hank? Is there something going on I don’t know about?”

“Believe me, ai ren, he’s not my type.”

“Why? What’s wrong with him?”

He raised an eyebrow. “So you want me to try something on with him?”

“Don’t even think about it.”

Laughing, he shook his head. “You are the most contrary woman I ever met.”

“And just you remember that.”

“As for taking anyone with me, I don’t think we need protecting.”

“I didn’t say you did.”

“In fact, I was wondering whether Ethan wanted to come. See his old man make a fool of himself.”

“He doesn’t need fishing to see that.”

Mal put on a mock-hurt face. “What did I do to get you insulting me like this?” he asked, shaking his head again.

“Nothing. I'm just feeling contrary.” She smiled and slid her hands up his chest, feeling his gentle heartbeat begin to quicken at her touch. “And I think it would be wonderful for you to take him. He’d love it.”

“What’re the other kids going to be doing today?” He leaned closer, until their lips were only inches apart.

“Ellie’s making a cake so they’ve all volunteered to help.” She chuckled. “I think they want to lick the bowl.”

He sighed. “That used to be the best part of a cake, I always considered. Something about the mix sticking to the sides, scraping it off until the bowl was clean as if it’d been scoured …” He looked into her dark eyes and smiled. “Maybe I should stay too.”

“Mal, put her down!” Hank said as he came around the corner of the house.

“And if I don’t?”

“Well, I …” The pilot seemed flustered for a moment. “I’ll set Zoe on you,” he finally said.

“Wouldn’t want that,” Mal murmured, kissing the tip of Freya’s nose then standing upright. “You ready?”

“As I’ll ever be.”

“You know you won’t need that.” He looked down at the gun strapped close to Hank’s hip.

You’re armed.”

“So I am.” Mal patted his weapon. “But the truth is I feel naked without it. Habit, more’n anything. I don’t expect trouble, but if there is, I’ll take care of it.”

“Good. But I'm not taking it off.”

Mal held up a hand. “Fine. You shoot yourself in the foot, I ain’t carrying you back.”

“I ain't that bad!”

“No?”

“Well …”

“You need lessons,” Freya put in, sitting forwards and resting her forearms on her knees. “I’ll help if you like.”

“Really?” Hank seemed surprised.

“Or you could always ask Zoe.”

An odd look crossed Hank’s face. “I know she would, but … I can’t help feeling that might not be a good idea.”

“So do you want me to?”

He nodded enthusiastically. “If you wouldn’t mind.”

“I wouldn’t offer if I did.”

“But not today,” Mal interrupted. “Today we’re going fishing.”

“Well, if Freya wants to –“

“Fishing.” Mal couldn’t have been firmer. “I'm still captain, so what I say goes.”

“We’re not on board, Mal.”

“Doesn’t matter. I pay your wages. I get to say what we do.”

What Hank would have come back with was lost forever as the door was flung open and Ethan barrelled out. “Ready!” he shouted, bouncing up to his father.

Mal grinned and went down onto his heels. “You wanna go fishing, big feller?” he asked, his blue eyes soft, honest love for his children radiating from him.

“Yes,” Ethan said, taking a deep breath and trying to calm down. “Mama told me.” He tapped his temple.

Mal glanced round at his wife. “I thought peeking was bad?”

“I wasn't peeking,” she explained, feeling a surge of emotion at seeing her two best boys together. “I simply asked if he wanted to go with you.”

“You can do that? I mean –“

“I think we’re all getting better, Mal. The fog’s dissipating, and … yes, I can talk to Ethan.”

“How about Jesse?”

“Not so far.”

“But you think you might be –“ He stopped as he felt a little finger tug at his much bigger one.

“Daddy …” Ethan said, anxious to be on their way.

“You’re right,” he agreed, standing up. “This is a conversation we can have another day. Time to go fishing.”

“Fishing,” Ethan echoed.

Mal grinned and nodded. “See you later, Frey,” he said.

“Catch one for me,” she replied, sitting back in the chair and closing her eyes.

Hank had already picked up the basket and rods, so Mal just held onto his son’s hand as they walked off, Ethan chattering away as they went.

---

It didn’t go well, at least as far as Mal was concerned. His lack of practice in the fishing department did not go unnoticed, especially as he nearly slid into the water within ten minutes of arrival, and after only half an hour he gave up. This was much to the delight of Hank, who had to have the comparative merits of continuing to laugh at his captain against spending the rest of the month living in the airlock explained to him. The pilot considered, apparently very deeply, and managed to stop the mirth bubbling up from his chest.

“So, Ethan, you want me to show you how to fish properly?” Hank asked the little boy.

Ethan looked at his father, who nodded, giving permission. “Yes, please.”

“Then I'm just going to be sitting over here,” Mal said, moving into the shade of a large tree. “You need any advice, just ask. But this is me. Sitting.” He suited the action to the word and made himself comfortable on the ground.

“Good idea. Out of the way.” Hank grinned, seeming not too worried about the airlock after all. “Come on, big feller. Let’s see if we can’t get that pike.”

Mal smiled, watching his boy listening to Hank’s careful instructions, trying to copy his hand movements as closely as possible, his little face screwed up in concentration.

Feeling a lethargy overtake him, Mal closed his eyes, leaning his head back against the bark, letting the ‘verse pass him by for once, on its way to hell and beyond.

He had no idea how long he’d been sitting, probably dozing, hearing the murmur of conversation from closer to the water, but suddenly he realised someone was standing over him.

“We need to talk,” Eddie Frye said, his thumbs in his pants pockets.

Mal didn’t open his eyes, but moved his hand away from his gun. “I've been waiting on you.”

“Thought you might be.” He settled himself onto the ground next to Serenity’s captain, looking out across the fishing hole, Hank standing at the water’s edge with Ethan, but out of immediate earshot. “Seems we’ve been doing a lot of walking around the subject without actually saying much.”

“Imagine we have.” Mal had given the Fryes the bare bones of their encounter with Niska, not going into much detail, but he was willing to bet Simon had told them more, in his concerns about his wife’s health.

Eddie’s next words merely confirmed it. “Kaylee was taken.”

“Yeah.” Mal sighed and sat up. “I wish …” He stopped. What did he wish? That Kaylee hadn’t got kidnapped? That much was true. That she hadn’t joined the crew, met her husband, had kids? That surely wasn’t.

“Was she in real danger?” Eddie asked, picking up a stone and tossing it into the water, watching the ripples head out for the reeds.

“Hey!” Hank complained. “We’re fishing here!”

“Sorry.” Eddie held up a hand in apology, then looked back at Mal. “Was she?”

No point in lying. “Yes sir, she was.”

“I'm not happy about that, Mal. I know you don’t tell us everything, that there’s stuff you play close to your chest. And that’s your right. It’s your life, your ship. But when it affects my daughter –“

“We’ve all been touched by it, Eddie. Some maybe more than others, at least physically, but there ain't one person on board ain’t been affected.” He glanced down at his hands, clasped loosely between his bent knees. “And you know I’d give anything for it not to have been the case, for it not to have happened. But Niska’s dead, once and for all. He ain’t never gonna threaten Kaylee again.”

“Yet you’re still on this quest of yours.” Eddie didn’t mean for it to sound judgmental, but that was how it came out.

Mal didn’t take offence. “If you’re meaning I'm trying to find out what the Alliance are doing and stop them, yeah, I figure I am. But it’s to keep my family safe. And right now it ain’t, not nowhere.”

“That’s what I mean.” Eddie watched Hank expertly send his line over the deeper water. “And that’s why I’m worried about Kaylee.”

Mal suppressed a sigh. “Honestly, if I thought it would keep her outta trouble, I’d order her to stay behind, no matter she’s the only one knows how anything works on my boat. Only, you and I know she wouldn’t stay. In fact she already threatened me with a wrench when I suggested it before.” He glanced at the other man, at the anxiety reflected in his eyes. “But she’s a grown woman, Eddie, with a husband who dotes on her and kids who think she’s the best Ma in the ‘verse.”

“And she’s pregnant.”

“I know.” His lips lifted slightly. “And Simon assures me it’s his.”

“Should hope so, else we’d be having this conversation over a loaded shotgun.”

“Truth to tell, I’m kinda surprised we ain’t,” Mal admitted.

“Ellie wouldn’t let me.”

Mal allowed the smile to blossom briefly. “Seems to me we both have women who love us dearly.”

“That we do.”

The seriousness returned. “Sir, you have to know, Kaylee is the heart of my ship. She’s the sunshine in our morning, the kid sister to all of us. Even if we do feel occasionally like throwing her in the hold for a month.”

“Yeah, well, I’ve had that thought my own self once in a while, and more with her mother. Only it’s the cellar with me.”

“Then I conjure you understand.” Mal sighed. “I can’t make her stay, and truth is I don’t want to, not really. But I’ll do my best to keep her safe in what’s coming, even if it means stepping in front of a bullet myself.”

“Your wife wouldn’t approve of that.”

“No, maybe not. But she’d understand. Hell, she’d do it herself. We all would.”

“I know that, son. But Kaylee’s my baby girl.”

“With babies of her own, and she wants to make the ‘verse a safer place for ‘em to grow up.”

Eddie looked at him, almost admiringly. “You know, Mal, you’re a sneaky hwoon dahn.”

“Yep. Always was good at that.”

They sat quietly for a minute of two, watching Hank concentrate on catching the pike, Ethan watching the water intently.

“Kaylee tells me you’re going to be leaving the kids on Lazarus with Miss Inara,” Eddie said eventually.

“Yes.”

“You really think it’s gonna be that bad.” It was a statement, not a question.

“Yes.”

“You could leave ‘em here with us. I know Ellie would love to have them running around underfoot, just like it used to be.”

Mal studied the almost hopeful expression on the older man’s face, and was sorry in puncturing it. “No offence, but I can’t help thinking they’d be safer on Lazarus. Inara and Sam’ll do whatever it takes to keep the kids protected.”

“And you think we won’t?”

“No, not that at all. But you’ve got jobs, and there would be times only Ellie’d be around. Besides, there’s a lot of folks know that you’re Kaylee’s Pa. If anyone wanted to get to us through you they wouldn’t be –”

Eddie put his hand on Mal’s arm and patted lightly. “It’s okay. I understand.” He paused. “There’s been other attacks, ain't there?”

For a long moment Mal didn’t respond, then finally he nodded, just a single movement of his head. “News is sketchy at best, since the Cortex isn’t carrying it at all. But there are … we have friends who hear things.” Not just Alex’s news, but Hank had found something half buried in a transmission from out near the border, of an attack on a weigh station that had left no-one alive.

“Reavers.”

“Yes sir.”

“And you honestly think the children will be safer on Lazarus?”

Mal thought back to the discussion around the table when he’d told the crew of his decision. He’d expected arguments. In fact, he was ready for them, with counter-arguments of his own. But his crew had once more surprised him.

Hank spoke for them all. “Get the kids safe, then we can go do what we have to.”

Mal had to swallow. “That’s how all of you feel?”

“Of course it is, sir.” Zoe put her hand on top of her husband’s. “We understand. If it isn’t stopped now, the Reavers’ll overrun us. Not gonna have that happen.”

“Hell, Mal,” Jayne put in. “Only reason I'm coming with you is ‘cause Caleb’s gonna be safe.”

Mal released a breath he didn’t realise he’d been holding. Of course they were like this. They were his crew. His family. Everything he’d ever asked of them, they’d done. He just hoped when this was all over there wasn't another empty chair at the table. “Thanks,” he’d said sincerely.

Equally sincerely now, he said, “Eddie, ‘fraid I do. Not that I don’t trust you and Ellie. I do. And your kin. But Lazarus is closer in, less likely to get hit. And reports tend to suggest Reavers have been after specific targets. Civilian mainly, in particular ports that might harbour independents.”

Eddie went a little pale, and sat down on the long bench. “Like ours.”

“Not saying it’s gonna happen, but …”

“No, I understand.” He took two deep breaths. “You’re right. And I think I might suggest Ellie goes to visit her sister out by Greengage. There’s nothing out there but farmland and scrub, and they’ve never been hit.”

“If I thought you’d go, I’d tell you to pack your stuff and come to Lazarus with us.”

Eddie shook his head. “Nope. ‘Sides, you’d never get all the Fryes on board that little boat of yours. And if you did you’d never get her off the ground.” He looked at Mal with kindly eyes. “I know you mean well, but I also know you understand when I tell you I couldn’t leave, not if even one of my family had to stay behind.”

“Yeah. I’ve a notion maybe I do.”

Eddie sat back again. “You know, Ellie told me I’d never be able to make Kaylee stay, d’you know that? I guess she knows my Winnie better than I do.”

“No. Not better. You knew it too.”

“Maybe I did.”

A triumphant shout from the water’s edge had them both on their feet.

“I've got it!” Hank yelled, holding up a four and a half foot long silver fish, still squirming on the end of the line. “The pike! I got it!”

“Let’s hope that’s a good omen,” Eddie said to Mal, draping his arm around the younger man’s shoulders.

“Hey,” Freya called, ambling towards them.

Ethan turned, a wide grin on his face. He ran up to her, and she swung him onto her hip. “Mama!”

“Oh, you’re getting heavy.”

“I'm growing,” he agreed.

“Just don’t grow up too fast,” she said, touching his cheek with her finger.

“I won’t,” he promised. Then his excitement got the better of him. “Mama, look!” He pointed to where Hank was still holding up the fish.

“Is that …?”

“The pike!”

“Did you catch it?”

Ethan considered, then decided to be scrupulously honest. “No. Uncle Hank did.” Then he grinned. “I helped.”

“I'm sure Uncle Hank couldn’t have done it without you.”

“Surely couldn’t,” the pilot agreed, bending down to deal with his catch.

Mal strolled up to his wife and son. “Where’s Jesse? The cake making must be done by now.”

“Done, and the smell is driving Jayne crazy at the moment.”

“Was there fighting over the bowl?”

“A bit,” Freya admitted, chuckling. “But River made him go sit in the corner by himself.”

Eddie laughed. “A man after my own heart.”

“Actually, River’s got her paints out at the moment, and they’re all having a go at watercolour landscapes.” She looked into Ethan’s hopeful blue eyes. “Do you want to go join in?”

“Can I?”

“Of course you can. You can paint me a nice picture of that pike, so I know what it looked like before Hank rips it to pieces.”

“I intend to cook this,” Hank said, managing to finally unhook his line from inside the fish’s mouth. “Once I've gutted it.”

“Well go and do that somewhere else,” Freya suggested. “And don’t go near Jayne with them.”

“You’re no fun since you had kids, you do know that, don’t you?” Hank complained.

“Besides, don’t you want to go and show it off before you take it apart? Just so everyone knows you really did catch something that size?”

He thought for a moment. “True.”

“Good.” She turned to Eddie. “Would you mind taking Ethan back for me?”

“Sure.” He held out his arms, and the little boy was transferred from one hip to another. “Aren’t you coming back yet?”

Freya glanced at Mal, then shook her head. “I think we might just sit out here for a while. It’s very peaceful.”

“If you wanted to get squicky, you only had to say,” Hank said, a slightly disgusted look on his face. “Come on, Ethan, let’s get out of here before you see something you shouldn’t.”

He led the way back towards the house, Eddie following, laughing.

Freya sat down under the same tree, Mal joining her.

“So to what do I owe this honour?” he asked, nudging her slightly with his elbow.

“Couldn’t I just miss my husband?”

“Only saw me an hour or so ago.”

“Really? Seems like days.”

He smiled and put his arm around her, pulling her closer. “Always does, when you’re not with me.”

They watched the insects darting around over the water, then she said, “Eddie tell you off?”

Mal nodded. “Pretty much. And he’s right. I'm leading folks into a place they might not wanna go.”

She manoeuvred herself so she could see into his blue eyes, the spitting image of his son. “So … what? You want to walk away?”

He exhaled noisily. “I …”

“Mal, whatever you decide, I’ll support you. I might argue with you over it, but you know I’ll support you.”

He glanced at her, at the honest love in her eyes. “No. I ain't changed my mind. What needs to be done … And I don’t see anyone else out there about to do it.”

She smiled. “I love you, Mal.”

“Good.” He leaned down and kissed her lips very gently, ignoring the pull in his belly. “So, are we going to do squicky things? And, by the way, that man ought to grow up.”

“Why? Zoe likes him the way he is.”

“Yeah, but … squicky?”

“Very descriptive, I always thought. And no. I told you. You’re not healed enough to be too energetic.”

“Hey, I wasn't thinking of hanging from the support beams. That’s your forte. I just fancied a little squickiness with my wife.”

“Squickiness?”

“It’s a word.” He pushed her gently to one side until she was lying on the ground, hiding the wince as he did so.

“No,” she said firmly, trying to sit up, seeing the flash of discomfort in his mind. “It’s hurting you.”

“Then stop peeking,” he admonished. “Frey, I ain’t gonna do anything too strenuous. But I want to touch you.”

“You are.”

“Not like that. Like this.”

“Mal …”

“What?”

She sighed, then gathered herself enough to push him away so their positions were reversed. She leaned over him. “You relax. I’ll drive.”

to be continued

COMMENTS

Friday, August 8, 2008 3:37 AM

SERENITYRIDDLE


Yay for Squickiness!!

Friday, August 8, 2008 4:11 AM

ANGELLEMARCS


Hee hee...I likes squickiness. Hey, it's a word. LOL!

Friday, August 8, 2008 5:23 AM

AMDOBELL


Yay, best bit, some welcome fluff for Mal and Frey, even if it was real short and I loved Ethan wanting to go fishing with his dad and ending up having Hank teach him then catching that big pike. This felt pretty near idyllic which tells me some really rough stuff is still to come. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Friday, August 8, 2008 12:43 PM

FREEVERSE


It's a treat to see more Maya goodness, even if the storm is getting awfully close. AS mechanics, can't the Fryes turn their basement--the one Edmudous sometimes wants to toss his wife in--intoa Reaver shelter? Please?

~freeverse

Friday, August 8, 2008 3:38 PM

SLUMMING


Love the fluff, but dreading the angst that I know is bound to be coming! I believe that means you're doing something right! :D

Friday, August 8, 2008 4:42 PM

KATESFRIEND


Nice blend of fluff and angst in this one - mixed up just right. Nice job on the little details that go so far into making the story feel larger than it really is.


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