BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

JANE0904

Fripperies and Fancies
Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Maya. Post-BDM. Just because it's Christmas, here's a little standalone for those of you who like Mal and Freya. And 'cause it's me, there's just a hintiest hint of angst, but it all comes right in the end. MERRY CHRISTMAS!


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2048    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

When she was young, she always loved the build up to Christmas. The very first day of December would have the tree arriving, something grand to go in the hallway, huge and resembling half a forest. The servants would decorate it, having to use stepladders to reach the very top until there was hardly any green to be seen.

She and Alex weren’t supposed to watch. They were meant to wait in their rooms until it was done, when they’d be called down to witness the final placement of the star on top, and the lights being switched on.

Except she always managed to hide herself at the top of the stairs, looking through the banisters and biting her lip at every shiny, gaudy bauble removed from the box and hung on the bright green branches.

Not that the tree was really put up for them. Not for the family. This was actually for any visitors to the house, to show the ‘verse that the Rostovs knew how to celebrate, and the smell of gingerbread and cinnamon buns would waft up from downstairs in the kitchens, and eggnog and mulled wine were always ready to be served.

And, of course, that was when her grandmother came. The day after, for a month, to look at the tree and raise one eyebrow, declaring it to be vulgar and without taste, then adding that they needed a family one in the living room. So the servants were dispatched, and a small tree procured, which she and her brother were allowed to decorate with grandmotherly assistance.

Afterwards they would sit together in the light from the candles on the tree, and grandmother would talk, tell stories, and brush her hair, telling her how pretty she was, while Alex ate sugar-topped cookies and secretly wished his hair was long enough to brush.

The trees never lasted, of course. Her mother would complain every day about the needles being walked into the carpets, despite the servants almost constantly brushing them up, and the moment Twelfth Night was over, they were down, consigned to the corner of the estate where Morris, the head gardener, had his shed and did magical and mysterious things with pesticides and weedkillers. There they would stay until all the needles had fallen and the branches dried to a crispy brown, finally to be chopped up and fed into the incinerator.

Except for the handful of thin, sharp points that she’d collected, placed with reverential care into the carved wooden box her grandmother had given her when she was five. Inside were her most favoured possessions, including one of the baubles she’d stolen from the big tree because it called to her with its incredible shininess, reflecting her image and glittering with artificial snow, sitting next to the one gift she truly treasured …

-

Mal walked up behind his wife and put his arm around her waist. “What are you looking at?” he asked, pulling her close into his side, his other occupied with a number of packages.

“Nothing.” Freya tipped her head to touch his shoulder, her breath crystallising in the cold air. “Thinking.”

“What about?”

“Nothing much.”

“Hmn.”

“What?”

“Well, you don’t usually stand there all pensive staring at an overblown tree weighed down with tinsel and small toys for nothing.” He nodded towards the display in the shop window.

“Maybe I do.”

“You ain’t broody, are you?” He winced as she trod on his foot. “Only that’s not a bad thing,” he added quickly. “‘Cause I’d like more kids. You know that.”

“You don’t have to carry them.”

“No, that’s true.” He splayed his hand over her belly. “But it’s worth it, don’t you think?”

“Mmn.”

“Or you changed your mind about expanding our crew?”

“No. I just …” She shivered slightly.

“Come on, you’re getting cold. Better be getting back to the ship.”

“Sure.” She let him lead the way.

“Besides, you do realise Kaylee’s like to have got my boat fancied up with decorations like a bordello by now, don’t you?” he went on.

“And how often have you been inside a bordello?” Freya asked, all mock seriousness for a moment.

“Never. Well, not often.”

“I should hope not. And I hope you’re not planning to say that to Kaylee’s face.” Freya smiled. “Pregnant or not, she’ll probably hit you with her wrench.”

“Nah, not my mei-mei.” He linked his arm into hers. “Besides, she knows I don’t mean it.”

“So you’re not going to be all bah humbug this year?”

“All what?”

“You know exactly what I'm saying.”

“As if I would. We’re perched here, ain't we? And it’s like to snow, least from the feel of it.” He looked up into the grey sky.

“You only gave in because River turned the eyes on you. And said Caleb would hate you forever if you didn’t.”

He raised his eyebrows. “Don’t recall that.”

“Must be your age.” She shook her head. “Memory loss. It’s a very sad thing to see.” She ignored the fact that he tried to pinch her, since her coat afforded her sufficient protection. Grinning, they walked on together, just content to be in each other’s company.

Then Freya stopped, her eye caught by a stall selling all manner of shiny objects.

“What are you looking at now?” Mal asked, only slight exasperation showing in his voice.

Freya pointed down. “That.”

“What?”

The stallholder picked up the object in question, handing it over, hoping for a sale.

“When I was six, my grandmother bought me a hair slide, just like this,” Freya explained, turning the adornment over in her fingers, admiring the glass stones set all along it. “My hair was so long, I could almost sit on it. She used to brush it for hours when she visited, telling me stories of when she was young.”

Mal could never get enthusiastic about such fripperies, hadn’t with Inara and still couldn’t now. “Well, ain’t no need for it now. You ain’t a girl no more, and you ain’t got the hair to wear it. Come on.”

She swallowed. “No. I … I suppose you’re right.” She handed it back, seeing the disappointment on the stallholder’s face. “Sorry,” she murmured, letting Mal lead her back towards where they’d parked the Firefly on the edge of town as snowflakes started to fall silently from the leaden sky.

---

“What in the sphincter of hell is that?” Mal asked, stepping into the cargo bay through the door in the closed ramp and shaking his shoulders to get rid of the snow on them.

“It’s a tree.” Kaylee stood back to admire her handiwork, her hand interlaced on her belly. Nearly five months along now, and she was showing nicely. She smiled at Freya who had entered behind the captain.

“Looks like half a forest.” Mal put down the parcels he was carrying and took off his coat, hanging it over the cage to dry before helping Freya with hers.

“Jayne got it,” River explained, hanging the last of the silken angel hair across a branch.

“That don’t surprise me. You sure it ain't still got small animals living in it?”

“I think there’s still a squirrel in there,” the young psychic said, perfectly straight faced. “But the others were persuaded to leave.”

“Better get that critter out too, ‘less you want Jayne to cook it up for our Christmas dinner.” He grinned and picked up the packages. “Well, I'm going to get these put away.” He turned his smile on Freya, and wondered why he only got a nod in return. Starting to walk towards the stairs, he added over his shoulder, “And I thought I told you no fripperies on my boat?”

“Captain Humbug,” his mechanic said, good-naturedly as she stroked her belly.

“Won’t get round me that way.”

“Course we will.”

They waited until Mal’s footsteps receded, then Freya asked, “Where are the children?”

Kaylee straightened a cardboard angel. “Out. With Jayne. They’re collecting some more greenery.”

Freya managed a smile. “More? You know what Mal’s going to say.”

“’Swhy I didn’t tell him.” Kaylee laughed. “And I don’t care. The kids’ve put up with a lot, the past few months. They deserve some fun at Christmas.”

“That they do.”

“And us,” River added, slipping an origami Firefly into the centre of the tree.

“Are they wrapped up? It’s snowing pretty hard out there. And I hope they haven’t gone far.” Freya felt a flutter of concern.

“They’ve got so many clothes on they can hardly walk,” Kaylee admitted. “And all of ‘em in their gloves on strings.”

“Even Jayne.” The scent of the freshly cut tree was almost intoxicating, and River let it wander through her veins.

“Good.” She sounded distant.

Kaylee glanced at River, who shook her head slightly. Something wasn’t right, but only one of them knew for sure, and the other was intent on finding out.

“You know, Hope’s still in her room,” Kaylee said conversationally, as if just making small talk. “Since she’s still snuffling, didn’t think it was a good idea for her to go and get all wet. She could do with some company.” She threw in a sweetener. “She’s got a new story book.”

Freya chuckled, a welcome sound. “Okay. But only so long as I can make animal noises.”

“Oh, plenty o’ them.”

“Okay.” She took one last look at the decorated tree and wandered towards the lower crew quarters.

As she disappeared, Kaylee turned to her sister-in-law. “So. Tell me.”

---

Mal sauntered back onto the top catwalk, looking down at the two young women who were now sitting on the floor, apparently threading popcorn onto strings. “Any idea where my wife is?”

“Readin’ to Hope,” Kaylee said shortly.

His eyes widened a little. “I done something to upset you, xiao mei-mei?”

“Not me.” She deliberately didn’t look up at him.

“Then you mind telling me why I'm in your bad books all of a sudden?” He walked down the metal staircase, the sound bouncing back from Serenity’s walls.

“Nothin’.”

“Well, it surely looks like something.”

Kaylee glanced at River, who nodded. “Freya,” she finally admitted.

“Huh?”

“Frey’s upset.”

He looked around for his wife, but couldn‘t see her. “What over?” he asked, his eyes narrowing. “Is it the kids? Are they -”

“You,” River interrupted. “Saying that.”

Xiao nu, you ain’t making sense.”

Kaylee put down her string of popcorn. “About that slide. She wanted you to ask about her grandmother, to show interest in her, to say … I don’t know … that you like her hair now.”

Mal looked between the two of them, then settled on the young psychic. “You peeking into my head again?”

River fixed her big dark eyes on him. “We needed to know. You needed to know. To put it right.”

“I just said she didn’t need such trinkets no more,” he explained, aware he sounded like he was trying to defend himself.

Kaylee didn‘t let him. “It hurt her, the way you said it. Cap, you always see Freya, the woman, self-reliant and strong. A warrior. Only she ain’t always. Sometimes she’s a little girl like the rest of us, who needs reassuring she’s pretty.”

“Kaylee, I think she’s beautiful.”

“Then tell her that.”

He thought for a moment, how he’d dismissed her interest in the silly bit of jewellery, and he realised it wasn’t silly. Not at all. Not to her. “Kaylee, you and River wanna hold the fort? I just gotta … there’s something I need to do.” He grabbed his coat and was out of the cargo bay door, a blast of cold air and rapidly melting flurry of snow the only sign of his departure.

Kaylee looked at her sister-in-law. “He gonna be sensible?”

River sighed happily. “Oh, yes.”

The door opened again and Jayne hurried in, followed by all the children, their arms full of as much evergreens as they could carry, their faces pink and laughing. “Where’s Mal off to?” the big man asked, stamping his feet and brushing snow off Caleb’s shoulders where the little boy sat on his hip, chattering nonsense excitedly.

“To find his sanity,” River explained, taking her son from him.

“Be a while, then.” He grinned as she punched him.

---

“Frey, honey, you down there?” Mal called down the open hatchway.

“Yes.”

“Good.” He grinned and climbed down the ladder then paused. “What’re you doing?”

Freya was standing at the side of the bed, piled high with what looked like a rainbow. “Nothing. Just packing up some stuff.”

He crossed the small room. “Why? Hey, that’s your wedding dress!”

“I know.”

“And the one I bought you when you were carrying Jesse.” He let the bronze fabric run through his fingers like liquid silk.

“Yes.”

“What are you doing with them?”

“I don’t get the chance to wear them, so they’re just wasting space. Besides, they’re not practical.”

“So?”

“Serenity doesn’t have room for things we don‘t need.” She folded the red dress, laying it carefully on the pile, her hand laying on it for just a moment. “I thought we could perhaps sell them.”

“What? Why?” he asked, although he had the sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach that this was all his fault.

“You were right. I don’t have occasion to wear them, and we might be able to make some money from them, keep Serenity flying. You know how Kaylee’s always asking for -”

Yes. It was his fault. “Stop. We’re not selling your dresses. Put them back.”

“No, I think we should -”

He took hold of her hands, pulling her around to face him. “Stop, please. I’m sorry.”

“What for?”

He gazed into her eyes, glad she didn‘t look like she‘s actually been crying, but he figured it was a close thing. “Not understanding. Not realising what a sha gua chun zi I was being. Not seeing my wife, the most beautiful woman I’ve ever met, needed to be told. But you gotta remember, I’m a man, and we have these blind spots sometimes.”

“Blind spots.”

“Yeah.“ He allowed a small smile. “Don’t put them away. Please. The day you came down that aisle you made my heart leap for joy. And carrying Jesse, looking so glorious, I could hardly breathe. Frey, you’re more beautiful every day, and if I don’t tell you it’s ‘cause I’m an idiot.”

“Mal, you don’t have to -”

“I do. I should tell you every day. Hell, every minute of every day. I love you, Frey. And I should have known.” He let go with one hand and reached into his pocket. “Here. I got you this. I was gonna keep it for Christmas, but since you kinda forced my hand by me being a jerk …”

She looked down, at the twist of paper. Picking it up carefully, she unwrapped it. “Oh, Mal …” she whispered, staring at the hair slide.

“It is the one, isn’t it?”

“Yes. Yes it is. But I can’t -”

“I had them change it for me, put a pin on it. You can wear it like a brooch, if you want. And then, when Jesse’s older, you can brush her hair and tell her she’s pretty ‘fore fixing it back. And when she has kids you can dangle them on your knee and tell ‘em tales of when we were out here in the black.”

She was having to blink hard. “And what will you be doing?”

“Telling you how beautiful you are.”

She flung her arms around his neck, her lips fastened to his, and the words, I love you crystallised in his mind, melting in the heat of his passion for her.

In the corridor above, Jayne was humming a Christmas carol as he dumped some of the greenery he and the children had collected onto the floor, then turned and watched River quietly close the hatch above the captain’s cabin.

“They okay?” he asked.

“They are now.”

“He found it then? That sanity of his?”

“One of us has to.”

“Nah,” Jayne said, shaking his head. “There’re times I get the feeling you’re the least crazy of us all.” He nodded down towards the prickly heap on the floor. “You sure he ain’t gonna complain about this? Only you know what he’s like about Christmas.”

“Oh, I think he’s changing his mind.” River unfocused for a moment, then nodded in satisfaction.

“They …” Jayne’s face showed faint disgust.

“He’ll brush her hair afterwards. Are you going to help me decorate?” his wife asked, changing the subject deftly, picking up a twig with white berries on it.

“You want me to?” he asked, raising his eyebrows at her.

“Deck the halls with boughs of holly,” River sang quietly, a wide smile on her face.

“Fah lah lah lah lah, lah lah lah lah,” Jayne finished before pulling her into a deep and happy kiss under the mistletoe.

COMMENTS

Wednesday, December 24, 2008 3:18 PM

BRIGLAD


Just a perfect Christmas story.

Thanks Jane

Bri

Wednesday, December 24, 2008 4:51 PM

NCBROWNCOAT


Malnd can be dumb when it comes to women, can't he? But you found a sweet way for him to get out of trouble.

And I think the crew is going to expand, and not just by one.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008 5:14 PM

FREEVERSE


What a shiny bauble!

Merry Christmas, Jane.

~freeverse

Wednesday, December 24, 2008 6:40 PM

KATESFRIEND


That's how marriages really work, when they work. Thanks for sharing, and merry chrismas!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008 7:11 PM

ANGELLEMARCS


Ain't that just the prettiest and sweetest Christmas story you ever did read!!! ;) Nicely done, especially with the present Mal gave Frey!!

Friday, December 26, 2008 6:15 AM

SERENITYRIDDLE


Wonderful christmas story!

Saturday, December 27, 2008 1:43 PM

AMDOBELL


Loved this and I'm glad that Kaylee and River told Mal so he could put right what he had so carelessly said, without thinking. It can be oh so useful having a gorram pyschic on board. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me


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