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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Maya. Post-BDM. The wedding. And conversations. And a map. CONCLUDING CHAPTER
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1687 RATING: 10 SERIES: FIREFLY
In some respects, the wedding itself was something of an anticlimax. As promised, Simon kept some of the good stuff on him, but Matty didn’t need it. As soon as he saw Jolene walk down the aisle, Katie and Bethie pacing carefully behind her, he knew for absolute and sure certainty that this was the right thing.
And Jolene looked beautiful. She’d let her coil of hair down, and it swung just on the swell of her hips, thick and lustrous. Her dress was plain, but the hem was covered in fresh flowers, stitched on that morning by her friends, and she carried a bouquet of sun orchids.
Standing in front of the Preacher, holding her hand, he blessed the day he’d met her, back when he was seven years old, and as Jayne handed over the rings, a grin so wide on his face he looked half his age, Matty could have floated to the ceiling.
“Ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you … Mr and Mrs Cobb.”
There was a huge burst of applause that went on for many minutes as the newly-weds walked down the church, congratulated on either side by friends and family.
Everyone hurried to the hall, where food and drink had been set up, and a small band of local townsfolk were tuning up various fiddles, guitars and something that looked like a miniature set of bagpipes.
Matty and Jolene were installed at the doorway, and as the guests entered they greeted the couple with smiles, jokes, and many a heavy hand on the shoulder accompanied by a knowing look.
Serenity’s crew hung back, being the last to enter.
Jayne went first. “Done it now,” he said to his brother.
“Reckon I did.”
“Can’t go back on it. Least, not from what River tells me.” He glanced at Jolene’s flat belly.
Matty blushed “Yeah, well, I …”
“Looks like you’ll be needing this.” He dropped something over Matty’s hand, who clutched automatically at it.
“What the …”
“Wedding gift,” Jayne said succinctly,
“Is this what I …” Matty asked, gazing at the nugget in his palm.
“Yep,” Jayne admitted, adding hurriedly, “And it ain’t from around here anyway, so don’t you go looking for no more.”
Simon sighed, but kept it low key. See Kaylee melting the coins down made his heart ache. They were almost unique, and one of the very few things he’d ever touched from Earth-that-was ... and that was apart from their monetary value.
“We’ve been rich,” River said, passing by him to stand at her husband’s side. “I prefer life now.”
“We can’t accept this.” Matty tried to hand it back.
”Nope.” Jayne stuck his hands in his pockets. “Not taking it.”
“You don’t have a choice, son,” Mal said, strolling up, his arm around Freya’s waist. “Like the man says, it’s a wedding gift. And it’s awful bad luck to have it back once there’s been an actual wedding.”
Jolene had gone pale. “It’s too much,” she murmured.
“Some’d say it wasn’t enough,” Jayne said quietly. “Not for the years I wasn’t here.”
Matty stared at him, then threw his arms around his big brother. Jayne hugged him back, and the rest of the crew smiled widely.
As Mal oversaw Ethan collecting food for himself and Jesse, Sheriff Dan Jefferson approached.
“Good ceremony,” the lawman said.
“That it was.”
“Matty looks happy.”
Mal glanced across at the newly married man, standing with his arm proprietorially around his bride. “Can’t believe his good luck, if I recall the feeling.”
“Yeah.” He chuckled. “Remember that myself.”
“Ethan, that’s enough,” Mal said to his son. “You won’t be able to move without busting something, you eat all that.”
The little boy grinned up at him, then carefully carried the plates to where his sister was waiting with the other children, already digging into their share.
“Your gunhand associates with some … interesting people,” Dan went on. “I mean, take that Simon feller who may or may not be a doctor. And his sister who just happens to be Jayne Cobb’s wife. Some folks might find it odd that these very people resemble a couple of warrants on a pair of siblings that ain’t exactly been rescinded yet.”
Mal didn’t react, but his stillness caught Zoe’s eye as she sipped a glass of iced tea, and she tensed. “Is that the case.”
“It is.” Dan sipped his beer. “A’course, I’m thinking it’s just a coincidence. I mean, has to be. They ain’t likely to be out here, working a transport ship, and married to a coupla … interesting people.”
“No. I conjure you’re right about that.”
“Thought you might.” His gazed roamed across the crowd. “And you might wanna make sure that Jayne and his … interesting friends are away from here before too long. Just got word the Alliance ship’ll be here before dawn on Tuesday. To pick up Ephraim Ingleby’s body.”
“We’ll be gone before supper tomorrow night.” Mal shook his head minutely at Zoe, who relaxed a micron and put down the knife she’d picked up from the table.
“Good idea.” Dan took another mouthful of beer. “Of course, it’s a real shame you won’t let me put out a warrant on the Laus. Considering what happened out in the desert.”
“Well, that’s the way life goes sometimes,” Mal said, shrugging slightly.
“You know, I happened to be talking to my Pa coupla days back. Nothing specific, a’course, just chewing the fat. And he reminded me of something. Back when I was about eight or nine. This feller brought something he’d found into his office, when he was Sheriff, and I happened to be there. A horse and cart it was, made outta brass or something. Looked to me like there was room for two horses, but what did I know? I was just a kid.”
“Sounds … intriguing.” Mal didn’t want to appear too interested, but he could feel Freya in his mind listening as well.
“Yeah. Oddly enough, he said he found it out near the same place we found you.”
“Huo Yan Shan.”
“That’s it. He wanted to go digging for more stuff, but didn’t have the money. My Pa said it was probably just lost, so he kept it for six months, but no-one ever came to claim it. He handed it back, and the feller sold it to a guy on a freighter who wanted a souvenir.”
“And did he go out digging with the proceeds?”
“Nah.” Dan grinned suddenly. “He’d forgotten all about where he found it, so he just got drunk for a month instead.”
“Sensible thing to do.”
“Yeah.” Dan gazed into his mug. “You know, this stuff takes like piss. What say we go find something a little stronger?”
Mal had to smile. “Must be something about this planet,” he mused. “Everyone here likes a decent drink.”
“Hell, Mal. Any man who’s human likes that.”
“And you’re a good man.”
“You keep talking like that and I'm gonna blush.” Dan grinned. “Come on. I know where they keep the good stuff.”
Mal followed the Sheriff, not surprised to hear Freya in his mind. Ingleby must have come across it, she said, her mental voice caressing his consciousness. Realised what it was, and worked back to Ezra.
He had the devil’s own luck in guessing the exact spot, though.
Maybe he spoke to the man that found it. Paid him to remember.
I don’t think I’ll be asking Dan that question, though.
No. Better nobody knows what used to be there. A phantom hand stroked his left buttock.
And you can stop that right now, he thought firmly.
Half a bottle later and Dan found himself standing next to Jayne, who was munching on a slice of very sticky and exceptionally creamy cake.
“So,” he said, watching the big man swipe an illicit finger around the plate and suck it clean. “You likely to be back in the near future?”
Jayne shrugged. “Up to Mal. And what jobs we can get. Might be a while ‘fore we swing by again, but I guess we will at some point.”
“Not planning on bringing any more trouble with you, I hope.”
“Didn’t this time.” Jayne grinned. “That kinda lay in wait for us.”
“I reckon that probably happens a lot.”
“Once in a while. And sometimes it just comes calling.”
“Imagine it does.”
Jayne studied the sheriff, seeing the resemblance to another man who’d changed his life thirty years before. “You know, you’re like your Pa.”
Dan smiled. “I think I’ll take that as a compliment.”
“Meant to be.” There was something in the other man’s face that made Jayne ask, somewhat tentatively, “Did he … your Pa … has he said anything about me?” He picked up his beer.
Dan didn’t answer immediately, letting his eyes drift around the room until they fell onto his father, holding court with his wife and daughters around him. For a moment their gaze connected, then Dan turned back to Jayne. “A little.”
“But I ain’t taking you in for something everyone’s forgotten about.”
Jayne looked relieved. “I’m grateful.”
“Don’t be. Not saying what you did was right, but it was a long time ago, and I can’t say I’d’ve done anything different.” He chuckled, a low sound. “And you know how I feel about paperwork.”
“But if you break the law around here, I will arrest you.”
“Taken as read.”
The two men shared a quiet drink, then Dan added, “’Sides, I don’t think you’ll be doing that any time soon. Not with what you got to lose.” He nodded towards where River stood chatting to Jolene and Deirdra, Caleb at her feet.
“They’re the ‘verse to me.”
“Kinda figured that.”
“And Deirdra? You two getting along any better?”
“We’re … talking.”
“She thrown anything at you yet?”
“Yours do that?”
“Yeah, but she’s crazy.”
“Must be, married to you.”
“That’s my wife you’re talking about there.”
“Yeah, sorry.” Dan grinned. “But … yeah, I think maybe there’s light at the end of the tunnel for Deirdra and me. And half of that I put down to your missus.”
Jayne laughed this time. “Yeah, she hates seeing two people getting in their own way. You should see her when the Cap and Freya are pussy-footing around each other ‘cause one of ‘em has said something to upset the other.”
“Let me guess. It’s usually Mal’s fault.”
“Jayne.” River’s voice calling across the room had him looking up in time to see Caleb pull himself to his feet, and, on somewhat unsteady legs, start toddling towards him.
In a flash Jayne was down on his heels, his arms held out as his little boy walked into them. Lifting him up high above his head, the big man laughed. “That’s my boy,” he said, swinging him around.
Just before Serenity left Ezra, as her engines were warming over, Jayne took one last trip to the cemetery to say goodbye.
Going down onto one knees next to his mother’s grave, he brushed the ever-present dust from the headstone. “We’ll be back to see ya,” he said quietly, glancing across as the flat earth where his father lay. “The both of you. And maybe next time there’ll be another little Cobb on the way. But even if Caleb is the only one I ever get, I couldn’t be happier. We’re a family now, Ma. Me, River and Cal. And the rest of the crew. And that just got bigger, with Jolene and her kids.” He smiled slightly. “Seems you just can’t keep the Cobbs down.”
Glancing around, making sure no-one saw, he reached into his pocket. “Kept this for you, too,” he added, digging a small hole at the base of the stone. “Seem to recall when we did that memorial for Wash and the Shepherd we sent money up on one of them rockets. So’s they’d have something to spend up in heaven.” The smile widened. “Weren’t real cash, though. Just paper pretending to be. Not like this.”
He laid the sliver of gold he’d sliced from the nugget into the hole and covered it carefully with dirt.
“That’ll keep you and Pa in everything you need.” He stood up, dusting his hands. “Now I know it ain’t exactly one of the Ezran traditions, but I figure it’s the right thing to do.”
“Time to go,” River said quietly behind him.
“How long you been there?” he asked, not looking round.
“You think Mal’d mind?”
“No. He would approve.”
Jayne sighed deeply, satisfied. “Yeah. Figure maybe he would.” He felt her slim hand slip into his, and he looked down into her eyes. “So, time we got gone?”
“Yes. Before the Alliance come and lock us all up.”
He grinned. “Nah. That ain’t ever gonna happen.” With a growl deep in the back of his throat, he scooped her up and laid her over his shoulder, striding out towards home.
Back in the black ...
Simon had the Cortex screen out again, laid on the table, studying the catalogue he’d found of the Kugelman collection while Kaylee prepared supper, relishing the fact that she could face food now without throwing up. He tapped the screen. “You know, as big as that shuttle was, if this list is accurate it wouldn’t have held even half.”
“That’s right,” Jayne complained, but only half-heartedly. “Make my day.”
“No, I’m not actually trying to rub your face in it. I’m only stating a fact. Every single record of the Hoard has note of statues, paintings, sculptures … not just those gold dollars.”
“You think it was ever inside?” Mal asked, leaning back in his chair, one heel resting on the old wood.
Simon shrugged. “Some of it, perhaps. From what we found of Ingleby’s gear, he certainly seemed to be out in the desert for a long time. It’s possible he found it, moved it.”
“Where to?” Freya asked over her shoulder from where she was helping Kaylee. “It’s not like he had a ship of his own.”
“I don’t know,” Simon admitted. “Nor does that explain why he only walked out with a single coin and not the entire box.”
“The water he was drinking was tainted,” River put in quietly. “Natural arsenic from the rocks. And the sun beating down on him …” She shuddered.
“You mean he went crazy?” Hank sat back in his seat. “Plain loco?”
River nodded. “Believed the ghosts of the people who died were talking to him. A dead chorus. Fifteen men on a dead man’s chest …” she sang softly.
“Yo ho ho,” Mal added, then shook himself.
“And the box was gone, the coins scattered into the dirt when the pilot tried to run away.”
“You can see that?” he asked gently.
She nodded. “Chased him, killed him, picked up most of the coins but missed one and the chest.”
“The one I found,” Jayne put in.
“And the rest of the Hoard? You got any idea what he did with it?” Mal wanted to know.
She sighed. “I don’t know. But I don’t think it was there.”
“Then why fly a virtually empty shuttle to Ezra?”
She gazed at him, her dark eyes seeming bottomless. “Someone could have found it, jia yan.”
“But nothing’s ever come onto the market, mei-mei,” Simon insisted. “If it had, it would have been all over the Cortex.”
“Then it never was, and the treasure is still out there.” She turned her head to look at Serenity’s walls, but seeing much further. “Hidden by Agincott, perhaps in more than one location. And this was the last. Just a taste of something still to be found …”
There was a long pause until Mal cleared his throat. “That’s as maybe, but it ain’t putting food on our table. And we are not going treasure hunting, Jayne.”
The big man looked aggrieved. “Did I say a damn word?”
“You were going to.”
“Jayne, I know you. I know when you lie to me. Your lips move.”
“Yeah, but Mal -”
“No. You wanna go off and look for it, you do it on your own time. And on your own ship. And seeing as you don’t have one of them, and you work for me, you’re staying put.”
Jayne opened his mouth to complain again, but River put her hand on top of his and he subsided.
“Come on, now,” Kaylee said, resting her fingers on Simon’s shoulder. “We need to clear this off so we can get dinner laid.”
“And take your foot off the table, Mal,” Freya added.
Mal smiled, letting his chair land on all four feet with a thump.
“So, what are we going to be doing?” Hank asked, rubbing his hands together.
Serenity’s captain smiled slightly. “Mooney came through. There’s a cargo to be picked up on Beylix, then after delivery we can swing around to Persephone, see what Badger’s been carping on about these last couple of weeks.”
“And where is the delivery?” Already Hank was going through the possible routes in his head.
“Patience?” If Hank’s voice had been any higher only Fiddler would have been able to hear him.
Zoe stirred. “Sir, is that a good idea? She does have the knack of getting you shot.”
Mal shook his head. “Me and her’ve got an understanding.”
Freya turned enough to look full into his face. “Really? Is there something here I should be worried about?”
His eyes screwed up just at the thought. “Darlin’, you need to wash out that mind of yours.”
“Only the way you were talking -”
He spoke over her, trying to get a certain mental image out of his brain. “I saved her life. That counts for something. And better yet we’re just the intermediary in this, not one of the principals. She’s not so likely to shoot me just for being the messenger.”
“Don’t worry, Frey. I’ll make sure we have sufficient supplies in the infirmary,” Simon put in dryly.
“I’d take that as a kindness.”
“I can always lend him my armour again,” Hank offered.
“That might be a good idea, dear,” Zoe said. “It would fit him better than mine.”
“And I can make another beacon, in case Patience decides to kidnap him to get inside his tight pants,” Kaylee added brightly, putting the platter of bread into the centre of the table.
Mal pushed his chair back, making the legs squeal. “Hey, look, I’m sitting right here! And they’re not that tight no more. Besides which, as captain on this boat I ain’t having you all thinking you can …”
The bickering continued, the sound of voices barely carrying down the stairs to the lower crew quarters, where Bethie had the other children lined up on her bed, Fiddler at her feet, and she was telling them a pirate story.
“… and to make sure no-one ever told where the treasure was buried, the black-hearted captain killed the men who buried it, leaving their bodies to become nothing but dry bones in the sand.”
Jesse shivered. “Not my daddy,” she said firmly.
“No,” Ethan soothed her. “Our daddy isn’t black-hearted.” He cocked his head a little. “Brown, maybe.”
Jesse giggled, not really getting the allusion, but knowing her brother meant well.
Hope looked up from where she was sketching in the pad Auntie River had given her. “Just a story,” she said, her short blonde curls shining in the light.
“And it‘s not real,” Ben added. “Bethie made it up.”
The little girl put her fists on her hips, looking not unlike her Uncle Jayne. “Did not.”
“Did not. I read all about it on the Cortex. There was this big ship called a galleon, and white sails, just like my ship in a bottle, and there were cannons, and a thing called a crow’s nest, and great big chests filled with gold and jewels and -”
“Bethie!” It was her mother’s voice calling down the stairs.
She leaned out of the doorway. “Yes, Momma?”
“Time to wash up for dinner.”
Ethan scrambled off the bed, taking Jesse’s hand to help her. “Come on. I’m hungry,” he said.
“Mmn,” she agreed, and ran out of the room in front of him and up the stairs. He followed at a slightly slower pace, Ben at his side.
Hope waited until they’d gone, then tore the page she’d been working on out of her book. “Here. I did this for you.”
Bethie took it and looked at the drawing, feeling that odd surge of jealousy again as she realised once more just how good her little sister was at this. It was the picture of a pirate captain, in a long black coat and a big black hat, standing over three bare-chested men digging in soft sand, a large brass-bound chest sitting on the edge, waiting to be buried.
It reminded her of one of the images she’d come across when she was looking up pirates, and Hope must have seen it too, only being Hope she’d made it her own by giving the pirate captain Jayne’s features, while the face of the only digger to be facing out was quite obviously Uncle Hank.
Hope smiled widely and hurried to the washroom to get ready for supper.
For a long time Bethie studied the picture, then climbed carefully onto her bed to put it up on the pinboard her Momma had put up for her on the wall. Fiddler jumped up next to her, sniffing her feet.
Hope had drawn it really well, and she could almost see the captain’s coat moving in the breeze, and smell the salt air coming from the sea.
Listening to see if she could hear them singing, Bethie’s mind drifted to the box under the bed, the one Uncle Jayne had said she could have. She hadn’t told the others she’d found a secret compartment in it, hidden in the base. Nor the small folded sheet of paper. She’d laid it flat, deciphered the very poor handwriting as best she could. Read the notes on the back, signed with the initials BA.
Shaking her head she climbed down to the floor again. Better that no-one knew about it. She’d seen the avarice in the Lau brothers’ hearts. Felt the pull for gold, at no matter what cost. No matter how many men they killed to get it. She shuddered and glanced up at the pirate in the drawing. No, not like that. Ben had been right when he said it wasn’t real. At least, not any more. But the Laus were close, as black-hearted as they came, and if they ever heard about the Hoard, if they thought Uncle Mal had lied to them, maybe had kept back knowledge about where it was …
It wasn’t far. Not really. But it might as well have been the other end of the ‘verse. And she was going to keep her family safe.
“Bethie,” Hope called from the bottom of the stairs. “Come on. Time to eat.”
More than ever she knew she’d done the right thing. Going into the kitchen the night before, she’d carefully turned on one of the burners to the oven and waited until the map had caught, a flame eating up one side before it flared into nothing but a small grey wisp of ash which she’d rubbed between her hands until it was just a blur.
She thought Auntie River probably knew, and Auntie Frey, but neither of them had said anything, not one word, not even a look. She took that to mean they approved, although she had the feeling there was going to be a lecture before long to all the children on not using the oven unsupervised.
Still, Uncle Mal was right. Better poor and alive, than rich and dead.
“Bethie!” Kaylee sounded as if she was getting irritated.
“Coming, Momma!” Bethie called back, running from her room and up the stairs towards the warm kitchen, Fiddler barking happily at her heels. And not washing her hands just this once wasn’t going to hurt her.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009 8:30 AM
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