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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Maya. Post-BDM. The Alliance have gone, and Mal says goodbye, while Simon makes a request. CONCLUDING CHAPTER WITH EPILOGUE TO FOLLOW
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1135 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
They left Hera, but didn’t go far, just to the Arachnids to wait for the Alliance to finish mopping up, Serenity and Columbine sitting cheek by jowl, hidden by the mineral deposits in the spider and her children.
At least, most of them left.
“Jayne, River. You’re staying.” Mal looked at the pair. “Clean up. Anything the Alliance might find, make sure they don’t.”
“Good idea,” the big man said.
“Yeah, well, sometimes I have ‘em.” He added, “Just … don’t get caught.”
River stared at him until he began to feel uncomfortable, then she and Jayne turned, heading back towards the ruins of the Abbey.
The Feds never did find Mara Tam’s body, not knowing River and Jayne had hidden it, well away from prying eyes and any scientists who had the notion to try cloning her. They laid her to rest in a tiny alcove behind a rockfall, covered by a cairn and invisible to anyone not psychic, and River said a prayer over her while Jayne stood, his head bowed and his hands clasped together in front of him, waiting patiently until she’d finished. Then they went and destroyed every single piece of paper in Quintana’s office, wiping his computer for good measure.
“What about surveillance?” the big man asked, watching the flames consume the last of the hand written notes. “Wouldn’t want us being here to come back and bite us in the ass.”
“When Freya destroyed the communications centre most recordings went with it. Apart from this.” She held up a memory wafer, turning it to catch the light and refract it into a rainbow of colours. “Pretty,” she breathed.
“Yeah.” He watched her face. “You ain’t planning on keeping it, are you?”
“No.” She dropped it into the fire, the plastic melting immediately, sparking a little as the heat caused the microcircuitry to explode. “All gone.”
“I’ll buy you something pretty next time we’re near a store,” he promised. “Prettier’n that.”
She smiled at him, and he knew he was never going to see anything as pretty as her in his whole life. Her smile widened, and he felt the tips of his ears turning pink.
Back on board Serenity, Simon operated on both Mal and Freya, giving the former the knife point as a memento, and telling the latter to stay off her feet for at least a week, but with little hope of being obeyed. Then he went and sat with his mother, talking quietly.
Finally the Iolanthe and the other vessels moved off, leaving the sky above Hera empty except for orbiting debris that would eventually fall into the atmosphere and burn to nothing but a light show.
The scout vessel was the last to leave, and if it appeared Iolanthe slowed a little as it passed the Arachnids, it was probably an optical illusion, although Mal wasn’t sure someone wasn’t looking out of a window as they went by.
“You think they know we’re here?” Hank asked quietly, afraid to raise his voice in case they heard.
“Not sure I want to speculate.” Mal leaned on the back of the co-pilot’s chair, his leg aching.
“Wouldn’t you be better sitting down?”
“Hurts just as much,” Mal admitted.
“Then why don’t you go get a painkiller from Simon?” Hank shook his head. “This crew. Every single one of ‘em, martyrs. They don’t seem to enjoy life if there isn’t a little bit of pain involved.”
Mal glared at him. “Considering you didn’t get shot, stabbed, or had a ton of rocks dropped on you, I think you might want to reconsider that statement.”
“Hey, I’m not complaining! And I’m just glad you managed to keep Zoe from pretty much all of that too.”
“Said I would.”
“Yeah.“ Mal stared back out at the stars, seeing Iolanthe powering her main engines and getting smaller with every second, but something was still bothering him. Alex had told them about the blue-handed men, and it was preying on his mind a little. “You sure we don’t need to worry about those hwoon dahns having told anyone we were there?” he asked.
“Nope,” Hank said confidently, if for the fifth time. “The jamming equipment stopped them sending any kind of report to their bosses, and they were dead before it was destroyed.”
“Only if these were like the ones River’s always been afraid of -”
“Mal. They’re safe. Both of ‘em.” Hank understood. Being a husband himself, twice over, he knew what was going through Mal’s mind.
“I just, you know, them recognising Freya like they did …”
“Mal?” Simon was standing in the doorway to the bridge, somewhat diffident.
“What’s troubling you, doc?”
“Apart from the fact that I told you to keep off that leg as much as possible?”
Mal ignored the smirk on his pilot’s face. “Apart from that, yes.”
“I’ve been … my mother and I have been talking … about Gabriel … about my father. I told her about Prometheus, about how it’s where …” He stopped, aware he might be about to make a grave error of judgement.
“You want to bury him there.”
“Yes.” He stepped inside. “I don’t like the idea of him being buried in that damn great mausoleum back on Osiris. It wouldn’t be right. It should be somewhere with … with family.”
“Seems to me you’ve forgiven him,” Mal said softly.
“I … perhaps I have. A little.” He lifted his chin defiantly, not wanting to admit he cared. “But I said I’d ask.”
“It’s not just up to me, Simon.”
The young man understood. “I know. But if you could talk to Freya, ask her …”
“I’ll ask.” He went to pass by. “And if she says no?”
“Then perhaps … maybe he should be buried on Hera. With the other Browncoats.”
Mal put his hand on his shoulder. “I doubt it’s gonna come to that, Simon.” He hobbled off the bridge to go and see his wife.
“He’s so sure,” Simon said, shaking his head and lowering himself into the co-pilot‘s chair.
“He knows Frey,” Hank explained.
Mal took the steps down into the galley one at a time, wincing heavily as he went. “Hey,” he said.
“Hey.” She was sitting at the head of the old wooden table, in Mal’s normal place, her hands clasped in front of her. Her leg was stretched out down one long side, resting on another chair, plaster encasing it from mid-calf to mid-thigh.
“Wanna try that again?”
She didn‘t look up, but her hands tightened. “I'm angry.”
“Why? What’ve I done?”
“Then care to enlighten me?”
Her head raised, and he was shocked to see the emotion burning in her eyes. “We had to have Alliance help, Mal!”
He tugged another chair around so he was next to her, and lowered himself carefully into it. “Didn’t see them being that helpful, ai ren.”
“They kept the Reavers occupied while we did what we did. And a lot of people died.”
“Lot more would’ve if we hadn’t, Frey. And we’re okay. Battered, maybe, but we’re alive.”
“Tell that to Regan.”
He took hold of her hand, pulling it towards him when she resisted. “Frey, don’t you think Gabriel preferred going out that way? Saving his son instead of being strapped to a bed in some hospital, having fits and breaking bones ‘cause he can’t control himself any longer? And worse, knowing he ain't able to tell anyone to end it for him? That’s what Mandel’s Syndrome does, xin gan. I asked Simon.”
“But all those others …”
“Alliance knew what they were getting into, engaging Reaver ships like that. And if you’re talking about the New Browncoats –“
“– then I conjure maybe you’ve forgotten they were trying to kill us, and lay such waste to the inner planets that’d make our war look like a walk in the park.”
“But isn’t that the point? Was what they wanted to different from what we fought for? Freedom, of a sort?”
“No.” He shook his head firmly. “They didn’t want that. They wanted power. And all that’d happen would be replacing one kind of tyranny with another, and by any means.” He ran his thumb over the back of her hand. “That ain’t us, Frey. Never was. And don’t go thinking that maybe this makes the Alliance the good guys. People like Jeremiah Smith might be trying to change things from the inside, but they’ve got their own agenda, their own reasons. And I don’t see evidence of any change.”
“I know that, Mal, but –“
“They wanted the hybrids.” He wouldn’t let her argue with him. “Were using Mara to turn the Reavers into a weapon. Hell, created that RePax.” He couldn’t suppress the tremor that ran through him at the near miss he’d had, and the feeling of all those minds pressing into his, but he shook himself even as he saw the sympathy in her eyes. “They ain’t heroes, Frey, just like Quintana, Ramsey and the rest weren’t honest Browncoats. Just two sides of the same coin. Out for what they could get.”
“I just hate owing them anything.”
“We don’t.” He looked into her eyes. “We don’t, Frey.”
“Whatever you say.”
He shook his head and sighed. He knew her, knew her moods, how she took on guilt for things, and that it was going to take a while before she came to her senses. Better if he let it drop now, and maybe try again later. When they were in bed, maybe. Not that there wasn't something to talk about. “Frey, there’s something I need to -”
“Frey, you ever gonna let me get half a thought outta my head ‘fore you read it?” he asked in mild exasperation.
“I have to rebuild my walls, Mal. They’re in a sorry state at the moment, and it might take a while.”
“Then you take what you need from me,” Mal said, squeezing her hand. “You know you always can.”
“I know.” Her eyes narrowed. “And I don’t have to come to my senses.”
He didn’t blush, but he did smile. “You really are peeking, ain’t you?”
“And I’m not taking on the guilt. I'm just –“
“Angry. Yeah, I got that.” He changed the subject back again. “So you’re okay with us heading to Prom? Putting Gabriel next to the others?”
Her face saddened a little, as it always did when she thought of her lost daughter. “Of course I'm okay with it. The way he saved Simon’s life, perhaps yours too, it’s … it’s right.”
He ran his thumb down her jaw. “Do you have any idea how proud I am of you?” he asked.
Freya did blush, just a dusting of pink across her cheek bones. “Thank you,” she whispered.
“And xin gan? You’re the only one saved my life.”
She smiled, the sorrow of a moment before washed away by his assertion. “Sweet talker.” She leaned over as much as she could, just brushing his lips with hers.
“You know, as nice a thought as this is – and thinking about it is as much as we’re likely to be doing in the next couple of days – there’s a place we need to go first,” Mal said softly.
Hank proved his worth once again as a pilot, putting Serenity down on a tiny plateau, with barely enough room to swing a cat, let alone land a Firefly. Alex kept Columbine in orbit, making sure they weren’t likely to be disturbed. Besides, he felt, somewhere deep it his bones, that it wasn't his place to be with them. Not right now.
It was afternoon, and a distinct chill had permeated the air.
Mal stood on the ridge, overlooking the deep, wide valley. Zoe stood close by, as always.
“It doesn’t look like much,” Simon said quietly to Kaylee, a few paces further back. “Just a place.”
“You’re right, it don’t,” his wife agreed. “But to the Cap and Zoe …”
Mal heard them talking but didn’t even try to explain. He was remembering it the way he’d last seen this particular spot, medships hovering overhead, too late to help the thousands of good men and women lying dead in that god-forsaken place. Almost too late to help those handful that were left. And way too late to help him.
“Sir, we got out,” Zoe said, her voice low, not needing to be a Reader to know what he was thinking.
“Too many didn’t.”
She couldn’t argue with him – wouldn’t, not with her sergeant – but there was a part of her that wished she knew how to tell him he was wrong, that he had survived, remarkably whole and intact considering what they’d gone through, but she knew he’d never believe her.
Although there was someone he might listen to.
Freya, limping and resting heavily on a pair of crutches, came out of the cargo bay, moving slowly but surely to catch them up. Hank followed her, not helping, fully aware of what she’d say to him if he tried, what she’d already said when he attempted to stop her leaving Serenity. In great detail.
Above them, a small flock of birds wheeled and swooped on thermal air currents rising from the valley sides, calling mournfully over the dry landscape.
“Sounds like people,” Simon said, then stood straighter as Freya passed him. “What the … Freya, what are you doing?” He looked back at Hank. “Why did you let her come up here?”
“You think I could have stopped her?” Hank asked in turn.
Freya stumbled a little but righted herself, coming to a halt beside Mal.
“You shouldn’t be out here.” Mal didn’t look at her, just stood staring at the valley.
“You need me,” she said simply.
Now he turned to her, saw the firm resolve in her face, the love in her eyes, and he nodded. He held out his hand, taking hers and holding tight.
“There ain’t no plaque,” Kaylee whispered. “I’d kinda thought there would be.”
Zoe heard, though. “There is, mei-mei.” She pointed. “Not here, but down at the other end of the valley, where the official surrender was accepted.”
Where I ended Xavier Wing, Mal thought, letting the warmth of his wife’s mind wash through him. After he did that to you.
“This place, this is just where folk died,” he added quietly.
A fresh breeze blew from the east, bringing with it the scent of rain from clouds gathering on the far horizon. No more the perfume of decaying corpses of his friends and comrades, nor even the stink of Reavers rotting in the Abbey halfway down the Valley.
“I wish I’d been here,” Freya said. “Been able to help.”
Mal glanced at her, then moved closer, shaking his head. “Glad you weren’t. Frey, if you’d been here, you’d as like be dead. And I lost too many I cared about that day. Couldn‘t have lost you too.”
“No buts.” Mal squeezed her hand. “I’m just glad you’re here with me now.”
There was silence between them for a moment, then Freya said quietly, “Prospero thought he could take revenge on his persecutors by using indentured spirits, to drive his enemies into madness.”
He looked down at her. “Who?”
“Prospero. Miranda’s father.” She shrugged as best she could with crutches under her arms. “Shakespeare.”
“The Tempest, yeah.” He chuckled a little at the surprise on her face. “I ain't that uncultured.”
“I know. I just didn’t think –”
“Ms Gingrich made us read it one winter. All about vengeance and retribution, I do believe. Although I seem to recall some of ‘em came out better men.” He tilted his head slightly. “That us?”
“No.” She smiled. “And it’s as much about repentance and forgiveness.” She gazed out at the Valley. “You know, you were right earlier. What you said.”
“Course I was,” he said stoutly, adding, “What about?”
“Most of these New Browncoats are just folks like us, who want to be allowed to get on with their lives without any undue interference. We fought a war on that principle.”
“We lost, though.”
She turned, fumbling the crutch a little, then righting herself. “No, Mal. No. You’re alive. You have your ship. We have each other and our family. I call that a win.”
“She’s not wrong, sir,” Zoe said softly.
“You think that,” Mal said, glancing at his first mate.
“Surely do, sir.”
He shook his head and turned back. “You are an odd woman, Freya Reynolds.”
She lifted her chin to gaze directly into his blue eyes. “That I am. And don’t you forget that.”
“I’ll try not to.” He looked out at the Valley again, relapsing into silence as they stared out from the ridge overlooking the rocky outcrop where Mal, Zoe and a couple of hundred soldiers had made their last stand. They stood unspeaking, each occupied with their own thoughts as the light faded and the clouds thickened overhead.
Finally drops of rain splashed down on them, kicking up the dust. Simon, Kaylee and Hank ran back towards Serenity, where Jayne and River were waiting under the protection of the Firefly’s hull. After a minute Zoe walked back, glancing over her shoulder at her Captain and Freya. He was still gazing out, and she wasn’t going to leave until he did.
Eventually Mal turned to look at Freya. “You’re getting wet,” he said almost unnecessarily, taking off his coat and draping it around her shoulders.
He smiled a little and felt some of the tension leave his body. “Wanna go get our kids?”
She smiled back, nodding. “Yes, please.”
“Come on then.” He took her hand in his again, feeling her warmth spread through him, and they started back to the Firefly, leaving Serenity Valley together.
epilogue to follow
Tuesday, December 16, 2008 1:07 AM
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