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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Maya. Post-BDM. A standalone, set a little way into the future of my Maya stories, but not really relevant. I just do these once in a while to get my muse going, so here - before the next tale starts - is Mal going home.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1798 RATING: 10 SERIES: FIREFLY
He wondered if he was going crazy, only it that was the case, it should have happened a long time ago. Still, walking up the dirt track towards the house, feeling the sun at his back, the breeze in his face, he had to admit it was a pretty good hallucination. Even down to the sound of the dogs barking in the distance from the herd he could see creating a dust cloud some way off.
Sticking his thumbs into his pockets he tried for nonchalance as he approached the veranda. He coughed slightly, making the woman there look up.
“It ain’t time.”
“Not of my choosing, Ma.”
“You sure about that?” Alice Reynolds sat back in the old rocker, on the porch that didn’t exist anymore, and resumed shelling peas, dropping them into the blue and white bowl in her lap.
“Is this what you do?” he asked, curiosity getting the better of him. “Chores?”
“What else is there to do? Things need doing, so you do them.”
“But this is heaven, isn’t it?”
She smiled at him. “Is it?”
“Well, it sure ain’t hell.” He turned to look around the landscape, at the sun setting behind the mountains, and the soft sound of the creek not that far away.
“For a man that don’t believe you sure have a particular view of how things should be.” She picked up another bowl by her feet and held it out. “Here. ‘Stead of standing around being all philosophical, why don’t you give me a hand?”
He gazed at her, not a day older than when he was a boy, and considerably younger than when he walked away from the ranch for the last time. He grinned. “I’ve got to work, now?”
With a chuckle he sat down at her feet, setting the bowl between his thighs. “Green beans,” he said, shaking his head. “Ain’t had them in a long time. Frey’s not so keen on ‘em, and they’re not cheap, so we don’t tend to buy ‘em.”
“You used to love them. With gravy, and some of my biscuits.” She laughed. “I swear, you didn’t even care if there was meat, so long as you had the gravy and biscuits.”
“How it should be,” he said stoutly, beginning the arduous task of topping and tailing the beans, and removing the long string from down their sides. After just a couple, his hands remembered how to do them, and he could think on other things at the same time. “Am I dead?” he asked, not sure what he wanted the answer to be.
“Your Pa’ll be home in a minute,” Alice said, ignoring the question.
He turned to stare at her so fast he almost spilled the beans onto the ground. “Pa?”
“Of course. Him and your Uncle Caleb brought the herd down from pasture yesterday, and they’re just making sure the cattle are okay. He’ll be glad to see you.”
Mal swallowed. He hadn’t seen his father since he was five years old, and now … “Is he …”
“He’s fine. Not expecting you, a’course, not for a few years mind, but he wants to know what kind of a man you’ve grown into.”
“I hope I don’t disappoint.”
She smiled, just the way she always did. “You won’t.”
A bird out by the stand of trees spoke mournfully, and it was almost as if it called his name.
“Ma, please. I need to know -”
“Now, this woman of yours. Is she really the one you wanted to spend your life with?” Alice tossed the last pod into the basket at her side, and placed the bowl on top.
“Frey?” An image of her standing at his side in her wedding gown, the look on her face as she said, “I do,” flashed heat through him. “She’s my wife.”
“I know that. Not that I ever got the chance to take a look at her ‘fore you up and married her.” She sounded as if she was criticising.
“Ma, you were … you weren’t there.” He skittered away from the word.
“Dead. You can say it. I know what happened to me.” She took a deep breath, inhaling the strong scent from the corral a little way over mixed with the cleaner odours coming across the plains. “And I don’t hold anything against the man that killed me. I feel like I should, but I can’t. I’m here, your Pa’s here, so’s your baby sister, and -”
“Don’t you be interrupting me, Mal.”
“Sorry, Ma. But what baby sister?”
“Now, I know I never told you, but I didn’t think there was the need. And there’s no need to look at me like that either, Malcolm Ethan Reynolds. What good would it have done?”
“I had a … what happened?”
“What can happen to good folks sometimes. She was a small baby, early, and that was a bad winter, and we …” She stopped, pressing her lips together to contain her emotion. “You weren’t a year when she was born, and she died ‘fore you even really knew about her. Me and your Pa, we knew though. We remembered. That was all that was needed.”
“What …” Mal cleared his throat. “What was her name?”
“Well, your Pa wanted to call her after me, only I told him no. So we finally decided on Georgia. Georgia Anne Reynolds. Named for your Pa‘s grandma.”
“You should have told me.”
“Maybe I should. But by the time you were old enough to understand, your Pa had passed, and it didn’t seem right to put even more onto your shoulders.” She patted him. “She’s around someplace. Playing with Alice.”
That was it. The bowl full of green beans scattered as Mal shot to his feet. “Alice. Are you talking about … my Alice?”
His mother nodded. “Your daughter.”
His face was as white as the apron around her middle. “My …”
“Mal, come on. You’d better sit down ‘fore you fall down.” She had to smile a little. “Where did you think she’d be? Everyone has to go someplace, and this was the best for her. With us. With your family.”
“Is she … is she happy?” he managed to say around the lump in his throat, lowering himself carefully back onto the old wood.
“Happy as can be. She is such a sweet thing. Got your tendency to get into trouble occasionally, but she looks like … well, I guess she looks like your wife.”
“Where is she? Can I see her?”
“All in good time. She misses you, you know. Sometimes, when I tuck her up in bed at night, before Ethan reads them both a story, she asks about you. About you and her Momma. If you still think about her.”
“We do,” Mal admitted, leaning hard back against the porch upright. “More than I think either of us admit. Even with Ethan and Jesse …”
“They’re good kids too.”
He looked sharply at her. “How do you know?”
“I see them. Sometimes. In my dreams. I see you and your family, having fun, laughing. My Ethan says I wake up crying, just because I can’t join in, and I know he’s right. But you have people who love you.” She smoothed her apron. “Which kinda brings me back to the matter in hand. If you have them there waiting for you, how come you’re here?”
“I thought I was dead.”
“Now, I didn’t say that. Don’t you go putting words into my mouth, young man. I said it was up to you.”
The bird called again, and this time he was sure it was saying his name.
“You think I don’t want to go back to them?”
“I don’t know.” Her eyes, so like his own, were calm, gentle. “I think you need to make up your mind.”
He looked back over the fields towards the hills, seeing lights going on in the bunkhouse, and further out, in homesteads a long way off. “This is home,” he muttered.
“No, Mal, it isn’t. This is just a memory. At least to you. It ain’t real, not yet. It’ll maybe be the place you come when it’s your time, although I have a feeling that’s gonna be on that ship of yours, taking you out into the black.” She smiled. “Remember those days? You lying out in the long grass ‘fore it got cut for hay, watching the stars? I do. ‘Cept that’s your home, Mal. With your wife.”
“You don’t want to say her name.” He could see her, lying next to him, feel her warmth as she stroked his skin … “Why don’t you want to call her by her name?”
“Prob’ly because I’m kinda jealous. She’s more to you than I ever was.”
He stood up again. “Ma, that ain’t true.”
“Yes, it is. She’s … Freya’s the woman you’re going back to. As it should be. Look.” She nodded down to his chest.
He touched his shirt, and his fingers came away red. “You mean …”
“You’ve made your decision. And it’s the right one, Mal.” She got to her feet, crossing the porch so she could look directly into his blue eyes. “We’ll still be here, when it’s time. And you can come and park your Serenity down in the lower paddock, and visit a spell, and we’ll all be waiting. Your Pa, Georgia, Alice, even Wash and Book -”
“They’re here?” He could feel a dull ache beginning under his ribs on the right hand side.
“They come calling, once in a while. That Shepherd of yours reads a mean sermon. And Alice has taken to Wash. Follows him everywhere.”
“He’d have made a good father,” Mal admitted, his breath beginning to catch.
“That he would. He talks about Ben too. He’s visited, once in a while, and he’s happy for everyone.”
“Do you?” Mal asked, vision blurring. “Visit?”
“Maybe. In your dreams.” She hugged him, ignoring the blood on her apron, then smiled over his shoulder. “There they are.”
Mal turned, his legs not really belonging to him. A man was striding from the barn, a young girl at his side clutching his hand, another on his hip. “Pa …”
Ethan Reynolds grinned, his blue eyes bright in the glow from the lantern his wife lit on the porch. “Mal. Good to see you, son.”
Licking dry lips, Mal reached out, touching a rough work shirt. “Pa …”
“I know. And I’ll be around. Like I’ve always been. I’m proud of you, Mal.”
Alice peeked out from her grandfather’s embrace, and smiled softly. “Hello Daddy,” she whispered.
“Pumpkin …” He couldn’t see too well.
Ethan stepped back, holding a grinning Georgia by the hand. “Time for you to go now, son.”
The bird called for the third time. “Mal! Don’t leave me! Please!”
Everything faded to nothing.
“Don’t leave me, Mal! If you do, I’ll … Please, Mal!”
“Zoe, 10 ccs Oxyprotalin.”
“And the paddles. We need to get his heart started again.”
“We’re out of atmo.”
“He gonna make it?”
“I need to work.”
“Mal, please …”
Electricity shot through him and he gasped, drawing a breath into lungs that burned.
Something was pressed over his mouth, and it became easier to live. “Frey?” He struggled to open his eyes, the brightness dazzling him until something obscured the light.
He tried to see her face, but the pain made him groan.
“Lie still. I need to get that bullet out of you.”
Fingers entwined with his, holding tight. “Mal, stay with me. I love you.”
“Love you too,” he managed to say as a prick on his neck heralded his slide into dreamless sleep.
“Jayne dragged you out of the bar,” Hank explained, sitting on the stool next to the medbed. “You were bleeding pretty bad, so he hefted you over his shoulder and ran back here.”
“I’ll be having words with Liverman,” Mal promised. “Getting us involved in a gunfight.” His eyes narrowed. “We did get paid, didn’t we?”
Hank nodded. “The full amount.”
“Good.” Mal settled back. “Keep us flying a while longer.”
“And now it’s time to rest,” Freya said from the doorway.
The pilot grinned. “Just bringing the Cap up to speed on things.”
“Which I’m thankful for,” Mal insisted. “Since everyone else has been pussyfooting around me like I maybe nearly died.” He saw the look that passed between them. “Ah.”
“Ah, nothing.” Freya stepped into the infirmary. “Go on, Hank. Your son wants you to help him with his homework.”
Hank slid to his feet. “Why do you make it so hard?” he complained. “We had a hell of a time with the last lot. Took me all night to figure it out.”
“Well as soon as you stop helping, the sooner it’s going to get easier,” Freya said, straightening his collar.
“You mean you’re doing it deliberate?”
He shook his head. “And you’re supposed to be my friend.”
“And Ben is supposed to do his homework himself.”
“Can’t I help him just a little bit?”
“A little bit, okay,” she conceded. “But just a little.”
Hank looked back at Mal. “Your wife is really mean to me, you know.”
“As it should be,” Mal said.
“I don’t know, you try your best and people just walk all over you. If I thought Zoe’d come with me I’d resign, take up writing full time and become the darling of the Cortex celebrity circuit …” He walked away, still muttering to himself.
Freya grinned and took over his seat. “Hi,” she said, looking down into her husband’s face.
“Hi yourself.” His questing hand found hers, tangling their fingers together. “You okay?”
“It wasn’t my fault. Not this time.”
“But nearly your fault you didn’t come back.”
Her words made him jerk, and he gasped as pain spat through him. “What?” he managed to say.
“Mal, lie still,” she pleaded. “I’ll get Simon.” She started for the com, anxiety flooding from every pore, but his hand kept her back.
“No. No. I’m fine.” He tried to relax, willing the pain to subside to manageable levels.
“I’m sorry,” she said, her free hand on his forehead, guilt written across her face. “I didn’t mean to -”
“No, I … look, forget I said anything.”
“No. You … did you see?”
She swallowed, tears threatening from her eyes. “Yes.”
“I wasn’t going to stay. I wouldn’t leave you, ai ren.”
“You nearly did.”
“But you called me back. And I came. For you.”
She stared into his eyes, then leaned forward and gently placed her lips on his, barely touching, just so he knew they were there. “I’m glad you did.”
“Do you … do you see them?”
Freya took a moment to sit down again, not letting go of him the whole time. “Occasionally,” she admitted finally. “On the edge of sleep.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Because I was afraid they were just figments. My imagination playing tricks on me.” She glanced down at their fingers, entwined as they were. “That I might be going as crazy as River.”
“Is that possible?”
“I’m going to tell her you said that.”
He smiled a little then said, “It felt real, Frey.”
“And it … it makes it easier, somehow.”
“Knowing they’re waiting?”
“That they’re somewhere together,” he corrected gently. “My Ma was right. When it’s our time, which ain’t gonna be for years yet, we’re gonna be flying the stars in Serenity. And we can go visit, play with … with them all, and still have forever together.”
“I thought you didn’t believe in heaven, Mal,” she teased, stroking the gold cross around his neck.
“I believe in you, Frey. And nothing is gonna keep us from that.”
“I know,” she breathed, laying her head down on the pillow next to his. “I love you, Mal.”
“Love you too, xin gan.” He kissed her nose.
“As it should be.”
“They asleep?” Alice asked, looking up at Ethan as he came down the stairs and into the warm kitchen.
“That they are. Twisted up together like they were twins.”
“Never think they were aunt and niece.”
“Hell, they don’t care.”
“Ethan,” Alice warned, but with no heat in her tone.
“Sorry.” He smiled as he let himself drop into the other chair by the fire. “Good to see Mal though, wasn't it?”
“That it was.”
“He looked … grown up.”
“He looked like you.”
Ethan brushed his hair back from his face. “You think?”
“I surely do. Got your eyes. And your way with the ladies.”
“Then you should be glad I decided to settle down with you.”
She leaned across and laid her hand on his thigh. “Oh, I am.” Settling back she picked up the little dress she was mending.
“That namesake of yours torn it again?” Ethan asked, his face open, loving.
“She gets into everything, that one. And Georgia’s just as bad.”
“Alice, ai ren, if they have to be here, then I’d rather they were mischievous.”
“Me too.” She smiled at him, pushing the needle through the fabric.
“You know, I’d kinda like an early night,” Ethan said, making a great show of stretching. “All that work with Caleb today’s made me tuckered out.”
Alice raised and eyebrow. “If you’re that tired you can go on up. I want to finish this.”
“Leave it. It’ll be fine to do tomorrow. And you know I can’t sleep without my wife next to me in bed.”
“Is that the case.”
“It surely is.” He stood up. “Come on.”
She looked at his hand for a moment then took it, rising to her feet to stand next to him. “You are a bad man, Ethan Reynolds.”
“Figured that out a long time ago.”
“Lucky I like that in you.”
He laughed. “You have no idea how glad I am to hear it.”
She dropped the needlework on the chair behind her. “Bed?”
Hand in hand they walked towards the stairs.
“Think he’ll come back when it’s time?” Alice asked, slicking her arm around her husband’s waist.
“Maybe. Or maybe he’ll stay out in the black with his own family.”
“We’re family too.”
“And he’ll come visit, I’ve no doubt.” Ethan shook his head. “Was sure good to see him.”
They climbed to the floor above.
“You know, I think I might be dreaming of your namesake tonight,” Alice said. “That boy’s about to start to get into so much trouble.”
“Like father, like son,” Ethan pointed out.
“Like grandfather, like son,” Alice amended.
“Wouldn’t have it any other way. As it should be.”
She smiled, reaching up to place a soft kiss on her husband‘s cheek. “As it should be.”
Sunday, December 28, 2008 9:02 AM
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Sunday, December 28, 2008 1:51 PM
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