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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Maya. Post-BDM. Mal leaves the children with Inara, and Sam has some very specific instructions from Simon. NEW CHAPTER
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1988 RATING: 10 SERIES: FIREFLY
“Of course they can stay.” Inara looked towards the children frolicking in the orchard with all of the dogs. “You don’t even need to ask. This is as much their home as mine.”
Serenity had touched down the night before, too late for anything other than a hurried hello and a promise to meet for breakfast. Now that everyone was full to almost bursting point from Ms Boden’s magical touch, Mal had taken Inara for a walk to talk about the real reason for their visit.
“Sure Sam won’t object?” Mal asked, thumbs wedged firmly in his pants pockets.
“Why should he?”
“I don’t know. Having his space invaded by a load of folks under four feet tall.”
Inara smiled. “You obviously don’t know him as well as you think you do.”
“But you do?”
She led him to the ornate cast-iron chair. “Mal, we’ve talked about having children, and this will be good practice for him.”
He sat down slowly. “Put him off the idea, you mean.”
“No. In fact entirely the opposite.”
He stared at her, glad his buttocks were already on the cold metal. “’Nara, you saying you’re … pregnant?”
She shook her head. “Not yet.” Smoothing her dress automatically, she added, “But I want a child. With Sam.”
“It’s that serious?”
“I love him.”
“Like you loved me?” The instant he said it he wished he hadn’t, but she merely folded her hands in her lap and gazed at him.
“No. It’s quite different. You were a flame I was drawn to like a moth, so close I was singeing my wings. Sam is the banked coals, all heat and passion beneath the surface.”
He wondered briefly at the flash of jealousy that shot through him, but realised it was probably always going to be that way. He had loved her, and he had to admit he’d felt something of the same when Kaylee fell for the doctor, and Zoe for the pilot. Not with River, though, although that was probably something to do with knowing that she looked on him as her father. So a touch of jealousy was to be expected, if not approved of. He said quickly, “So he’s the one got cold feet about having kids?”
She’d seen the thoughts cross his mind as clearly as if she’d been a Reader, but chose not to comment on them. “Mal, he’s got a grown-up daughter, and two grandchildren. He thinks he’s too old to start another family.”
“Too … He ain't much older’n Jayne!”
“That’s what I've been telling him. Well, not the part about Jayne, but –“
“You want I should speak to him? Get him to see reason?”
She raised one perfectly groomed eyebrow. “And have you put him off the idea entirely?”
“Now, ‘Nara, you know I wouldn’t do that, not intentionally.”
“Then thank you for the offer, but no. Let him see how wonderful it is to have children around. Remind him of the joys it can bring. Then we’ll see.”
A shout drew their attention to where Ethan was rolling on the ground being ticked by the others and laughing hysterically. Inara gave an indulgent smile.
“You know, you’d make a great mom,” Mal said quietly.
Her head jerked around to stare at him in surprise. “What?”
He grinned. “Just said, you’ll make a good mother. And I ain't sure I should be leaving my kids with you if you’ve started to say what instead of pardon.”
“Did you just pay me a compliment, Captain?”
“Purely unintentional, Ms Serra.” He expected a snappy comeback, something about having to write this in her diary, but she surprised him yet again.
Her face dissolved into one of the happiest smiles he’d ever seen from her. “Thank you.”
He felt a blush run up his chest. “Hey, just saying the truth.”
“If I were half as good as Kaylee or Freya, or Zoe or River …” She laughed. “I’d be content.”
“Well, you can practice on them.” He nodded towards where Ethan was intent on getting his revenge by chasing Bethie with what looked like a handful of mud. “And you might wanna be starting now.”
“A little dirt isn’t going to hurt them, Mal. And the bath is big enough for them all.”
“’Nara, you go on surprising me like this and I'm gonna have to have the doc standing by, since I'm gonna be having a heart attack.” He clutched his chest theatrically.
“What, did you think I was going to be horrified that they’re getting a little grubby?” She laughed again, and it was a sweet and innocent sound.
“It’s what children do. They shouldn’t be made to sit in a corner and behave.”
“No problem with them getting anywhere close to doing that,” Mal said, skittering away from the slight tang of bitterness in her voice that told of personal experience. They’d never talked about what her family life was like before the Guild, and perhaps she hadn’t even told Freya, so he wasn’t going to pry. “And don’t be expecting to keep ‘em. We’ll be back soon enough to take ‘em off your hands.”
The mood sobered instantly between them again.
“Do you really have to do this?” she asked. “If you’re going up against the Alliance –“
“Done it before. Figure these are my particular windmills.”
“Don’t go quoting Cervantes at me, Mal,” she said, her voice just a trifle waspish. “And you’ve got family this time.”
“Did before, just maybe didn’t realise it like I should.” He leaned forwards and took one of her hands in his. “I ain't Don Quixote, ‘Nara, and Frey ain't Dulcinea. I know what I'm doing, and why, and it’s something I need to do to keep us all safe.”
She gazed into his blue eyes and finally nodded. “I understand. And I think you should talk to Sam. He still has a lot of contacts in the Core. And I have a few influential friends from my whoring days.”
His lips twitched. “Whoring?
“I thought I’d make you feel more at home.”
“Pointing out one of my many faults, more like.”
“And thanks, but no. I’ll talk to Sam, but I don’t want either of you involved in this. It might get back to someone if you start asking awkward questions, and –“
She squeezed his hand. “I understand. You don’t want your children threatened.”
“That’s pretty much it in a nutshell. Else there’d be no point in us breakin’ our hearts by leaving them here with you.”
“We’ll take good care of them, Mal.” She smiled a little. “They’re going to be as fat as pigs and spoiled rotten by the time you get back.”
“That’s guaranteed.” He smiled and turned back to watch Ethan wrestle Bethie to the ground. “And I know you will.”
Mal hadn’t been lying to her father when he said he needed Kaylee, but he wanted her and her unborn child to be safe too, so he tried one last time to make her stay, this time saying he needed her to take care of the children on Lazarus. She hadn’t taken too kindly to the suggestion.
“You need me, Cap,” Kaylee said, not even looking at him as she adjusted something inside Serenity’s engine. “I’m staying.”
“Kaylee, you nearly lost -”
He didn’t know how she managed it, but suddenly he was backed up against the bulkhead and she was waving her wrench in his face. “I’m staying! There ain’t no way I’m leaving while you all go traipsing across the ‘verse trying to stop this thing happening.”
Her eyes were blazing, and for a moment he considered how magnificent she was when she was truly angry. Then the wrench got a little too close for comfort. “Kaylee, can we talk without you threatening me?”
“No.” Still, she took half a step back. “I know I … I nearly lost this baby. But so did Simon, and I don’t see you tellin’ him he’s gotta stay on Lazarus. And I wouldn’t’a been so close to losing him at all if all this wasn’t going on, so I see it’s the fault of someone else, and I’m gonna make ‘em pay for that.”
“Kaylee, this isn’t about revenge.”
“Then what is it?”
“Doing the right thing.”
“That got folks killed before.” As soon as the words left her mouth, Kaylee wished she could drag them back, pummel them into the ground before she could be so stupid as to remind Mal of the good friends he’d lost. But it was too late. His eyes had already saddened.
“I know, xiao mei-mei,” he said softly. “I know it was my fault Wash and Book died. And there ain’t a day goes by without me wishing it were otherwise. But do you think they’d be proud of me if I just walked away from this? If I could do something to stop it and did nothing?”
“Cap … Mal …”
“If Niska was right, if the Alliance have a way to control the Reavers, we gotta stop them. Else there won’t be any place safe to hide where they can’t find us. Any of us.”
“I know. And that’s why I’m going with you. What if Serenity breaks down? If you need her to get you away from something bad but she won’t go to full burn? What if -”
“I need you safe, Kaylee.”
She fixed him with a stern eye. “You said that to Freya?”
“Well, I might have …” His voice died away, then he sighed. “Okay, yes, I tried, but she didn’t listen to me. Pretty much like you’re not listening to me either.”
She moved closer again, but this time it was with tenderness. “Cap, Sam and Inara … they’re gonna take good care of the kids. And I’m going with you because I know Bethie and Hope are safe, and I don’t have to worry about them. They’ve got that shelter Mr Boden built, food a’plenty, water … nothing’s gonna happen to ‘em. Just like my Pa promised to do. And that means we can go do what we need to, ‘cause they’ll be here when we come back.”
“I just -”
“I know. And I’m scared outta half my wits just thinking about what we’re planning, and I know soon as we get out into the black I’m gonna go find someplace quiet and cry my eyes out at having to leave my girls. But Simon and me are staying.”
“You’re a remarkable woman, Kaylee.”
“No, I ain’t. Just doing what you pay me for.” She smiled shakily. “Now get out of my engine room so I can earn my keep and finish what I was doing so’s we can get airborne.”
“My engine room, mei-mei. My ship.”
“Then go be captain someplace else.” She hefted the wrench again. “’Less you wanna make closer acquaintance with -”
He put up his hands. “I’m going, I’m going.” He turned and strode out, muttering something under his breath about no-one listening to him no more.
“Oh, we listen,” Kaylee whispered. “And we’re right proud of you,” she added on just a breath. “I know we are. We all are.”
But he didn’t hear.
And now it was time. And it was hard. Possibly the hardest thing he’d ever done in his long and frankly eventful life. Leaving the children on Lazarus was killing him, and he could only guess at how it was affecting Frey.
Mal looked around the shelter Mr Boden had constructed under the house, but he barely saw it.
“It takes the water from an underground stream,” Sam was saying. “Deep enough to stay uncontaminated, no matter what,” he added. “And with the air filtration unit and all the supplies …” He stopped. “Mal, why are you here?”
Serenity’s captain looked up in surprise. “So you can show me around.”
“I mean, why aren’t you with your family? Saying goodbye?”
Mal swallowed, the lump in his throat not moving one inch. “Frey’s with them. I didn’t want to -”
“She needs you. They need you. Go. Be with them.”
“But I -”
Mal stared at the older man, a sincere look of understanding on his olive-toned face, and nodded, striding out without another word.
Freya was sitting on the floor in Ethan’s room, the big windows wide open and letting in the afternoon sun, but all her attention was on the children in her arms.
She was gazing at Ethan, his little face serious as he listened carefully.
“I know you understand why we have to do this,” she said softly.
He nodded. “Yes, Mama.” His hand was twisted in the back of her shirt, so tightly he didn’t want to let go. “Keep us safe.”
“That’s right. Keep you both safe. And I need you to look after Jesse.”
“And Auntie ‘Nara’s going to be relying on you to help her with the other children.”
“I will, Mama.”
She looked into his blue eyes. “Oh, Ethan, you are so like your Daddy.” She kissed him on the forehead. “And I want you to keep an eye on Bethie, too. She’s going to find it hard, worrying about her Mommy and Daddy, as well as the new baby, let alone …” She stopped. Distance might not be enough for Bethie not to be able to peek, and just the thought of what she might see made Freya feel sick, and a tear forced its way down her cheek.
Ethan wiped it carefully away. “Don’t cry, Mama. I’ll be the man of the house.”
She had to smile. “I know you will.”
“Mama going?” Jesse asked, her little face screwing up. “Don’t love us no more?”
Freya felt her heart break. “Oh, Jesse …” She gathered them in close, tears falling freely now, then looked up to see Mal standing in the open doorway.
He didn’t need any more invitation, and crossed the room in two strides, going down onto his knees and hugging his family to him.
“Jesse, honey, we need to know you’re safe,” he said, feeling her long brown hair against his cheek. “Your Ma and me, we got things our children need not to be a part of. And we can only do ‘em if we know you’re not going to get hurt.”
“But come back?” She was trying to get it straight in her head.
“Oh, sweetie, of course we will!” Freya moved back enough so she could look into her daughter’s brown eyes. “And it won’t be long. I promise.” She found a smile from somewhere. “And when we come back we’ll have a party, and there’ll be cake and balloons and -”
“Pressies?” the little girl asked hopefully.
“And me?” Ethan put in.
Freya’s smile widened a little. “I’m sure we can find something a growing young man wants.”
“I love you, Mama,” he said, burrowing his head into her chest and hugging her so tightly she could barely breathe, although that might have been the emotion clogging her lungs.
“Me too, Mama,” Jesse added, doing the same the other side.
“I love you too,” she whispered, more tears brimming. “All of you.” She touched them both on the crown of their heads with her lips, then looked up at Mal. It can’t be long. I don’t think I could bear it.
It won’t. His own tears were threatening. I promise. He gathered them all against his chest, and prayed it wasn’t lying.
Inara watched the Firefly take off into the wide blue sky, until she became just a dot and then disappeared entirely. It had been so hard to stand there while everyone said their last goodbyes, and the children had to be taken into the kitchen and plied with hot chocolate and cookies before they stopped crying.
Having to wipe tears from her own cheeks, Inara went back inside and walked slowly up the stairs.
She understood why Mal was doing what he was doing, and why the crew were behind him one hundred percent, but she couldn’t get rid of the feeling that someone was going to die. Not necessarily one of her friends, but …
Sometimes she wished she were a Reader, able to see the shape of things that were coming, to be able to pick out the details of anything bad that might befall her family. Then she remembered River, and Freya, and the darkness they battled every day, and thanked Buddha that she wasn’t.
She headed into her and Sam’s bedroom, and was surprised to see him already there. “What’s that?” she asked, watching him pack something carefully away in his rarely used medical bag.
He looked up. “Something Simon gave me.”
“What are they?”
Sam glanced towards the door, making sure it was closed firmly. “A dozen doses of Heretofen.”
Immediately Inara’s mind went back to her old friend and teacher, Medori, and the daughter they’d reunited her with. When Grace’s psychic abilities had been turned on almost like flicking a switch, she’d found it difficult to control them, and when Serenity left Simon had given her mother a number of hypos of Heretofen for when times were really bad. And now to find he’d done the same … “For Bethie?” she whispered.
Sam nodded. “What they’re going to do, what they’re planning, it might be better if Bethie didn’t see.”
“Oh, Sam.” Inara’s face went white.
“I hope to Buddha we never have to use them,” he added quickly, gathering her into his arms. “And it will only be if she asks.”
Her hands slowly came up until she was pressing her palms in his back. “She knows?”
“Of course. Simon spoke to her about it.”
“He did the right thing,” Sam assured her. “Bethie is very advanced, but she is still only a child. And no matter how much she promises not to peek, you know she won’t be able to resist, even if it’s only because she’s afraid for her family.”
He stroked the skin of her neck. “I was going to tell you anyway. If I’m not here for any reason, you have to know where they are so you can administer them if need be.”
She drew back to stare into his almond eyes. “Why wouldn’t you -”
“Things happen, Inara. I’ve come to realise that.” He drew his thumb down her cheek, ghosting over the virtually invisible scar from Anthony Han’s ring. “And I don’t intend going anywhere. This is just in case.”
“Just in case,” she echoed.
“Use the ones with the blue tops for Bethie,” he went on. “The green ones are a lower dose for Ethan.”
“Eth … Sam, no!” Inara was shocked and appalled.
“Freya asked Simon for them,” he explained quickly. “Ethan might not be anywhere near as powerful as Bethie, but he’s still empathic. And she doesn’t want him to pick anything up.”
“Oh, Sam …” She stepped back into him, holding him tight, feeling his arms and love surround her, and trying to gain a kernel of comfort from the contact.
Sam held her close, but his eyes travelled to the third drawer of his writing desk under the window, where the other box Simon had given him resided, and wondered if he’d ever be able to make himself use it.
If the Reavers came, if Mr Boden’s shelter couldn’t protect them, and they were faced with a terrifying and hideous death … could he use the poison it contained? And if he did, he knew he’d never take it himself. The Reavers could do what they wanted with him, and he’d let them.
“Painless,” Simon had said, pressing the box into his trembling hands. “And almost instantaneous.”
“Simon, I -”
“I need you to take it. I expect you to give it back to me when we come to pick up the children again, but I need you to take it right now.”
He’d swallowed, but clutched the box to his chest, right where he was clutching Inara right now.
to be continued
Saturday, August 23, 2008 1:28 AM
Saturday, August 23, 2008 1:29 AM
Saturday, August 23, 2008 2:11 AM
Saturday, August 23, 2008 4:20 AM
Saturday, August 23, 2008 5:15 AM
Sunday, August 24, 2008 3:04 AM
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