BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

JANE0904

Ripples - Part IV
Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Maya. Post-BDM. Mal tells the girls they can go on their cruise, but there's other talking to be done first. NEW CHAPTER


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1943    RATING: 10    SERIES: FIREFLY

The squeals of delight when Mal announced at breakfast that the eldest Reilly twins could go off on their cruise could probably have been heard on Londinium, and he made a great show of waggling his finger in his ear as if he’d been deafened.

“Thank you, thank you,” Val said, hugging her sister tightly since she wasn't allowed to hug her uncle as yet.

“There’re a few ground rules, though” Mal added quickly, “so don’t think you can just go off and do whatever you want.”

Phoebe tried hard to stop smiling, but it wasn't working. “Whatever,” she said, waving a hand.

“And the first one is to sit down and eat your breakfast,” Inara said.

“Oh, we can’t,” Valentia insisted. “We’re too excited.”

“Young ladies should be able to be excited on the inside, but perfectly composed on the outside.” Inara smoothed the red embroidered top she was wearing over soft trousers.

“Is that what you are?” Sam asked, mischief in his voice.

“Absolutely.” She spoiled the effect by smiling widely at him, then turning back to the girls. “But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat something.”

“Yes, Inara,” they chorused, turning back to their abandoned breakfasts and nibbling distractedly on toast.

“Right. Good.” Mal seemed a little thrown, but he gathered himself. “Okay. These rules. Number one, you don’t go anywhere until Inara or me has checked out the liner, and the folks in charge, dong mah?”

“Of course, Uncle Mal,” Val said, trying to remain calm.

“And we need to know where you are at all times, like with your sister Noni.” He’d insisted Theo Hawkins keep them both abreast of where the Hawkins Troupe was going to be playing, just in case.

“And we’d both be expecting regular waves,” Inara added.

“Not just them,” Kaylee said, smiling widely, happy that the atmosphere of the night before wasn’t being repeated. “We all wanna see what you’re doing, who you’re meeting. Ooh, there’s gonna be so much to see, all the different monuments. And shopping. All the malls –”

“And third,” Mal interrupted, wanting to get through his list before the talk degenerated into a discussion on the best places to eat, “you’re gonna have someone with you.”

Val and Phoebe stared at him. “What do you mean?” the latter asked.

“A bodyguard. Couple of ‘em, if it can be arranged.”

“Uncle Mal, we don’t need someone to look after us,” Val insisted.

“That’s the deal, Valentia. Bodyguards, or nothing.” He only called her by her full name when he was being serious.

Val looked at her sister, and some sort of unspoken communication went on.

No, they’re not psychic, Mal heard in his mind, and he glanced at Freya. Just twins.

You do that with Alex?

Not really. But then I'm not sure we were normal twins.

Not normal. Yeah, I kinda agree with that.

She glared at him, but he just smiled.

Val, the oldest by perhaps ten minutes, turned back. “Okay, Uncle Mal.” She nodded firmly, her sister echoing her.

Mal settled back against the pillows again. “Good.”

Rosemary, one of the other pair of twins, piped up. “Can’t we go?” she asked, nodding towards Letitia. “We’d be good.”

The look that passed between Val and Phoebe almost made Mal burst out laughing, but he contented himself with just a smile. “Nope, Rosie. You’re too young yet. Give it a couple of years and I'm sure you’ll be gallivanting off with the rest of ‘em.”

“It’s not fair,” Letitia said. “They always get to do things first.”

“And you’ll have my almost undivided attention, Letty,” Inara pointed out. “Perhaps we could have a party of our own. You should make a list of who to invite.”

Letty immediately brightened up, and poked her tongue out at Phoebe, then blushed.

Jayne chuckled, and was immediately silenced with a sharp River-elbow.

“Well, now,” Mal said, turning back to Val. “You take a good look through the various things on offer, and decide what ones you’d like. Only make it kinda first, second and third choices, just in case me and Inara think one or other is too racy.”

“Mal, what do you think they do on these cruises?” Inara asked, laughing gently.

“Hate to think.”

“Mostly it’s sit around, talk … and eating of course.”

“Food?” Kaylee asked, leaning forward. Ever since River had managed to cure her morning sickness she’d been eating more than enough for two ordinary people her size.

Inara smiled. “Oh, yes, lots of food. More or less twenty-four hours a day.”

“Better let their dresses out then,” Mal commented.

Every single woman said his name in dismay, and every man tried to hide the smile.

---

As breakfast broke up, Kaylee announced she had work to do, turned down Freya’s offer to help saying she had Mal to look after, and hurried back to her other baby. The Reilly girls headed en masse for the Cortex link upstairs so they could start looking at all the various cruises on offer, while Bethie gathered the rest of the children and hurried away before anyone could say a word about lessons, shouting back over her shoulder that they were going to get some good fresh air. The sound of the dogs barking faded as they ran outside.

“I don’t know,” Hank said, shaking his head. “Whenever we’re here we hardly ever see them.”

“I'm sure Bethie will let you play if you ask nicely,” Zoe said, patting him on the arm.

“No, I've got … I thought I’d go fishing,” he said, glancing at Sam.

For some reason she felt excluded, but said, “That’s nice.”

“You just be careful where you leave the fish guts,” Jayne warned.

“Good idea,” Mal agreed. “There’s only room for one injured party in this bed.”

“And Mal’s not always good with sharing.” Freya started tidying up the breakfast plates.

“Leave those,” Inara said. “Mrs Boden will think you’re trying to take her job.”

“Have to keep busy,” Freya said, smiling. “Besides, we left them last night. Be a terrible habit to get into.”

Once again Inara’s sense of something not being said tingled, but she merely filed it away for the moment. “Then I’m sure she won’t mind.” She looked at Zoe. “And what are your plans?”

The first mate thought for a moment. “Well, I'm not sure I should stray too far from Serenity. In case Kaylee needs some help.”

Inara waved a hand dismissively. “Oh, don’t worry about that. I meant it last night. I’m going to change and go straight across.”

Mal laughed. “Can’t wait to see you up to your elbows in grease, ‘Nara.”

“Just wait until you’re back on your feet,” she promised before giving Sam a kiss on his cheek and sweeping out.

“Was she threatening me?” Mal asked no-one in particular.

“Yes,” Simon agreed. “As we all feel the need to once in a while.”

“What did I do?”

“Do you want a list?” Simon’s lips twitched. “And you won’t have the opportunity to see her all … greasy. You’re staying in bed. I don’t want to have to reset those stitches.”

“You’re a hard man, doc.”

“It must be the company I keep.”

“Surely is.”

“But I'm glad someone’s going to be with Kaylee,” Simon continued, turning back to the others. “The further she gets in the pregnancy, the more worried I get that she’ll try to do too much.”

“She wants to get all the damage squared away,” Zoe pointed out. “That EMP pulse threw a lot of systems.”

“Don’t remind me.” He remembered having to slice Mal’s chest open in the pitch dark, doing everything by feel, keeping his heart going until Kaylee arrived with those glow sticks. He wasn’t sure he’d ever be able to forget the sensation of having Mal’s warm heart in his fingers, squeezing gently. “But she should still take it easy.”

“Then maybe I should stay,” River said slowly. “Jayne and I were going to go hunting, but perhaps …”

“Not rabbits?” Hank looked slightly appalled, little springy fluffy things bouncing around the orchard coming to mind.

“Nope, not this time” the big man assured him. “’Nara says the local farmers’ve been having trouble with some kinda big cat, taking their livestock, so we were gonna go out, see if we could find it.”

“A big cat? Good job Ethan’s not listening,” Freya said softly, glancing at Maoli sitting imperiously in the sunshine on the windowsill, studiously ignoring everyone. “And don’t tell him if you do kill it.”

“Weren’t gonna kill it, Frey,” Jayne said quickly. “Just gonna see if we couldn’t … persuade it to go someplace else.” He hooked his thumbs into his belt. “We were looking it up.”

“All to do with scents,” River put in. “Overlay one with the other and make it seem this isn’t his territory any more.”

“How?” Simon asked, then held up his hand. “No. Don’t. I probably don’t want to know.”

Jayne growled a laugh. “Pretty much have to agree with you there, doc.”

“It’s a nice day, and we were going to take a picnic, but if Kaylee needs me …” River bit her lip.

“It’s okay, mei-mei,” her brother said, putting his arm around her. “You go and have a good time. I'm not going to do much more than potter, so I’ll be around if she shouts.”

“You think I should have a word? Make her slow down?” Mal suggested. “It was the reason we set down here, but I don’t want her making herself ill.”

“I don’t think it would get that far, but –”

“I think what Simon’s trying not to say is that traditionally pregnancy is supposed to destroy brain cells,” Freya said, dusting imaginary crumbs into a pile on the cloth. “And she might suddenly forget what she’s doing and take it into her mind to start breaking things instead of fixing them.”

“That wasn't it at all. Besides, that’s an old wives’ tale,” Simon said quickly, glaring at her.

“Some of us could be described that way,” Zoe responded.

“You ain't old,” Hank said gallantly, and she felt warmed by his words.

“You mean the rest of us are?” Freya asked in as forbidding a manner as she could manage, raising an eyebrow at him.

“I'm going before I say something I ain't gonna live to regret,” Hank said, heading for the door. “If anyone wants me, I’ll be in the middle of the lake. In the boat,” he added quickly.

“Take a com with you,” Mal ordered.

“I always do,” the pilot said, disappearing.

“Come on, Riv,” Jayne said, taking her hand and tugging gently. “Won’t be any fun without you with me.”

She looked at him, then back at Simon, who smiled encouragingly. Finally she nodded, her face lighting up. “I’ll get the sandwiches.” She danced out of the room.

“Make it a lot!” Jayne called. “Gotta keep my strength up.”

“Is she okay?” Zoe asked, waiting until River was out of ear-shot, and keeping her voice low.

Jayne shrugged. “Yeah. It’s just one of those days.”

Everyone understood. No matter how much better River was most of the time, and especially since she’d got together with Jayne, there were bad days, or months such as when she was pregnant. As she put it herself, she would always be cracked, but Jayne was the glue that held the pieces together. And if that glue sometimes got a little loose, he was there to pick up the bits and put them back.

“Well, you just keep an eye on my albatross,” Mal said softly.

“Always do, Mal. Always do.”

---

“What do you want me to do?”

Kaylee rolled out from under the auxiliary life support, a smile already on her face at Inara’s voice, but it froze as she took in the sight before her.

It was Inara, of course, but no Companion had ever looked like this. She was wearing the coveralls she’d bought when she first moved in, a pair of somewhat ancient looking slippers, and her hair was caught back in a slightly messy ponytail, held in place with a scrunchy. She looked … actually, she still looked gorgeous, and for a second Kaylee felt an irrational surge of jealousy, but it died quickly. This was her friend. She grinned. “What’s all this in aid of?” she asked, sitting up awkwardly.

“I volunteered, remember? I'm your help for the day.” She looked down at herself. “Am I suitably attired?”

“If you mean are your clothes right, they’re okay. Be better once they don’t look like they’re brand new, and got a few grease marks on ‘em.”

“Pretty much like me, eh?” Inara laughed. “So, am I just going to be holding things for you?”

“Nope. There’s stuff needs fixing, and there’s places I can’t get into inside my girl that easy no more.” She patted her bump fondly. “I was gonna leave ‘em, but there’s a few need fixing so Mal don’t complain when we fall outta the sky, so someone else has to go crawling about inside her.”

“You know I'm useless with machinery, don’t you?”

“Nah. You just do what I say, when I say it, and we’ll be fine.”

“I haven’t been told that since I was a Companion in training,” Inara commented.

Kaylee stared at her then burst into laughter. “Oh, ‘Nara, I sure have missed you.” She scooted over. “Here. Sit down and I’ll show you what I’m working on.”

“Single syllables, please.”

The young woman grinned widely. “Companion-dummy talk?” she suggested.

“Definitely.”

---

Freya had taken the last of the plates into the kitchen, and now it was just Mal on his own, lying back on the admittedly comfy bed and listening to the sound of the children playing. Occasionally he could make out words, but often it was just yells, moving into the distance then coming back. Whatever it was, it appeared to necessitate screaming really loudly and running a lot.

The sun had moved enough to throw a golden square onto the floor, only obscured by the blob that was Maoli, who was now washing delicately, her back leg thrown high over her head.

“You know that ain't polite,” Mal said conversationally. “Had to stop Jayne doing that once, and you shoulda heard the language.”

The grey cat didn’t even pause.

“Though how he managed to do it with a full belt of grenades across his chest is something I ain’t gonna dwell on too closely.”

Maoli lowered her leg and proceeded to lick one paw, rubbing it around her face and across her ears.

“You know where that’s been, don’t you?”

She ignored him. Just like everyone else. And the sound of the children just suddenly became too much. Listening hard to make sure nobody was about to come in and catch him, he pushed the covers back from the bed and swung his legs around. He sat up and wriggled his pale toes on the cool wood floor.

“I need some sunshine,” he said to Maoli, who stared at him.

Well, so far so good. No pain to speak of, like might be expected from the hole in his chest ripping open again, just a slight twinge from the stitches pulling. As long as he didn’t do anything stupid, he should be all right. He grinned. Freya probably would think that was exactly what he was being, but seeing as she wasn’t actually there with him …

He shuffled forwards on his backside until all he had to do to stand up was lean forward and put the weight on his legs.

“Okay, easier said than done,” he murmured, wondering if he was going to back out. “No. Come on. You got through Serenity Valley. Twice. And faced down some of the worst the Alliance could throw at you. A little operation ain't gonna put you down.” He took a breath. “On your feet, Sergeant Reynolds.”

Maoli gave what he took to be a ‘mrowr’ of encouragement.

Screwing his face and his courage up, he pushed off the mattress, holding tightly to the bed frame, until he could straighten slowly. Not all the way, that actually did hurt, but enough so that he wasn’t in danger of falling flat on his face quite yet.

A particularly loud shout from outside had him walking before he realised it, and suddenly he was leaning on the wall staring into the sunshine. Maoli pushed at him with her triangular head, and he absently ran a finger behind her ear, scratching the spot that made her purr with increasing intensity.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

He didn’t turn. He didn’t have to. Somehow his latent potential abilities told him that Freya was glaring at him from the doorway, radiating anger.

“Watching.”

She crossed the floor quickly, her boots making annoyed little sounds, then she was next to him, putting her arm under his. “Dammit, Mal, do you want to end up flat on your back again?”

“Frey, ai ren, that’s what I was doing.”

“You know what I mean.”

“I could hear them laughing, Frey.” He nodded out towards the sunlit scene, where all Serenity’s children appeared to be taking part in a boisterous game of blind man’s bluff, with Ethan wearing one of Inara’s scarves, and even Caleb managing a few steps now and again.

She couldn’t stay angry at him, no matter how much she wanted to. “You want to play games?”

“I’d quite like to be outside with ‘em. Maybe not running around. Not yet, anyway.”

“Not for a good long while.”

“But a bit of sunshine’d do me good.”

“And if you fall? Rip those stitches?” She put her hand gently on his chest. “Ethan’s worried about you enough as it is. You don’t want him to be sick, do you?”

He stared at her. “That’s pretty low, Frey.”

She felt a wave of guilt flood through her. “Sorry. Yes, it was. I don’t know what’s got into me.”

“I do.” He smiled. “You love me.”

“Really?”

“Uh huh.”

“Is that what it is? I thought it was proximity.”

“You’re in proximity to Simon and Hank. And Jayne, but we won’t go there.”

“I'm not sure I want to go there with Simon or Hank, either.” She bit her lip. “If I speak to Simon, will you get back into bed for the moment?”

“Rather you were with me.”

“That really would do for those stitches.”

“Not to actually … you know … do anything.” He squeezed her shoulders, just a little. “Just to feel you next to me.”

“I have been,” she pointed out, easing him back towards the bed, taking most of his weight on her shoulders. “Every night, remember?”

“Yeah, but that was to sleep. This’d just be company.”

She laughed, and he felt it vibrate through him.

“Maybe for a while.”

“Then you go see Simon, get me dispensation to sit outside for a while.”

“Maybe.”

“Or I’ll be a difficult patient and make everyone’s life a misery.” He lowered himself onto the mattress, and despite his best intentions, sighed heavily in relief.

“So what else is new?”

---

Zoe watched from a distance as Hank rowed the small boat back to the beach, giving Sam just enough time to climb onto the shingle before pushing off again, heading towards the centre of the lake.

Sam stood still, his hands in his pockets, perhaps watching Hank manoeuvring the boat, or just staring into the distance at the ring of mountains on the edge of the world.

She continued down the small incline to the sand, setting one of the two deckchairs down next to her as she attempted to get the other into a suitable position for sitting. After it snapped at her knuckles twice, and fell on her foot once, she swore at it.

Hearing the Chinese cursing, Sam turned and walked towards her. “Are you having fun?” he asked, smiling.

Zoe looked up from where she was struggling. “I never could get the hang of these gorram things.”

Sam chuckled. “I keep asking Inara if we could burn them, but she always says no.” He reached her. “Let me.”

“Fine.” She let go and the deckchair lay on the sand, looking innocuous and not at all like it had just tried to eat her fingers.

“There is a knack.” Sam leaned down and took hold of one of the cross-pieces, pulling it up. Something slid against something else, there was a click and …

“Damn.” Zoe stared at the chair, set at just the right angle to invite anyone to sit in it. “You sure it ain't gonna fold up on me?”

“No. I promise.” He smiled and did the same to the second, lowering himself somewhat carefully down onto the striped fabric. “See?”

“If I end up on my backside …”

“You won’t.”

“Hmmn.” She sat, gingerly at first, then letting her whole weight be supported. Nothing beyond a slight groan from the wood. “Looks like I don’t have to kill you right now, after all.”

“I'm quite glad of that.”

“Although I’m feeling really guilty about being here, enjoying the sun.”

“Why?”

“Well, there’s Kaylee, pregnant, stuck in the engine room … and there’s us, taking the air.”

“Did you ask her?”

“I did.”

“And what did she say?”

“To let her get on with it.”

“And the second deckchair?”

“Inara was heading on over to Serenity, told me to bring both in case anyone wanted to sit a spell.”

“Good idea,” Sam said, leaning back and closing his eyes.

She studied him for a moment, the newly short hair, his olive skin, and calm face … “Did Hank ask you to come and speak to me?”

“Why would he do that?”

“You know, I kinda hate people who answer a question with a question.”

“Yes, Inara doesn’t like it either.”

“A jade’s trick.”

Sam looked across at her in surprise. “Quoting Shakespeare at me now?”

“Have to wrongfoot you somehow.”

“I have to say, Much Ado About Nothing is one of my favourites.”

“Saw it once, long time ago. My parents took me to a theatre, as a birthday treat, when I was about twelve. We were only in port for a day, and the company probably wasn’t very good, but I … it was amazing. For the longest time after I was determined to go on the stage myself, but I never told Mom or Dad. Don’t honestly know why.”

“Because it was something you wanted to keep close to your heart. And talking about it might make it vanish into air.”

“Probably.”

Sam pondered. “Appropriate, though, don’t you think? A play about someone being tricked into believing an untruth about the person they love.”

“I’ve the feeling what you want to talk about isn’t exactly an untruth.” She fixed him with a stern eye. “What did he say to you?”

“Who?”

“I know Hank’s seen you. More’n once. We don’t keep secrets.” She realised what she’d said, and her dark skin flushed a little. “Well, maybe we do, but not …”

“Yes,” Sam said, letting her out of her embarrassment. “Hank has spoken to me. He wanted my opinion.”

“Did you give it?”

“Yes.”

“And what was it?”

“Well, technically, since I am still a therapist and I could class Hank as my patient –“

“You told him that it was the past, and that no matter how much we’d like to, we can’t go back and change it.”

Sam nodded. “Pretty much. It’s what he wanted to hear.”

“Is that all therapy is? Telling a person what they want to hear?”

“Sometimes. People need to get stuff off their chest, and they just want a willing ear.” He leaned back, staring out over the lake towards where Hank was sitting in the small boat, fishing quietly. “And sometimes people want advice.”

“He didn’t ask for any?”

“I told him to talk to you.”

“Right.” She followed his gaze.

“But if you’d like to talk, in a professional capacity …” He waited, his dark eyes on her face, letting her decide.

She gazed at Hank who was fiddling with his rod, probably fixing something to the hook to attract the fish. He looked so intent on his task, just like when he was flying Serenity. Even then she loved to just watch him, being so very good at what he did. Finally she sighed, “What did he tell you about Sweetwater?”

to be continued

COMMENTS

Wednesday, April 1, 2009 8:31 AM

BRIGLAD


Ah yes, Family fluff with just a touch of angst. That's our Jane.

I'm glad to see Zoe starting to open up. She needs to get this whole mess off her chest more than Hank does.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009 10:30 AM

ANGELLEMARCS


“You know where that’s been, don’t you?” LOL!!!

I love love love the part with Mal and Maoli. It is just so Mal and the way the cat reacted is just priceless. I think it's one of the only animals even our Mal would have problems dealing with.

The rest was wonderful, too and I really love how Zoe is finally starting to open that hard shell of hers.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009 6:58 PM

NCBROWNCOAT


Lots of good stuff under the fluff. I've said it before but I really do have a bad feeling about the cruise the girls are going on. Also, Kaylee worried about Serenity, Mal being the world's worst patient, River being a bit crazy and going after the cat and what secrets will Zoe and Hank spill to Sam? Just too many possibilities and ways it could turn.

Thursday, April 2, 2009 4:41 AM

AMDOBELL


I loved this and the girls' reaction to Mal listing the rules for their little cruise made me smile, especially when the younger ones wanted to go and were told they would have to wait until they were older. I don't blame Mal wanting to sit out in the sunshine and watch the kids play and have fun. Being flat on his back inside while everyone else is enjoying themselves is no fun. I wonder what Zoe needs to say to Sam? Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Thursday, April 2, 2009 4:54 PM

KATESFRIEND


Cute little fluffy piece with a slight forboding of angst. Like what is Inara sensing from Freya, what is Zoe's guilt going to drive her to, what is going to go wrong on the liner, what is wrong with River, and how bad a patient can Mal really be? Nice calm before the storm feeling to this one - kind of like real life at the moment.


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