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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Co-written by Midnight Obsidian. Pierre contemplates his future, and Monty has a strange encounter.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 613 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
Pierre turned on the light in his cabin and looked carefully at the skin tissue in the Petri dish Elizabeth had given him. It looked healthy, almost completely so, and Pierre sighed. A small part of his brain, which he was studiously trying to ignore, had hoped that Elizabeth’s concoction would not work, thereby eliminating the need for him to be decisive. But the tissue lay there in the dish, pink and maddeningly insistent.
Moving to the sink, he removed the mask that had served as his public face for the last several years and slowly began to unwind the bandages underneath. Though his fingers had done the same thing thousands of times before, he took time with the task, his mind heavy with the decision he faced.
He turned on the light above the mirror, blinking in the suddenly blinding glare. When his eyes adjusted to the brightness, he leaned close to the mirror and did something he had not done for a long time. He examined his face.
He drew in a slow breath, wincing at the misshapen lumps of flesh revealed. He pulled on a pair of surgical gloves and gently ran his fingertips along the acid-etched scars, newly formed each day with the continuing effect of the torture he’d endured so long ago at Niska’s hands. The resulting pain was almost reassuring in its familiarity.
He closed his eyes and for a moment the horrific sight of his disfigurement was replaced in his mind by the smooth skin he had once worn so casually. Though he normally tried not to think of how handsome he had once been, as the thought usually brought nothing but equal parts anger and pain, he allowed himself to remember the feel of healthy skin beneath his fingertips, the scrape of a razor over a stubbly chin, the brush of a woman’s hand over newly smooth cheeks.
As if in defense, his mind immediately supplied a counterpoint, and he thought of the pain of badly botched skin grafts, the bitter disappointment as the self-renewing acid slowly and inexorably ate through new skin, the antiseptic smell of hospitals, the months of agonizingly slow recovery.
Turning off the bright light, he walked to the bed and sat down heavily. He wondered how it could be that he was both grateful to Elizabeth for the potential solution to his problem and angry with her for putting him in such a dilemma at the same time. Having long since made his peace with the condition of his face, he had been on sure footing for a long while. And now, Elizabeth, though meaning well, had yanked the proverbial rug from under his feet, leaving him flailing wildly for balance.
Almost tenderly, he picked up a roll of gauze and re-wrapped his face. He stood, squaring his shoulders. It was time to tell Elizabeth his decision. Slipping on his mask, he headed to the infirmary.
Kaylee walked into the infirmary cradling her left arm in her right hand.
“What happened, ai ren?” Simon asked in alarm.
“I lost my hold on the engine housing,” Kaylee said tiredly. “And my arm slipped, and got fried against the gorram metal.”
Having rarely heard his wife curse, Simon tried to hide his surprise. Gently taking her proffered arm, he saw a line of angry blisters appearing on her tender skin.
“It’s bad, ain’t it?” she asked as she saw the deep frown that creased her husband’s brow.
“Well,” he said slowly. “It’s not good.” Seeing her worried look, he added, “But it’s not terrible either. It will just take a little time to heal. I’ve got something that should prevent it from scarring, if I apply it right away.”
He moved quickly, soothing her injury with practiced hands.
Kaylee closed her eyes and allowed herself to relax for a moment. “Don’t know how I made such a stupid mistake,” she said. “Ain’t like I don’t know my way around an engine room by now.”
Simon sighed. “It’s probably just exhaustion, Kaylee. You’ve been working really hard lately, and I know you haven’t been getting much sleep.”
Kaylee shrugged. “Can’t be helped, I reckon, at least until Adam can get over whatever ails him.” She sighed. “Wish there was something I could do for the little guy. He’s surely havin’ a hard time of it.”
Simon smiled, appreciating the fact that even though Kaylee was the one with the injury, she was more concerned with their young nephew’s welfare. “I’m certain that Adam will be fine,” he said gently. “And in the meantime, I think you should have some rest.”
“Can’t be slackin’ at the job now,” Kaylee replied. “Not with all the stuff needs doin’ in to my girl. Cap’n wouldn’t like it.”
“Well, in this case, I overrule the Captain,” Simon said, finishing up the bandage around Kaylee’s arm. “You can’t work with one arm, and this one will be useless to you for at least a few days.”
“But..” Kaylee began.
“No ‘buts’,” Simon said firmly. “As your doctor, I prescribe immediate bed rest. You’re practically dead on your feet as it is.”
Kaylee sighed. “All right, but if we fall straight outta the sky, don’t be blamin’ me, Simon Tam.”
“I assure you I won’t,” he said, herding her gently toward her bunk.
Inara carefully dabbed at the smear of green paint on the front of her dress, wondering what insanity had prompted her to wear one of her better dresses on a day that the children would be painting. However, she smiled at her reflection in the mirror, remembering the look of pure joy on Daniel’s face as he’d cheerfully run his hands through all the paints and splashed a generous amount on anyone who came within range of his little workstation.
Having managed to clean most of the green from her dress, she stepped back out into the room and surveyed the damage. As if on cue, River glided into the room and looked around with a wide grin. “I see we have another artist in residence,” she said, picking up the newly multicolored Hannah.
“It would seem so,” Inara replied with a smile. “Fortunately, I remembered to use washable paint this time.”
River nodded. “Adam,” she said. “Art time is over. It’s time for a nap.”
Adam frowned, still absorbed in his drawing. “Aww, Mama, please don’t make me take a nap today. I ain’t finished with my picture.”
“I am not finished with my picture,” River corrected automatically. She knew that Adam was resistant to the idea of napping because he was afraid to sleep and dream. She sighed and looked at Inara. “Would it be all right if…”
Inara nodded. “It would be fine for Adam to stay and finish his picture.” She laid her hand lightly on the young boy’s shoulder. “And after the picture is done, perhaps we can have a little tea. How would that be?”
Adam nodded and looked up at River hopefully, knowing as he did that Miss Inara’s tea was always served with sugar cookies when it was just the two of them. “S’it okay, Mama?”
River nodded. “Of course. Thank you, Inara. Just send him to me when you’re finished. I imagine I’ll still be cleaning the paint out of Hannah’s ears for awhile yet. Nap time can wait today.”
Adam smiled up at Inara, thinking that it was always a treat to have her all to himself. She smiled back, thinking much the same thing. “So, what are you working on?” she asked, leaning down to see his drawing.
Adam turned the picture over quickly, hiding it from her view. “S’not important,” he said, suddenly apprehensive.
Inara was surprised by Adam’s response, as he was usually quite eager to show her his work. “I’d love to see it,” she said encouragingly.
Adam looked at her for a long moment, reticence warring with his desire to please her. Slowly, he turned the picture over and Inara bent to retrieve it. In that moment, she thanked Buddha for her years of Companion training. She smiled at Adam gently. “Well, this is….quite….unique,” she said carefully, grateful that her hand did not shake as she held the picture steady. “Where…where did you get the idea for this?”
Adam shivered as if a cold gust of wind had hit him. “Saw it in my head,” he said softly.
Inara swallowed back the panic she felt with his answer. To have a moment to think of a good reply, she looked at the picture more carefully. In stunning detail well beyond what she had thought his skill level to be, he had rendered the stuff of nightmares on the sketch pad, dark, disturbing images drawn in stark relief against the white paper.
She was unaware she had sunk to her knees until she felt Adam’s hand on her shoulder. “Did I do something wrong, Miss Inara?” he asked in a small voice.
“No, no, Adam honey, you’ve done nothing wrong,” she hastened to soothe him. “This picture is….very detailed.”
“It’s what the boy sees,” Adam whispered.
For a frightening moment, Inara wondered if Adam was referring to himself in the third person like River had done when she was close to an episode of psychosis. “What boy?” she asked gently.
Adam sighed tiredly. “The boy in the dream,” he said so softly she had to strain to hear him. “The little boy in my head every night.”
A cold chill ran down Inara’s spine, but she smiled brightly at Adam. “Let’s have that tea now, shall we?” she asked.
As Adam nodded eagerly, she put the picture carefully down on the tabletop and thought that as soon as tea-time was over, she would take it to Simon for his opinion.
Monty sat at the bar, ostensibly having a leisurely drink, but actually observing the patrons of the bar carefully in search of his now two hours late contact. Though he was by nature an easy-going man, he did not appreciate cooling his heels when there was coin to be made.
“Mind if I sit here?” a calm voice asked.
Monty looked around to see a young man smiling at him politely. Mildly surprised that he had managed to seemingly appear out of thin air, Monty nodded and smiled. “Free ‘verse,” he said heartily. “Sit where you want. I don’t like to drink alone.”
The young man smiled and sat down gracefully beside him. “I don’t believe I’ve seen you here before,” he said pleasantly.
“Not likely to have,” Monty replied. He paused for a sip of the cheap whiskey. “Just passin’ through.”
“Oh?” the young man said. “Where are you headed?”
Monty had not lived as long as he had by sharing information overmuch with strangers. “Nowhere in particular,” he said, shrugging.
“Drifting, are you?” the young man asked as if he understood.
“You might could say that,” Monty replied easily.
They drank in silence for several minutes. “Couldn’t help but notice your coat,” the young man said.
Monty patted the leather of his coat like a beloved pet. “Had this coat a long while,” he said proudly.
The young man nodded. “Since the first war, I’d expect,” he said softly.
Monty took a long pull on his liquor. “Yep,” he said. “I was in the first one, and graced by God to be in the second one too. Lotsa’ folks weren’t so lucky, may they rest in peace.”
The young man nodded and raised his glass in a silent toast. “That’s true enough,” he said softly. “Knew a man that died right at the end of the war, in Serenity Valley. A very good man.” He paused for a beat. “Were you there….in Serenity Valley, I mean?”
Monty nodded. “Gorram straight, I was,” he said. “Helluva place to be, right there at the end and all.” He paused, looking at the young man appraisingly. “You couldn’t have been all that old when the first war ended.”
“No, I was quite young,” the man replied.
“So, who was the man you knew there?” Monty asked curiously. “I knew most everybody there right at the end. Weren’t all that many of us left. ‘Spect I might have known your fellow.”
The young man blinked slowly, and Monty had the strange notion that something had changed dramatically behind the man’s eyes. The thought made him mildly uncomfortable, but he brushed it away as ridiculous. There was nothing for him to worry about in such a clean cut young man, he reasoned. Must be getting soft in the head to even have such a thought.
“I don’t imagine you knew him,” the young man answered slowly. “He fought for the…..other side.”
“Oh,” Monty replied for lack of something more articulate to say. The suddenly piercing quality of the young man’s gaze discomfited him unaccountably. He cleared his throat. “Reckon there was a lot of good men as died on both sides,” he said finally.
After another slow blink, the young man smiled. “I imagine you’re quite right,” he said pleasantly. He sipped slowly from his glass, watching Monty closely. “I’ve had occasion to meet many Browncoats in my travels, and their insights about the war have been quite interesting. I believe I’ve come to know them very well.” He took a small sip of his drink. “In fact, I’m actually involved currently in a little research with regard to Independents who fought in Serenity Valley. Perhaps you might be interested in what I’ve discovered. I’ve got an extensive collection of captures from the war. They’re on my ship. I’d really appreciate it if you could come with me and take a look at them. Perhaps help me identify who they are, since you were there.”
Monty stroked his beard. “Whereabouts is your ship?” he asked, thinking it might be interesting to look at the captures.
“Just a couple of clicks away,” the young man said, smiling. “Wouldn’t take all that long. And I’d be most….pleased to have you.”
“Well,” Monty said. “I conjure I’ve got enough time to…..” He paused, looking over the young man’s shoulder at the man coming through the door. Two hours late, and still the hundan was sauntering in like he owned the place, Monty thought. Turning his attention back to the young man, he said, “Maybe some other time,” he said. “Fellow I was waiting for just walked in, and business comes ‘fore pleasure. Sorry.” He smiled heartily and slapped the young man on the back.
The young man slid off the stool easily. “Perhaps another time,” he said politely.
Monty nodded and walked toward his contact, forgetting the young man almost instantly. And so it was that he walked out of the bar a very lucky man, heedless of the sudden venom in the young man’s cold eyes.
To be continued
Monday, June 01, 2009 3:59 AM
Monday, June 01, 2009 7:03 AM
Monday, June 01, 2009 12:34 PM
Monday, June 01, 2009 12:56 PM
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