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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Maya. Post-BDM. The elder Tams meet Bethie for the first time, and Inara has a heart to heart with Regan. NEW CHAPTER
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1999 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
“You okay, moonbrain?” Jayne sat on the bed and undid his heavy workboots, tossing them into the corner with a clang against the bulkhead.
River absently crossed the small shuttle to pick them up, placing them with care exactly three inches from the wall and in perfect alignment with each other. “Shiny,” she said, arranging the laces.
“Only you didn’t say hardly anything at chow time.” He wriggled his toes in the socks his Ma had knitted.
“Nothing to say.”
He gazed at her for a moment as she concentrated, then said, more conversationally, “I told you Matty finally got up the balls to ask Jolene to marry him, didn’t I?”
“Yes. In that letter you got when we stopped for fuel at Wayborn.” She didn’t look up.
He pulled his t-shirt over his head, sniffing it experimentally to see if it would do another day. “So d’you think the Cap’d swing by Ezra if I asked? You know, when all this is over. Don’t expect to get there for the wedding itself, but it’d be good to slap my little brother on the back and maybe kiss Jolene.”
“No kissing other women.” She stood straight and looked at him. She knew what he was doing, trying to distract her with the mundane, and she loved him all the more for it.
“Well, no, maybe not that.” He grinned. “So d’you think Mal’d go for it? Only maybe you’d better ask. He’s less likely to toss you out the airlock, and I can’t do them puppy dog eyes to save my life.”
River ran her fingers along the empty crib before joining her husband on the bed. “Yes, you can.”
Jayne chuckled. “Maybe. But not for him.” His face became more serious. “He’ll be home soon, girl. Caleb, I mean. I miss him something fierce too, and I never thought that’d be the case. But it won’t be long ‘fore he’s waking us up in the middle of the night with his teething.”
River’s mind skittered to what was happening on Lazarus. “No.” She shivered.
“You okay?” Jayne asked, putting his arm around her.
“Just … cold,” she lied.
“Then you get undressed and we’ll snuggle a while. How does that sound?”
“Good.” She dragged a smile from somewhere. “Like to snuggle.”
As she stood up, pulling her dress over her head, she thought carefully, Don’t tell Simon.
I won’t, Freya thought back.
He wouldn’t understand. Too many memories.
Inara took control of the situation, despite feeling more than a little shocked.
“Mr Tam?” she said, stepping forward, taking the moment to study him. Tallish, with dark but thinning hair, he was wearing what were obviously expensive clothes, but not new. He didn’t strike her as a man who threw anything away while there was still life in it, as so many rich men were, but they now hung on him. She wondered how long he’d been ill.
Gabriel couldn’t answer as he stared at the little girl in front of him. Never in all his wildest imaginings had he contemplated that Simon would have married, let along had offspring.
“Caleb and Hope are inside,” the disconcerting child said, throwing him into even more disarray.
Regan could sense his confusion, and let her skills, learned over years of sitting on innumerable committees, take over. She stepped around her husband and down the ramp. “I’m Regan Tam,” she said, holding out a hand towards the woman who had spoken, noting her poise and elegance. “Miss Serra, I presume.”
Inara didn’t feel particularly poised, but she smiled. “I am. But please call me Inara.”
“And this is …” Regan looked down.
“I'm Bethany Tam,” the little girl said, smiling wide enough to show all her teeth. “Or Bethie. And you’re Grandma.”
“Am I?” Regan lowered herself elegantly to her heels so they were almost the same height, and studied her. There was certainly something about the child that reminded her so much of Simon, the chin, perhaps, and maybe his nose, but for the rest …
“Yes,” Bethie said firmly.
“Bethie Tam, eh?” Gabriel had found his voice, and descended the ramp to join his wife. “And is Simon … is my son your … your daddy?”
If anything the smile got wider. “Yes.”
He exchanged a troubled glance with his wife.
Inara clapped her hands lightly together. “Well, there’s no need for us to stand out here,” she said quickly. “If our previous visitors didn’t destroy the entire tea service, I think we should go inside and sit down.” Before you fall down, she added to herself, but Bethie glanced back over her shoulder and tried not to giggle.
Gabriel looked around at the disaster area the Alliance had made of Inara’s home. “I'm sorry,” he said quietly to Sam. “I had hoped to be here before … this.”
“What could you have done?” Sam asked, tossing cushions onto the sofa. “Beaten them off with your bare hands?”
“I don’t know. Something. I still have some influence.”
Dillon set a couple of chairs upright. “Mr Tam, so do I, and it was all I could do to make them go away.”
“Please, call me Gabriel.” He exhaled heavily. “But I still feel as if I’ve brought this down on you all somehow.”
Sam smiled slightly. “Mr Tam … Gabriel … I’m a counsellor, an analyst, and I can assure you that there is no basis for your feelings of guilt. Of course, that won’t stop you feeling them, but you couldn’t have stopped this.”
“Besides, this isn’t the only place it’s happened to,” Dillon said, watching as Breed collected handfuls of broken vase.
“We’ve heard of half a dozen other places, all within the last day or two,” his lover added.
“But I have the feeling it could have been so much worse,” Gabriel said darkly, and the other men stared at him.
“What are you talking about?” Sam asked.
Before Gabriel could respond, Inara came back into the room with a tray of mismatched cups and the largest teapot Mrs Boden had to hand. “This will have to do for now,” she said, glancing down as Bethie brought in the biscuit tin. “Hopefully there’s more than just crumbs in there.”
Bethie shook the tin vigorously. “Think so,” she said, putting it down on the table.
“Well, perhaps there was,” Inara added, raising an eyebrow at her, then smiled at the others. “Please, sit, sit. The furniture, at least, appears to have weathered the storm.”
“Tell me if there’s anything they broke or damaged and you’d like replaced, Inara,” Dillon said. “I can get anything to you in a few weeks.”
Inara smiled but said, “I couldn’t impose.”
“It would be no imposition. It would be entirely my pleasure.” He twinkled at her.
“And I think you’re a bad man, flirting with me,” Inara said, picking up the teapot. “Especially with your partner right here.”
Breed laughed. “Oh, believe me, Inara, if this is the worst I see, I’ll be more than happy.”
Pouring carefully, Inara asked, “Where’s Callum?”
The door opened and Alex came back in as she spoke. “Sorry. He won’t come. Says he’d rather stay on board ship in case the Alliance take it into their heads to come back.”
“Is that likely?” Sam asked.
“Probably not. Not with the flea you put in their ears.” Alex smiled. “Ethan told me.”
The little boy peered out around his uncle’s leg. “Flea?”
“An old saying,” Alex explained.
“You too, huh?” Dillon smiled. “I think you’re more like your twin than you’ll ever know.”
“Twin?” Gabriel stared at the other man. “Have we met?”
Alex smiled. “Briefly, I think, when I was younger. But you know my mother. Eugenia Rostov.”
Gabriel’s eyebrows raised. “You’re Alex?”
“For my sins.”
“But your twin is dead.” He caught himself, a frisson of guilt running through him that he was being so crass. “Forgive me, but I remember –“
Alex held up a hand. “It’s a long story.”
“I would be interested to hear it.”
Inara tapped a cup lightly with the sugar tongs. “One lump or two?” she asked, just as Regan came back into the room.
“That’s better,” Mrs Tam said, having powdered her nose. “Thank you.”
“And did you take the opportunity to snoop around a little?” Inara asked astutely.
The older woman was startled, but recovered quickly. “As it happens, yes. A little.”
“I’d give you the tour, only I doubt the Alliance left any of the rooms untouched.”
“I'm afraid not.” Regan sat down, watching Bethie struggle with the lid of the cookie tin. Eventually Ethan gave her a hand, and they managed to get it off. The little girl immediately took it to stand in front of her.
“I don’t usually …”
“They’re Mrs Boden’s,” the child said. “Good, too.”
“Then just one.” She took it carefully between her thumb and forefinger, biting into it delicately. It was surprisingly tasty. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome.” Bethie smiled and went to offer the tin to the others.
Regan watched her, her mind whirling with the possibilities. Just who was this extraordinary child’s mother? Certainly not likely to be anyone she would have ever considered suitable for Simon, but …
“Daddy loves her,” Bethie said reprovingly, turning back. “Always has. Might be a boob sometimes, but he loves her.”
It wasn’t just Bethie’s words that shocked Regan. It was the striking resemblance to River as she said them. “Did you … did you just … read me?” The unfamiliar word tripped her tongue.
Bethie looked a little shamefaced. “Might have,” she said, rolling her foot.
“Bethie.” Inara’s voice was perhaps somewhat sharper than intended.
“Sorry,” the little girl mumbled. “Not supposed to peek.”
“That’s … all right, Bethie.” It wasn’t, not really. Regan had no idea how to deal with someone rummaging through her thoughts like that.
“Sorry,” Bethie said again, looking down at her shoes, nevertheless picking up on her grandmother’s anxiety.
Gabriel came to the rescue. “You know, I really don’t want any tea, no matter how delicious those cookies look.” He smiled down at Bethie. “Take me for a walk?” he suggested. “I think I feel the need for some fresh air, after being cooped up in that ship. And you can tell me about your … your family.”
She brightened up. “Course!”
“Can we come?” Dillon asked, wanting to know more about what Gabriel had hinted at earlier. “Tea isn’t really my preferred choice of beverage either, and Breed could do with some sunshine – he’s getting very pasty.”
Bethie giggled, back to normal after being chastised.
“I am not!” Breed protested.
“Pasty,” Dillon confirmed.
“Fine,” Breed said, then laughed. “You know, you only have to say you want my company.”
“I’ll remember that next time.”
“Well, I'm going back to check on the ship,” Alex put in. “Make sure there’s no sign of the Alliance coming back.”
“Feeling paranoid?” Breed asked.
“I’ve come to the conclusion that paranoia is to be cultivated around here.” His voice was light, but he was obviously being quite serious.
Sam glanced at Inara, seeing the very slight dip to her head. “I’d better go look in on the other children too,” he said, realising his lover wanted time alone with Mrs Tam.
“Good idea. Make sure they haven’t got up to any mischief.” Inara smiled at him.
“I thought I might make them tidy their rooms.” He chuckled and walked out.
Bethie slid her hand into Gabriel’s. “Come on, Grandpa,” she said, tugging him towards the door.
“I doubt I'm ever going to get used to that,” he muttered to himself.
Regan waited until only she and Inara were left before smiling at the younger woman. “It seems they’ve decided to leave us alone.”
“It does. Perhaps they knew you needed to talk.”
“Mrs Tam … Regan … I used to be a Companion. I may no longer work for the Guild, but I haven’t lost my skills.”
“I …” Regan took a deep breath, ashamed at her apparent inability to be strong. “Simon’s married.” She couldn’t quite get her head around the concept.
“Yes,” Inara said, pouring a cup of tea and placing it carefully into the other woman’s hands. “Is that so surprising?”
Regan opened her mouth a couple of times, reminding Inara of a goldfish she used to have as a child, then managed to say, “Honestly, yes.”
“Was he such a boy when you last saw him?”
“No, a man. Although he was always my baby, I suppose.” Regan wrapped her hands around the cup, feeling the welcome heat.
“Regan, I know about Simon and River,” Inara said gently, sitting down next to the older woman. “About the agency. The donors.”
Regan went pink, and a small amount of tea spilled from her cup onto the back of her hand. It was testimony to her state of mind that she ignored the pain. “How did you –“
“Simon. He found out.”
“Andrew, I suppose.” Regan put the cup down carefully, only then noticing the liquid on her skin, and rubbing it absently in. “He was a dear friend, but he never thought what we did was right. At least, the part where we didn’t tell River and Simon.” She shook her head. “I never wanted to. To me they were my children, no matter whose original cells they were.”
Inara didn’t speak, and the silence encouraged the other woman to talk.
“I know what you’re thinking,” Regan went on. “That if I felt that way I’d have listened to Simon when he told us about the letters. About the code. And I honestly can’t say why I didn’t.”
She had the grace to look slightly ashamed. “Well, perhaps. But I would never want to believe that I ignored it to save face.”
Inara could feel her anguish, and threw her a lifeline. “Simon’s happy, you know.”
Regan grasped at the change of subject with both hands. “I'm sure he is. If he puts as much effort into his marriage as he did into becoming a doctor, I have no doubt she is too.”
“She is. They’re very well suited.”
“What does she do? I mean, I can’t see a woman of leisure wandering around the system.”
Inara laughed. “She’s the mechanic on their home.”
“Mechanic?” Regan Tam had never considered herself a snob. She’d always treated their servants well, and certainly better that most of their friends. But to hear her daughter-in-law was a …
“He loves her,” Inara said softly, know exactly the thoughts going through the other woman’s mind without having to be a Reader.
“I …” Regan swallowed, then exhaled slowly. “Good,” she said quietly. “I’m glad. Very glad.”
Gabriel watched Bethie scamper ahead, a small brown dog running in front, skipping as only a child could.
“So what did you mean?” Dillon asked quietly.
“What?” He was thinking about children, and choices.
“About the Alliance, and that something could have been much worse?”
Gabriel glanced at him. “How much do you know?”
“Well, that’s difficult to say. And I’m wary of saying too much to a man who didn’t believe his son.”
“No. I understand.” Gabriel shook his head. “All I can say is that I was wrong.”
“It’s not me you need to apologise to.”
“That’s why we’re here.” He kept an eye on Bethie, but she was busy throwing a stick for her dog. “There are things he needs to know.”
Gabriel stopped, half-turning. “No. Captain Reynolds too.”
“You know about him?”
“I know Simon’s with him, but that’s about all. I had no idea about the complexity of the relationship, about …” He gestured towards Bethie.
“And just how did you come across that little titbit of information?” Dillon couldn’t help the hard note in his voice.
“I have … connections.”
“Care to expand on that?”
“And if I don’t? Are you intending to shoot me?” Gabriel had noticed the man’s hand start to inch inside his jacket.
“Mr Tam, if you knew what was happening, you’d be more than a little wary too.”
“Oh, I know more than you think.”
“Dillon,” Breed said quietly. “Can we not do this right now?”
His lover glared, then dropped his hand. “We need to talk properly.”
“Not here, though,” Gabriel said firmly.
“But to answer your question, I think if things hadn’t gone wrong somehow, Miss Serra might have had a visit from the Reavers.”
“What are you talking about?” Dillon demanded. “Reavers?”
“You’ve seen the reports. I can see it in your face. That the attacks are increasing, but some of them seem to be on targets specifically Independent.”
Dillon glanced at Breed. “Maybe I have.”
“It’s all about control,” Gabriel said, almost to himself, making the others start.
“Taking out potential pockets of resistance.”
“And you think they might have …” His voice trailed away as he looked around at the calm surroundings, unable to force his mind from imagining the horrors that could have been perpetrated here.
“No.” A little voice piped up. “It’s warm,” Bethie said firmly. “We’re out for a walk. No talking about … icky things.” Her nose wrinkled. “Icky,” she repeated.
Gabriel, more than a little relieved at the interruption, laughed. “You know, I think you’re right.”
She took hold of his hand as they moved off, swinging it backwards and forwards. “Do you want to go to the lake?”
“There’s a lake?”
“And an orchard. And horses. And a boathouse but there’s no boat yet, although Auntie ‘Nara said she’s going to buy one, but there’s a treehouse that Mr Boden built after the first one got blown away, and…”
Gabriel let her talk on, amazed she could continue to chatter without apparently drawing a breath. He knew she wasn’t technically related to him, but he could see so much of River in her. At that age she could be relied upon to talk until the cows came home, interested in everything, asking questions all the time, and often knowing the answers anyway. He didn’t remember Simon being quite so voluble, but then he’d been busy during those early years with work, and there had been months on end when he hadn’t got home until well after bedtime … A hard ball of sorrow sat in his belly at what he’d missed, hoping his son wasn't making the same mistakes, and his hand tightened involuntarily.
Gabriel looked at Bethie. “What?”
“You were thinking about what games Daddy plays with me. Pirates. And he tells stories about them. So does Uncle Jayne and Uncle Hank. And Uncle Mal bought me a pirate ship of my very own, and –“
“A pirate ship?”
“In a bottle,” she explained.
Gabriel had to smile. “You father was just the same.”
Bethie’s eyebrows went up. “Did he play pirates?”
“Once in a while, I think. With River. Although she used to prefer games with dinosaurs.”
“Ethan likes them.” Bethie studied him closely.
“Ethan. Is he … your brother?”
“Sort of. Serenity brother. Uncle Mal and Auntie Frey are his daddy and momma. I don’t have a brother yet.”
“But you mentioned Caleb …”
“He’s Auntie River’s.” She darted forward and picked a small flower. “Do you think Grandma would like this?” she asked, looked up into his face. “Are you all right?”
Gabriel had gone pale.
to be continued
Wednesday, September 24, 2008 7:25 AM
Wednesday, September 24, 2008 7:27 AM
Wednesday, September 24, 2008 12:58 PM
Wednesday, September 24, 2008 2:23 PM
Thursday, September 25, 2008 3:00 AM
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