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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Maya. Post-BDM. River has a bad day, and Mal's is just getting worse. NEW CHAPTER
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1778 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
As they approached Hera over the next two days, the tension began to mount. Life went on, of course, with Simon and his father spending time together, the young man telling carefully edited tales of their exploits until Gabriel professed he must be making these things up. Regan, never too far from her husband’s side, found the women of Serenity visiting her every so often, bringing tea or, in Kaylee’s case, the cookie tin. She knew why they were doing it, and was grateful, but found the odd moments with her daughter the most rewarding.
However, the stress levels became much higher after River’s episode.
She’d been sitting in the cargo bay watching Jayne and Alex working out together, smiling slightly at the unlikely friendship that appeared to have grown up between the two men from opposite ends of the ‘verse. Her sketchpad was on her knees, and she occasionally drew an image. Nothing much, just an impression of an arm, lifting a weight, or a hand grasping the pull-up rings. Neither man was speaking much, just a low comment every now and again to encourage or caution.
She let the voices wash over her, not even looking at the paper, her pencil moving without intervention of conscious thought, until she looked down at what she’d drawn.
Reaver. Worse. Jayne as Reaver, skin peeled back from his cheeks above his beard, one eye marled and scarred, teeth sharpened to fine points. She screamed.
Jayne was immediately on his feet, hurrying across to her. “River?”
She lashed out at him, her fist catching his jaw and knocking him to the deck. Springing from the crate, she ran from him up the stairs towards the galley.
“River?” Freya was at the doorway, having heard the shriek, while Mal, Zoe and Hank were rushing down the bridge steps. “What is it?”
River glared at her, and she felt it like a physical force in her mind. All the colour fled from her face, and she staggered back against the wall.
“What’s going on?” Mal demanded, coming up behind the young woman and attempting to grab her arm.
She was already gone, running through the galley towards the engine room where Kaylee was standing with a wrench in her hand, a look of fear plastered across her face. But River didn’t attempt to enter, just sped down the stairs to the common area, and the infirmary.
Simon was coming out of the guest quarters, radiating concern, but she ignored him. Instead she half-fell across the threshold into the blue room and starting pulling drawers open.
“River, stop,” he said firmly, following her and wrapping his arms around her.
She twisted somehow, and suddenly he was on his side on the floor, staring up at her as she grabbed the box of scalpels, tearing it open in her frenzy. Knives scattered, one coming to rest point down only an inch from Simon’s hand. Not that he noticed. He was trying to stand, intent of taking the scalpel she was holding away from her.
“Have to get it out,” she was muttering. “Take it away.”
He swallowed, and began to say, “Eta kooram –“
“No! You ain’t gonna use that!” Jayne yelled, suddenly half filling the infirmary and grabbing his wife, fingers wrapping around the blade and pushing it down. “Moonbrain, stop,” he whispered in her ear, frantically trying to stop her hurting herself, ignoring the blood dripping down his wrist. “River.”
She looked up at him, her eyes huge, terrified. “Jayne …”
“I'm here, Riv. Ain’t going anywhere.”
With a sob she let go of the scalpel, allowing him to toss it away to the corner, scattering fine drops of red as it fell. He gathered her up, holding her tightly to him.
“What the hell just happened?” Mal asked, his voice low.
“I think it was this,” Alex said, holding out the sketchpad.
Mal took it. “Cao.”
Hank looked over his shoulder and shuddered. “Hell, anyone’d have a fit seeing that.”
“Sir, it’s Jayne,” Zoe murmured, taking the pad.
“Yeah. I know.” Mal took a step towards River, trembling like a leaf in a hurricane. “River, it’s just a drawing.”
She didn’t answer, just clung to Jayne even harder.
“Mal –“ the big man began.
“River.” Mal took hold of her chin, pulling it around so he could look into her eyes. “Xiao nu. It’s just a drawing. It can’t hurt you. And it ain’t gonna happen.”
“What ain’t?” Jayne asked. Zoe held it up. “Shit.” He looked down at the woman in his arms. “Riv, Mal’s right. It ain't gonna happen. If it was gonna, it would’ve by now, some of the things I’ve done. But I ain’t ever gonna be that.”
“Promise?” she said, almost too quietly for anyone to hear.
“Hurt you.” She reached up to touch his face, a dark shadow already appearing where she’d hit him.
“Hell, girl, you coulda broken my jaw if’n you’d wanted,” Jayne said, checking his teeth with his tongue. “That was only a love tap.”
She stared into his eyes, then wrapped herself around him, so close it was difficult to tell where he ended and she began.
“Jayne, I need to look at your hand,” Simon added quietly.
The big man shook his head. “I'm taking Riv back to our shuttle. If you wanna, you’d better come with.”
Simon quickly gathered some supplies, following them out.
“Well, that was … exhilarating,” Hank said, running his hand through his hair.
“Dear …” Zoe admonished.
Mal took the sketchpad back and stared at it, feeling Freya at his side. “You okay, ai ren?”
She nodded. “River wasn't exactly practising that control of hers,” she said, leaning against him and examining the drawing. “And in her mind, this wasn’t just pencil on paper.”
“I conjured that might be the case.” He glanced at her. “Mara?”
“I think so.” Freya touched the pad, her fingers barely skimming the lines. “She’s testing River, seeing what she can do.”
“Can’t help feeling our young assassin ain’t giving a good showing of herself.”
“I don’t know about that,” Freya said, somewhat cryptically.
“Is this what they made of her?” Gabriel asked, standing with his arms around his wife, appalled at what he’d just seen. “Those … people?”
“She has bad days,” Mal admitted. “Lot less now, since Miranda, and a whole lot less since Jayne. But they ain’t so many.”
“God,” Gabriel said. “This is all my fault.”
“I ain't gonna disagree with you on that point, but you had some help.” Mal looked at the others. “Hank, you’d better get back to flying my boat. How long ‘til we reach that black rock?”
“The Arachnids? About a day and a bit.”
“It’s what it’s called. Apparently some surveyor or other thought the debris looked like baby spiders around a mother.” The pilot shrugged. “Whatever he was on, I could do with some right now.”
“I think we all could,” Mal agreed, glancing towards the cargo bay door, his face thoughtful.
That evening, before everyone sat down to what was probably going to be a fairly subdued supper, Mal was supposedly cleaning his guns at the table in their bunk, but in reality was watching Freya wash her hair in the small sink. She’d taken her shirt off so she didn’t get it wet, and her skin was almost glowing in the low light.
“Why don’t you do it in the shower?” he asked, his eyes trailing a thin line of foam that was meandering down her neck as she poured a jugful of water over her head.
She turned enough so she could peer at him, blinking a little as shampoo got in her eyes. “We can’t waste the water,” she said succinctly. “Not with so many extra people on board. And I’m not showering at the moment anyway.”
“Yeah, I noticed you were getting a little ripe,” he joked.
She stuck her tongue out at him. “I sponge. I'm clean enough,” she replied and carried on rinsing.
He stood up. “Why don’t you let me do that for you?” he suggested, standing behind her and taking the jug from her hands. “I can see where you can’t.”
“Okay.” She rested on the unit, both hands bracing her bent arms. “Ready.”
He smiled a little and poured water over her hair, pushing the suds through the dark strands. Here and there was a glint of silver, maybe one or two more than before they left the children, but he wasn’t going to tell her. She sighed with pleasure, and he had to concentrate on his task and not on the tattoo showing brightly down her back. A couple more jugs and he straightened up. “You’re done,” he said, picking up the towel and rubbing her head.
“Tell me, did you ever think of doing this professionally?” she asked, her eyes closed.
“Yeah. Once upon a time.” He laughed. “Although after I practised on one of the dogs at home, my Ma said I wasn’t to go near scissors ever again.”
She stood upright, taking the towel from him. “I wish I’d seen that.”
“No, you don’t. Poor thing looked like he’d been sheared.”
Finishing drying, she picked up a brush. “Want to do this too?”
“Sure.” He pulled the chair he’d been sitting in forward and gestured to it. “If the young lady would like to take a seat …”
Freya grinned and sat down. “I could get used to this.”
“Oh, it’s just a one time offer,” Mal said, taking the brush from her and running it through her hair.
“So you give me a taste of this and then take it back?”
“Gotta leave ‘em wanting more.” He watched the hair flatten under his ministrations, then spring back up, studying every strand. “You know, I've been thinking …”
She glanced at him over her shoulder, her eyes soft, loving. “Is that a good idea?”
“Probably not. But there’s something I've realised I need to say to you.”
“I love you too.”
“No, I … well, yeah, I know that. But this … although it’s kinda connected.”
She moved around on the seat so she could rest her arm on the back of the chair, looking up into his face. “Mal, what is it?”
“Maybe it’d be better if you didn’t love me so much.”
“What?” She didn’t look angry, at least not yet, just confused.
“Things the way they are. Things that might happen. Better if you didn’t love me so much.”
“What are you talking about?”
His blue eyes gazed at her. “Before. On Three Hills.”
Freya stood up quickly, grabbing the brush from him and putting it on the shelf. “That’s not … I thought you weren’t going to bring that up.”
“It happened, Frey. That ain’t gonna go away. You tried to kill yourself.”
She span on her heel and glared at him. “Because I thought you were dead. I thought you’d died and I’d never see you again.”
“Zoe lost a husband and didn’t try to die.”
Her eyes widened a little. “She was there. She saw it happen. She knew. I didn’t.”
“So if I get shot in front of you, or knifed, or … anything else … that’ll be okay?”
For a moment she didn’t speak. Then suddenly her arm raised and she hit him, open-handed, on his cheek. The sound reverberated through the small cabin, and made her fingers ring.
He didn’t touch it, although the heat was intense. “I can’t lose you, Frey. And if anything happens to me … I need to know you’re alive.”
“And you think this is the best way of making sure?” She couldn’t believe what he’d said, what she’d done, and didn’t want to be in the same room with him. She grabbed her shirt and went to leave, but he wouldn’t let her. Taking hold of her arm he turned her to face him. “Let go.”
“No. You’re gonna listen to me. It ain't often I put my foot down in this marriage, ‘cause that ain't the way I think it should be, but … right now I am.” He pulled her closer. “This thing we’re going to, this battle … it’s possible none of us may come out of it alive.”
She swallowed hard. “I know.”
“Or maybe just some of us will survive. The best fighters. Jayne, Zoe … you …”
“You’re not going to die.”
“You won’t!” She almost screamed the words into his face, not caring if the rest of the crew heard.
“Frey, if that happens, and you live, I’m terrified you’ll try to kill yourself again, and succeed this time. The thought that you might die is destroying me.”
Freya closed her eyes, but it was too late. Hot, fat tears escaped from under her lids and rolled down her cheeks. “I love you, Mal,” she whispered. “I can’t stop that. I won’t.”
“I know. And I love you so much I can’t breathe sometimes when you’re close to me. But that’s the point. Frey, if it came down to it, I’d walk into hell with my head high, singing, if it meant you’d live. You know that, don’t you?”
“Yes.” She barely whispered.
“I need this, Frey. And it’s not just because of Ethan and Jesse. I need to know you’ll go on if I fall.”
“I need this.”
She stared into his blue eyes, seeing nothing but honesty there, and it reached through into her heart. Taking a deep breath, she spoke slowly. “I won’t hide, Mal. I’ll be there, right next to you, fighting those hwoon dahns until there’s none left. I won’t crawl away and wait until it’s over.”
“I know it.”
“But if you … if you fall, I’ll …” She had to swallow to finish. “I’ll take them out, all of them. Take them to pieces. Render them into their limbs and bloody intestines. They might kill me in the process. But I won’t kill myself. If I survive and you don’t, I won’t take my own life.” She watched his face, seeing each word biting into him like a Reaver, then the realisation of what she was saying blossomed.
“You mean that?” he asked, barely vocalising.
I do. She didn’t use her voice, knowing that could lie so easily. Instead she let her meaning caress his mind, showing the truth. Not because I won’t want to, but because you need me to go on.
He reached for her, dragging her into his arms, embracing her so tightly there was nothing between them at all. “God, Frey …”
Her hands were on his back, feeling the muscles moving as he tried to get closer to her, then his lips met hers, and the intensity was bruising. He staggered back to the wall, pulling her with him and using it to slide down so she was in his lap, not breaking contact all the while.
After a long while they released each other enough to breathe, and Mal looked into her face, smoothing her hair away. “That’s all I need, Frey,” he said quietly.
“You know we none of us’ll make it through this, don’t you?” Her hands tightened in his shirt.
“Sure. Although Jayne’s looking forward to saying I told you so.” His mouth curved. “I have to believe we’ll all live, Frey. If I don’t, then they’ve won before we even start to fight.”
“They’re not going to win. Whatever happens, they’re not going to win.” She felt a laugh deep in his chest.
“You know that for a fact, do you?” he asked.
“Then we’re okay.” He kissed her again, but this was softer, more tender as his tongue sketched her lips.
I’m glad the kids are safe, she thought to him as her body responded.
Me too. No matter what happens, they’ll be okay.
“So will we, Mal,” Freya whispered into his mouth, and he knew she wasn’t sure if she was telling the truth.
Next morning, at least according to ship’s time, Mal watched the unchanging stars outside his Firefly’s window. He and Freya had made up, and no-one had commented on the raised voices they must have heard.
“She forgave you,” his shadow said, sitting in the co-pilot’s seat and rolling Jayne’s rainstick backwards and forwards.
“I know.” He glanced at her. “Just want her to live, River.”
“She’s promised. Just … don’t die to see if she keeps it.”
“You think I’d do that?”
“I think you’ll live to make sure she doesn’t.”
“And I think maybe you know me too well.” He studied her profile as she in turn studied the carvings. “What about you? You okay now?”
“Better,” she said, tilting the stick again and making the stones inside it rain on the roof. “I'm sorry.”
He was surprised. “What for? It’s not your fault. Although I do think it might be better if you stayed on board Serenity when we hit Hera.”
She shook her head. “No.”
“It’d be for your own good. And –“
“No,” she repeated firmly. “She’s goading me. Trying to unbalance me.”
“Figure maybe she succeeded, and that’s even more reason to stay behind.”
“No. Because she forgets that I'm unbalanced already.”
“And that’s a good thing?”
“Not for her. Because now I’m angry too.”
He raised his eyebrows. “So you think you’re up to this fight?”
“Only it wasn’t that long ago you were ready to rip my head off ‘cause I suggested we might have no choice but to end the girl.”
“That was before. Before I touched her mind. I’ll try to help her, but she’s insane.”
“Don’t take this the wrong way, but … more’n you?”
“Oh, yes. Hers is natural insanity, exacerbated by being psychic.” She turned to look at him, her eyes seeming to be infinite in their depth. “But I don’t know that I’ll be able to kill her. Doppler. Other me.”
He understood. “No, River. Not you. And if you can’t there’s a whole ship full of folks that’ll do it for you.”
She gazed at him a moment longer, then nodded. “Thank you.”
“That’s what families are for, xiao nu.”
River sighed. “And you mustn’t call me that.”
“What? Why? Don’t you like it no more?” Mal felt an odd sense of disappointment.
“I do,” she assured him. “I love to hear you call me daughter. But my father doesn’t.”
Mal had to smile. “Ah. Well, I’ll try to remember.”
She turned back to the stars. “But I’d like you to forget not to, once in a while.”
The smile turned to a grin. “You mean when we’re alone and people ain’t breathing down our necks?”
He chuckled. “You got it.” He leaned back. “How’s it going with your folks?”
“Slowly. But at least Simon is –“ She stopped, stiffening slightly.
“What? What is it?”
She uncurled from the chair, her eyes fixed out into the black. “Columbine is slowing.”
Mal stared, then realised she was right. Quickly he ran his hands over the board, adjusting their trajectory so they wouldn’t fly straight into the Vanguard but curve away slightly just in case. Matching the slowing speed, he lifted down the comlink. “Columbine, this is Serenity. What’s going on over there?”
Dillon’s voice, slightly tinny, filled the bridge. “Our engines have failed, Mal. She’s just given up on us. Breed’s taking a look, but he’s no engineer.”
“Tzao gao.” Mal exchanged a look with River, then said, “Okay. I think we can dock, then Kaylee can come take a look. Just give me a few minutes to get Hank up here.”
“Thanks, Mal.” Dillon sounded relieved.
Mal flicked off the com, then exhaled heavily. “How long, River? Until they hatch.”
“That’s what I thought.”
to be continued
Thursday, November 6, 2008 7:43 AM
Thursday, November 6, 2008 11:15 AM
Thursday, November 6, 2008 2:08 PM
Thursday, November 6, 2008 3:54 PM
Thursday, November 6, 2008 4:11 PM
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