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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Maya. Post-BDM. The danger's over, things are getting back to normal, but Zoe knows she has to mend bridges. CONCLUDING CHAPTER
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1821 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
Kaylee rolled out from under the co-pilot’s console on her wheeled tray, and grinned up at Hank before finishing her sentence. “… and Inara’s asked Mr Boden to get in a whole load of supplies.”
Hank chuckled. “Good. I'm feeling hungry again.”
She smacked him lightly on the foot with her socket wrench. “Ain't just for you. ‘Sides, ‘Nara also said that she’d be more’n annoyed if Mal decided not to come. She’s looking forward to a party.”
“And finding out exactly how Mal is, and telling him off, no doubt.”
“Got that right.”
“Although I can’t see the captain getting up and dancing quite yet.”
“Well, no. But she said it’s warm, so maybe we can have a picnic or two. All of us. Could swim as well …” Her face took on a wistful expression.
Hank shook his head. “Too cold for me.”
She grinned. “Coward.”
“Absolutely. That’s me. One hundred percent, paid up member of the Coward’s Fraternity. And proud of it. In line to be chairman before long.”
She laughed and rolled back under the console. There was a few moments of silence while she changed one of the damaged boards for a newer one, then she said, slowly and somewhat diffidently, “So … you gonna have a chat with Sam?”
Hank was surprised. So far no-one had talked to him about Zoe’s involvement with the Dust Devils. But trust it to be Kaylee to break the ice. “Not sure,” he admitted. “Zoe and me … we’re okay, so maybe I shouldn’t make something out of nothing.”
The old board was tossed out. “Hank, you ain’t hardly said more’n a dozen words to her. And I know for a fact you won’t be alone in the same room with her. I've been watching.”
“We sleep together,” Hank protested.
“Sleep, yeah.” She poked him in the shin with something sharp. “But I don’t think you’ve been getting squishy.”
He leaned down to rub the sore spot. “Well, maybe not. But I’ve been tired.”
The silence lengthened, and he felt the need to fill it. “It’s just … hard.”
Kaylee rolled out again, sitting up this time and leaning on the console. “Zoe’s still Zoe,” she said, seeing Hank’s troubled face.
“I know. And I know she’s the way she is because of what she went through, and I love the way she is. It’s just …”
She took his hand, squeezed it. “It’s a shock.”
“If it helps, think of what she did as being another life. Or maybe she went a bit crazy.”
“That I can believe.”
Kaylee’s lips twitched. “Only not where she can hear you.”
He didn’t comment. “It’s just …” he finally got out. “She never told me. All these secrets.”
“No more’n the rest of us.”
He jerked slightly. “Kaylee, you haven’t wiped out an entire town.”
“No. But I made a stupid promise to someone to marry them, even though I didn’t love them. And worse, I let it stop me marrying the man I did love.” She sighed. “There ain’t a one of us on board without secrets. Some a lot worse than others. But those secrets aren’t who they are now. Might be because of ‘em, might be in spite of, but they’re the people we care for now. No matter what.”
He stared at her, then his gaze softened. “How come you’re so wise, little Kaylee?” he asked, his voice low.
She shrugged. “Seen a lot. Lost people I care about, and wished I’d said. And I hate seeing people holding pain that don’t have to.”
“You mean me.”
“All of us.” She held out both hands. “Now, you’d better help me up, since I gotta get to the kitchen, check on the stew.” Kaylee sighed theatrically. “No rest for the wicked.”
“Just say your morning sickness has come back,” Hank suggested, pulling her to her feet.
“Nope. Not even gonna tempt fate by thinking it.” She strolled out, her hands resting lightly on her burgeoning belly.
“Are you awake, sir?” Zoe asked quietly, leaning in the doorway to the infirmary.
Mal opened his eyes. “Pretty much. Bored outta my skull, but that’s about par for the course. You’d better come in and stop me doing something stupid.” It was barely two days since the operation that had saved his life, but already Mal was feeling better than he had for a couple of weeks. Well, maybe not quite that good, but anything was better than dead.
His first mate stepped inside, a smile on her dark face. “Something stupid. Can’t say I’ve ever seen you do that, sir.”
“Can’t or won’t?”
“I like my job.”
Mal nodded. “Good.”
Lifting the stool closer to the medbed, Zoe sat down, asking, “Where’s Frey?”
“Sleeping, I hope.”
“I doubt that.”
“Me too. So she’s probably around somewhere, keeping an eye on me.” He gazed up into the infirmary roof. “Thinks I can’t be trusted to be on my own.”
“Evidence would suggest she’s right.”
“Permaybehaps. But I ain’t gonna admit it.” He turned his head enough to look at her. “We never really talked about it, did we?”
They both knew what he was referring to.
“Do you want to?”
“Not … really.”
“I could order you to. I am captain, you know.”
“Mal … it’s a part of my life that’s over. It’s not me anymore.”
“Yeah.” He couldn’t help the half smile. “That’s what I told myself when I bought this ship and called it Serenity.”
“And now you’ve got a wife and two children. I think the name’s more appropriate now than at any point previously.”
“Perhaps. But you’re trying to change the subject.”
“I was a Dust Devil. You know that. You know what they … we got up to. I don’t have to spell it out.”
“Nope. But I always wondered why you took up that particular calling.”
Zoe didn’t answer, but it wasn’t that she was being obstinate, just that she was marshalling her thoughts. Eventually she said, “I’ve always been kinda surprised you didn’t.”
“But you fought to the end.”
“And we still lost.”
“Maybe it just took me a bit longer to figure that out, sir.”
“We back to ‘sir’ again?”
“Are you dying?”
With a great display of nonchalance, he checked his pulse. “Not this second, no.”
“Then ‘sir’ it remains.”
“Unless you forget yourself.”
“Unless I forget myself.”
He smiled, his blue eyes warm. “Think I can live with that. Can Hank?”
Zoe’s face clouded. “I don’t know. We haven’t really talked about it.”
“Perhaps you should.”
“I didn’t want to make it worse.”
“Maybe you’ve fallen off that pedestal he always put you on, but that’s about it. You’re still his wife.”
“I wouldn’t want to be anything else.”
“Then tell him. Gorramit, it took you long enough to say I do, even when I was pushing you.”
She laughed a little, a welcome sound. “You tried that with Wash, too, only the other way around.”
“Hell, Zo, I ain't never thought any man was good enough for you.”
“I think it’s pretty much the other way around, Mal.” She put her hand on his arm.
Mal’s eyes widened outrageously. “Wait. You called me ‘Mal’. Am I dying?”
Simon leaned in the infirmary doorway, obviously having been eavesdropping for some time from the look on his face. “No, you’re not.” He turned to Zoe. “But he does have to rest.”
“I think I’ve rested enough for a decade, doc,” Mal pointed out.
“Then make it two and I’ll be satisfied.”
Zoe stood up. “I have captainy things I need to do anyway.”
“Hey, that’s my line!” Mal objected.
“And when you’re back on your feet, you can have it back.” She smiled. “Just … get well.”
“I ain’t intending to do anything else.”
“Good.” She rested her hand on his shoulder a moment, then walked out of the door.
Simon checked the various sensors planted across Mal’s chest, the incision under the dressing, then the wall monitors.
“So, Doc … were you right? Am I gonna live?” Mal’s lips were twitching.
“I would say so.”
“Good.” He laid back and closed his eyes, pondering the nature of the ‘verse. “You watching me?” he asked, still not looking.
Simon crossed his arms. “Perhaps I’m wondering how a man so intelligent manages to end up in my infirmary so often.”
“Aw, you say the nicest things.” Mal opened his baby blues and glared at the young man, but with no real animosity. “And this time it wasn’t exactly my choice.”
“No, and yet here you are.”
“Must be your outstanding bedside manner.”
“I thought we agreed you didn’t think much of it.”
“I’m changing my mind.”
“You have had an inordinate amount of experience of it.”
Mal raised his eyebrows. “You trying to out-snark me?”
“It must be the company I keep.”
“So am I gonna survive this?”
“It appears so.” Simon quickly scanned the monitors once more. “The incision is healing well, your blood pressure is normal, and everything else looks good. I've got you on diuretics to take some off the strain of your heart while it returns –“
“You mean that’s why I’m peeing more than Kaylee?”
“That’s why you have the catheter.”
“And that’s coming out.”
“It’s staying.” Simon pulled up the stool and sat down, rubbing a hand across his eyes.
“We keeping you busy, doc?”
Mal had to smile at the dry tone. “Well, can’t have you lollygagging around with nothing to do.”
“I’ll have to try that one day. Although I'm not quite sure how you lollygag.”
“To be honest, I ain't got that much of an idea myself.” Mal glanced down towards his hips. “Now, about that catheter …“
“It’s staying, at least for the next day or so.” Simon shook his head at the disgusted look on his captain’s face. “Mal, the reason you had back ache so badly was because of the extra strain being put on your kidneys. Apart from anything else, this is giving them the chance to recover.”
For a moment Mal held his breath. “They are gonna recover, ain’t they? I mean, I doubt there’s anyone on board this boat’d offer to be a donor to me.”
“They’d be queuing up, and you know it.”
“Always figured good sense was in short supply on Serenity.”
“Oh, I won’t disagree with you on that one, but yes, your kidneys are fine. And I’ll be keeping an eye on you anyway.” Better than I did after that damn Quicksilver, that’s for sure.
It was as if Mal could read his mind. “That wasn’t your fault, Simon. You said yourself, I'm an ornery patient, and if I didn’t come to see you when all this started, then that’s my own nevermind.”
“I don’t think I used the word ‘ornery’. In fact, I'm pretty sure I've never used that word in my life.”
“Until now.” Simon smiled, and for a moment the tiredness left his face. “But the catheter stays.”
“Fine.” Mal fidgeted slightly. “Just telling you it ain’t comfortable.”
“It’s not supposed to be.”
“You’re a sadist, you know that.”
“First in my class.”
“That’s not something to be proud of, you know,” Mal pointed out.
“Oh, but I am.” Simon almost laughed, then became serious again. “You know, I was going to talk to you about something, before all this started, but I never really got the chance.”
“Nothing serious?” Mal’s imagination ran through what could be wrong with his crew.
“No. Nothing like that. I just want to buy a scanner.”
“There’s a scanner on the market, not too expensive, that would allow me to see inside you much easier. It’s got good resolution, and although it’s not as sensitive as a holoimager, I … well, I might have been able to see the damage the Quicksilver had done before it actually got to the point of you having a heart attack.”
“That would have been helpful,” Mal said dryly. “And this scanner. Just how much is it?”
“I have almost enough.”
“Wasn’t asking that.”
“Mal, I never intended to ask you to actually buy it. I’ve been saving from the jobs we’ve done, and I know that I almost have –“
“You’ve done it before, haven’t you?”
Simon flushed. “It’s my infirmary.”
“My ship.” Mal gazed at him. “Like the bypass machine. Right?”
“I thought it was a good idea.”
“Oh, it was. But it ain't up to you to get what we need. You should’ve come to me.”
“I'm happy to –“
“I'm not.” Mal tried to ease himself slightly, then stilled as Simon got quickly to his feet, his arms and sure hands lifting him enough to make him more comfortable. “Thanks.”
“Mal, I know this is your ship. You tell everyone often enough. But this is my infirmary. Where I work. And I know money can be tight sometimes. Maybe I should have come to you before, but it seemed the best way of doing things.”
“I might’ve been able to get these things cheaper.”
Simon’s lips twitched. “I didn’t exactly get that bypass machine through normal channels.”
“Oh? Who’ve you been going to when I ain't been around?”
“Dillon,” Simon admitted.
“Well, that ain’t too bad. But I don’t want you to do it no more. If we need something, you say. If you wanna contribute, that’s fine. But I ain’t letting you make Kaylee go without.”
“She’s always thought it was a good idea.”
Mal had to laugh, even though it hurt. “Why am I not surprised?” He took as deep a breath as he could without groaning. “You show me what you want. We’ll see where we can get it, ‘specially since I’m sure you wanna take a look at that off-spring of yours Kaylee’s growing.”
Simon was surprised. “I didn’t … but yes. I would.”
“Then when we get to Lazarus you and me will talk about what you’d like to buy.”
“Kaylee said there might be one in the stuff we left in the Arachnids,” Simon pointed out.
“And she might be right. We can swing by, take a look, long as the Alliance ain't around. But after Lazarus.”
“Simon, can I …?” Freya was outside the door, a cloth-covered tray in her hands.
“Come in.” He smiled. “Maybe you can keep your husband in line.”
“We’ve been married a while now, and I haven’t managed it yet.”
“Hey!” the man in question complained.
Simon ignored him. “Dinner?”
“Mmn. Yours is upstairs.”
“Well, I should really stay here …”
“Go on.” She nudged him with her elbow. “Kaylee’s waiting.”
“Oh, well, if it’s for my wife …” He grinned suddenly, looking like a little boy, then hurried out of the infirmary.
Freya shook her head, smiling widely, then put the tray down on Mal’s lap. “Ready for this?” she asked.
“Definitely. I'm starving.”
“Well, you didn’t feel like food yesterday …”
“I do today.”
“Shiny.” She removed the cloth.
“You ain’t serious.” Mal stared at the mess on his plate. “What the hell is this? When did we get a rabbit and why am I eating his food?”
Freya picked up the spoon and stirred the concoction. “It’s good for you.”
“What’s good for me is a thick steak with mashed potatoes, like my Ma used to make.”
She smiled. “When was the last time we had one of them?”
“Mrs Boden does one. With gravy.” He pushed the plate away from him. “And that is about as not like it as you can get.”
“It’s just for a few days. To give you time to recuperate. Simon said you could go back onto solid food the day after tomorrow, and I promise I will get you a steak. Medium rare. With mashed potatoes and gravy.”
“You cookin’ it?”
She slapped his arm, and he felt a wash of relief flood through him.
“You know we’re headed for Lazarus,” she said. “A couple of days of Mrs Boden’s cooking will put the lead back in your pencil.”
His eyebrows raised. “The what?”
“You know, I changed my mind. I don’t think I'm that hungry after all.”
The catch in her voice surprised him after all the lightness of the last few minutes, and he tried to see into her eyes. “Are you crying?”
She dropped her head. “No!”
“Then why won’t you look at me?”
“Mal, I …” Words failed her, and she just shook her head.
Feeling as weak as a day old kitten, he reached out and lifted her chin. “Frey, I'm still here.”
She wasn’t crying, but he figured it was a close run thing, what with all the tension and worry having finally caught up with her.
“Alive, and kicking.”
“Mal, you nearly died.”
“I’m aware of that.” He sighed. “Xin gan, I do know.”
“Do you have any idea what I’d do if that happened to you?”
He reached out and took her hand. “Pretty much.”
She swallowed hard. “And I'm not talking about Three Hills. I'm talking about the promise you made me give.”
“Frey, I ain’t intending you to ever have to keep it. Just so’s I know you won’t … you know.”
“But you gave your word too. Not to put me in that position.”
“I couldn’t help it. From what Simon says, it wasn’t exactly my fault.”
“No. It was that hwoon dahn …” She couldn’t even bring herself to say Niska’s name. “That stuff he used, I can still see it, Mal. When he …” She had to stop, blinking hard.
“Frey. Ai ren. I'm alive. Simon saw to that. And I'm gonna stay that way, for as long as I can. You know that.”
“I know.” Her head fell back to her chest, and he felt hot liquid splash his hand.
He sighed. “If I didn’t know better, I’d say now you were crying.”
She sniffed hard. “Good job you know better, then.”
Reaching up, he tilted her chin again so he could look into her eyes, brimming with tears. “Frey, I’m not leaving you.”
“Damn straight you’re not.”
“Even if I have to eat this crap.”
She sniffed again. “It’s not crap. It’s healthy.”
“If you’re about two feet tall with long ears and a fluffy white tail.”
“A fluffy tail?”
“It’s gorram rabbit food, Frey.”
“You’ve had it before.”
He looked at it askance. “I have?”
“Admittedly, only when we were low on supplies, but Simon said it’s full of all the nutrients you need.”
“Okay. Just don’t blame me if I start hopping around the place asking for carrots.”
“You don’t like carrots.”
“I do too.”
“Are you trying to make an argument?”
“Would it work?”
She narrowed her eyes, but at least she didn’t look like she was going to cry again any time soon. “Look, if you like, I’ll go and get mine and we can eat together.”
“Long as we can swap.”
“I don’t know about that.”
“Even just a taster.” He turned on the puppy dog eyes as much as he could. “Frey, I can smell it from here. Kaylee’s done that stew of hers, hasn’t she?”
“A spoonful. Just to make this go down better.”
She couldn’t resist when he looked like that, and she knew he knew it too. “I’ll think about it.” She put the tray on the counter. “I’ll be right back. Be good.” She raised an admonishing eyebrow at him and walked out.
For just a moment he could admire her backside, then she was gone again. He sighed. That was going to be out of the question for a while yet. Movement caught his eye in the common area, a step he recognised. “Kaylee, is that you?”
She looked in. “It’s me, Cap’n. I’m trying to find Simon. It’s time to eat.”
“You just missed him.”
“Boat ain’t even that big and sometimes I can’t find him.” She turned to leave, but his voice stopped her.
“Kaylee, ‘fore you go …”
“Got a job for you.”
She stepped inside. “You need a drink? Some food?”
“Real food would be good, but since Frey’s got me on something that looks like …” He glanced over at the counter. “Well, I don’t know what it looks like but it‘s pretty gross, so I don’t think she’s gonna let that happen. Although maybe you could sneak me a sandwich later on. When she’s gone to bed or something.” At Kaylee’s grin he went on, “No, I was thinking about EMP shielding. There must be something we can do to stop a pulse like that.”
“Yeah. It ain’t the first time, and I’m sure it’s not gonna be the last, life we lead. I want you to figure out a way to stop it. Or at least get us up and running again quicker if we do get hit.”
She rolled her bottom lip between her teeth. “Hmmn. Second option might be better. Maybe some redundant systems that come on line if a sensor gets tripped … But that’d mean having a separate … Or maybe even …” Her voice trailed off as her eyes unfocused.
“Think you can do it?” he asked, his lip twitching.
She snapped back. “I need to do some planning, Cap’n. See what I can make out.”
“Shiny. Only don’t let the space monkeys get loose again, dong mah?”
“And if the space monkeys are the only way to go?”
“Then … make ‘em small ones.”
“Xie xie, Cap’n!”
“Then go eat. I'm sure I’ll survive somehow on … that.” He glanced at the plate again and shuddered.
Kaylee giggled and turned on her heel, almost banging into Freya carrying a second plate. “Oh, sorry.”
“Simon in the galley?”
“Waiting on you.” Freya sniffed her meal appreciatively. “And don’t worry. Mal’s going to eat every mouthful of his.”
Her husband groaned.
Zoe stepped quietly onto the bridge, watching Hank for any signs that he might bolt. He hadn’t actually got that far, but there’d been an occasion or two it had been a close run thing. And she hated it when they fought, not just for the atmosphere it created, but for the fact that she loved him too much to want to let anything like that continue.
He glanced round at her, met her eyes for a moment, then turned back to the stars.
She cleared her throat. “Dinner’s on the table.”
“Well, I'm sure Kaylee’ll put aside a plate for you.”
“I'm sure she will.”
She moved forward, into her usual position at his shoulder.
“How’s the cap?” he eventually asked, still gazing through the bridge windows.
“The doc says he should be okay, if he takes things easy for a while.”
“Frey’s happy to hear it.”
“Yeah, well, she loves him.”
He glanced up, then almost immediately turned back. “That’s just a rumour put about by a mercenary with too much time on his hands. Mal and me are just good friends.”
Zoe almost smiled, but couldn’t quite manage it. “I meant us.”
“How could you?” He span in the chair to face her. “How could you do that? The war was over!”
“I know. And all I can say is … honestly, there isn’t anything I can say to make it right.”
“Yet you still …” He couldn’t continue, his imagination supplying all too graphic pictures of a town filled with corpses, each and every one of them with the face of someone he knew.
“It turned my stomach.”
“Good.” He knew he sounded bitter, but he couldn’t stop himself.
“We’d lost a war, Hank. You have no idea what it was like in the Valley, waiting for help that didn’t come, among the bodies of friends and comrades.” She spoke quietly, just willing him to understand. “And the tally of corpses just got bigger every day. When help finally got there, and the medships arrived, Mal just kinda … shut down. Took him a while, really until he bought this ship, to be anywhere near normal again.”
“So you were doing it for Mal?”
“For all of us. At least, that’s what I told myself.” She took a deep breath, holding it for a long time before exhaling slowly.
“And that made it right.”
“No. Never right. And I’m not trying to justify it. I can’t.”
“Except I’m supposed to forgive you.”
“I can’t forgive myself.” I just bury it among all the other things I wish I’d never done, her thought continued.
“It’s … one of the things you dream about, isn’t it? Calling out for them to stop.”
Okay, maybe I don’t bury it as well as I thought. “Sometimes.”
Hank gazed at her, at her impenetrable face, and wondered why people thought she lacked emotion. It was all there, if only he looked hard enough. He turned back to the stars. “Do you think those men really did those things? Killed those other families?”
“I think Freya was right. They became the thing they hated most.”
“Guess that can happen.”
“Yeah.” She gazed at his back for a long minute, but he didn’t seem inclined to talk any more. “I’d … better go check on the captain again.” She turned away, but his next words made her stop.
“It’s the past. And if we hold onto it, we risk living it all over again. And, like they say, hindsight is perfect.” He sighed, a sound dragged from the very depths of his soul. “Can’t go back and change it, no matter how much we want to.”
“I would if I could.”
“Did you … watch Boone’s data chip?” she asked, knowing it was gone when she went to look, and realising he was the one likely to have taken it.
“No. I destroyed it.”
He shrugged. “I don’t need to see something that’s over. I know you wouldn’t do it again. Why relive it?”
“I love you.” He idly corrected their course by a second of a degree. “Sit with me for a while?”
She felt a hard knot in her belly begin to unravel. “For a while. I’ve got things to do. Seeing as Mal’s taking it easy at the moment.”
“Yeah, well, he’s captain, as he likes to take every opportunity to tell us. And you’re acting captain.”
“That I am.” Zoe sat down carefully in the other seat.
“So can I see you about getting a bigger cut of the next job?”
“I don’t think that comes under my remit.”
“Pity.” He didn’t say another word, just stared out at the stars, but his lips were curved very slightly.
Kaylee, standing out of sight beyond the bridge doorway, smiled and shook her head slightly. Hank was being Hank, and trying to defuse a situation with a joke, even if it wasn’t a very good one. But at least they were talking, and talking was good. In her heart of hearts, they were going to be all right. It might take a while, and one or two more conversations maybe with someone having to referee, but they were going to be all right.
She sighed happily and turned back towards the galley, yelping a little in surprise at coming face to face with River.
“You have to come and tell Jayne he can’t have thirds,” the young psychic said.
“You’re his wife.”
“You’re the cook. Otherwise there won’t be enough for Zoe and Hank.” She looked beyond Kaylee, up to the bridge, and nodded in satisfaction.
Kaylee relaxed a bit more. “Fine. I'm coming anyway. And he’s gonna get fat if he keeps eating like that.”
“That’s what I told him.”
“What did he say?”
“I'm not repeating it in front of the baby.” River nodded towards Kaylee’s stomach then paused, her head slightly on one side.
“What is it?” Kaylee asked, then gasped slightly as her baby son did a somersault and kicked her.
“My nephew is restless,” River said, linking her arm through her sister-in-law’s. “And hungry.”
“You can tell?”
“Of course.” She tugged gently. “Jayne …”
Kaylee laughed. Yep, things were definitely getting back to normal. “Come on then,” she said, and the two young women headed for the kitchen.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009 1:57 PM
Wednesday, March 18, 2009 2:06 PM
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