BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

JANE0904

Jericho Wells - Part XI
Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Maya. Post-BDM. The morning after the meeting, Mal and Zoe have an honest talk, and Bethie asks about elections with ulterior motives. NEW CHAPTER


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1799    RATING: 10    SERIES: FIREFLY

Breakfast the next morning was pretty much taken up with further discussion of the meeting the evening before, although by the end of it Zoe wanted to walk out of Serenity and never look back. Well, almost. It was only Hank’s warm thigh pressed up against hers that made her hold her tongue, to not tell everyone – particularly Kaylee – that she wished she’d never said anything, hadn’t let her emotions get the better of her, but listening to those women on the stage, the men below … something had snapped.

Her parents had never treated each other like that, and neither had Mal, right from the moment they met. Then first with Wash and now with Hank it had never been an issue, and in all honesty she didn’t see how anyone could stand for it, male or female alike. And yet ... and yet here they were, a whole gorram planet. And she was just playing a part until they could leave again. It didn’t feel right.

She concentrated on her food, and even then hardly tasting it.

Mal caught the darkness of her mood, and glanced at Freya. She okay? he thought carefully.

For once his wife didn’t answer, just shrugged slightly. He was taken aback, but even without her input he had an inkling of what might be wrong with his first mate, and determined to see what he could do about it. Frey, am I right?

Leave it, Mal.

She’s my friend.

Mine too. I’m just … if you’re going to do this then … tread carefully.

Always do.

Her eyebrow raised a millimetre, and he took a mouthful of hot oat cereal to hide the smile.

As everyone finished, he stood up from the table. “Okay,” he said. “You got jobs, go do ‘em, else I’ll find you something to do.” He looked at the children. “And you’d better get your school work together, since there’ve been way too many skiving days lately.”

“Uncle Mal …” Bethie whined. “Wanted to go play outside.”

“Not right now. And not without someone being with you to supervise ever. This ain’t the kind of planet looks kindly on children running around, not that I've seen.”

“Uncle Mal –”

“Bethie.” Her father spoke her name, and immediately she quietened down, but it didn’t stop her kicking her feet against the table leg.

“Honey, don’t,” Kaylee said, smiling at her daughter. “How about, before Frey takes you through your lessons, you help me get out that little recording thingie I made a while back, see if we can’t get it working ‘fore I have to get ready?”

“Are you planning on going?” Mal asked, honestly surprised.

“Me, River and Zoe,” the young mechanic agreed.

Mal held up a hand. “Now, I don’t think that’s such a good plan. River I can understand, but you’re …” He gestured towards her belly, rising above the top of the table.

“I ain't planning on going into labour, if that’s what you’re worried about.” She grinned. “But there might just be a little bit of false pains, just as a distraction.”

“It’s all right, Mal,” Simon put in. “It won’t do her any harm, as long as she’s sensible.”

“And when ain't I sensible?” she asked, turning on him.

“I couldn’t possibly imagine,” he said, hardly a trace of irony in his voice. “Besides, I’m coming too.”

“Whoa, now, no, doc,” Mal said quickly. “It’s bad enough your sis has to go, and believe me if there was a way round it, she wouldn’t be setting foot outside. But I ain't putting you at risk too. Supposing something happens, and the authorities decide to scan you?”

“Nothing’s going to happen.”

“And you can swear to that, can you?”

“Well, no, of course not, but –”

“I'm going,” Jayne said, climbing to his feet and picking up his and River’s plates. “Ain’t going inside, but I’ll be watching. Nothing’s gonna happen while I’m around.”

Simon still didn’t look very happy, but Kaylee patted him on the arm. “I’ll be fine, honey. No-one’s gonna bother Jayne, you know that.”

The doctor glanced at his brother-in-law, knowing Kaylee was speaking the exact truth, but it didn’t mean he had to like it. “I suppose.”

“Anyway,” Hank added, “you’ve got to count all your supplies, make sure you’ve got enough for our inevitably wounded Captain.” Mal glared at him, and he suddenly found interest in the last scrapings in his bowl.

“No-one’s getting hurt,” Mal said firmly. “Not even a splinter. All everyone has to do is stick to the plan, and nothing’ll go wrong.”

“Plans,” River said, lifting Caleb onto the floor where he stood holding onto her dress.

“What?”

“Plans. Plural. A multiple of one. Although technically a multiple of one is still one, but in this event more than.”

Mal narrowed his eyes at her. “Albatross, I don’t mind you correcting me, but do you have to be quite so pedantic about it? Especially since, as far as I can see, they’re both parts of the same plan.”

“Semantic.”

“River.”

She smiled and kicked the table leg, just like Bethie had done.

“Sometimes I wonder if I fetched up on a boatful of kids,” Hank muttered, getting to his feet. “I’m going to be on the bridge, in case anybody needs me.”

“Doing what?” Mal wanted to know.

“Checking the Cortex. Might be we don’t have to go to all this trouble if I can bring up schematics on the Election building.”

“Good idea,” Mal said, nodding in surprise. His gaze shifted to his first mate. “Zo? You wanna help dry, since I’m on clean-up this morning and Kaylee’s gonna be a while?”

“Of course.” She started to stack the remaining crockery.

Mal.

He looked at his wife. What?

Just … be careful. And keep her away from sharp objects.

His brows drew together as he watched her usher Ethan and Jesse out of the room, the rest of the crew following. Sometimes he wondered why she didn’t trust him.

Experience.

“Huh.”

Zoe looked oddly at him, but he just smiled.

It didn’t take long before they had the plates in the sink, the cereal pan already soaking, and he was ready to broach the somewhat delicate subject.

“You wanna talk about it?” He realised he didn’t have that much authority at the moment, not a man up to his elbows in soapy water, but this was Zoe. She’d seen him every which way there was, and some he wished there weren’t.

“Not particularly.” She scrubbed at the plate with the cloth, giving it a gloss like it was brand new. At least she hadn’t asked what it was she didn’t want to talk about.

“Only there used to be a pattern on that once upon a time.”

She looked down at the perfectly plain china, then glared at him. “I’m shiny, sir.”

“Okay.” He ran the brush around the inside of a glass, then decided he didn’t have that much in the way of breakable crockery any more, so handed her a tin mug instead. “Only I think you’re thinking this place needs you. Or someone like you.”

“They need something. I can’t decide whether it’s a strong person to speak for those weaker, or maybe a small nuke.”

He smiled, but kept his head down so she couldn’t see. “Well, since we don’t have the latter, and you’re not staying …” He left the sentence hanging.

She didn’t speak, just put the mug carefully on top of the plate, the sound seeming to fill the kitchen area.

“You’re not, are you?” This time he turned around, ignoring the water running off his hands onto the floor.

Zoe looked at him, and for a long moment he wasn’t sure what she was thinking. She’d considered leaving before, he knew that. After Wash died, for certain, then he was pretty sure she’d thought about it again when she was pregnant with Ben, but at least with the last it wasn’t really anything solid. If that had been the case she’d have talked to him about it, and she hadn’t. Frey had picked up on the stray feelings, but that was about all.

“Zoe? You wanna answer me before I come over all kinds of concerned?”

She took a breath, then another. “No, Mal. I’m not staying on Jericho. My life … my home is here. But these people, these women … they need someone who isn’t afraid all the time.”

He felt a stab of gratitude when she used his given name. She did it so rarely it always meant something deeper, something that much more personal. “And you think that’s you.”

“No. I get afraid a lot. But maybe I just hide it better.”

He picked up a towel and wiped his hands. “Zoe, you’re the bravest person I’ve ever met. And I mean person, whether they’re male, female, or one of those who ain't decided yet. You got me through things most people would’ve turned tail and run from, and I owe you pretty much everything.”

“That much.”

“Yeah.” He leaned back on the counter. “Zoe, if’n you’re that upset by all this, we’ll find another way.”

“There isn’t one, sir. River made that perfectly clear.” She shook her head. “Besides, if I stood down you’d lose the deposit, and we can’t afford to waste a hundred credits.”

“Can’t honestly afford to waste ten right now.”

“So we’ll carry on as we are.”

He looked at her, the friend who had got him through so much. “Maybe there’s some way we can … I don’t know, maybe make things better for the women here. If we put our heads together.”

“I don’t see how.” She’d been thinking about it. “Perhaps what I said yesterday might have lit a spark in some of them, but …”

“No guarantee.”

“No, sir.”

“Eats at you, don’t it?” he asked. “Not being able to do the right thing.”

She picked up another plate and started to dry. “We’re just playing at this, but these folks have to live here when we’ve gone. I know I ain't gonna be elected – that’s pretty much a given. But …”

“But you want to do your best.”

“Yes.”

“Then maybe you should do some real campaigning. You know, get out there, let folks know what you believe in, what you stand for. There weren’t but a coupla hundred people there last night, and even if they each went and told a hundred more, that won’t get it around Jericho the way it should.”

She had paused, staring at the soap suds as if she could see the future in them. “You think?”

“Hey, it ain't up to me. I’m not standing for election. But if I were you … yeah, I think maybe I would. There’s time enough before voting day for you to make a difference.”

“You honestly think I could?”

He put his hand on her arm. “I know you, Zoe. Given a long enough time and the right weapons, I think you could take over Parliament.”

She finally cracked a smile. “I don’t think I want to do that, sir.”

“No, well, neither would I. Not without that nuke we mentioned. But this little piece of nothing out here … maybe we could start something.”

She looked into his blue eyes, seeing the man who had believed they could win against the great Alliance looking back at her. She chuckled. “You know, River says it only takes a single snowflake to start an avalanche.”

“Or a small stone a rockslide.” He nudged her. “Wanna?”

“Yes.”

“Good.” He grinned. “But we’d better finish this washing up first, before my wife tans my backside for neglecting our duties.”

“We wouldn’t want that now, would we?”

“Well, not ‘til I can relax and enjoy it.”

---

Kaylee was happy to be outside, feeling the sun on her skin, the warmth making the slight ache in her back easier to bear. “It’s kinda nice here, don’t you think?” she said, smiling at a woman passing them by, and receiving nothing but a glare in response. “Although the folks could do with bein’ a mite friendlier.”

River stopped counting the leaves on the trees and concentrated back on her sister-in-law. “They’re afraid.”

Kaylee’s eyebrows almost disappeared into her hair. “Of us?”

“Of anyone new. Different.”

“And there I was thinking it was my sparkling personality,” Zoe said dryly.

“You impressed people yesterday,” River pointed out.

Kaylee looked as if she was about to be effusive again, so the first mate went on quickly, “Yesterday and today are different things entirely. Besides, we’re here.” She looked up at the Election offices.

“You got the doodad?” Kaylee asked River.

“Here.” The young woman patted the pocket in her floral dress.

“Hopefully it won’t set off any alarms, seeing as it’s a passive scanner, but if it does you tip me the wink and I’ll go into early labour.”

“I won’t need it,” River said. “I’ll remember.”

“Humour us,” Zoe instructed. She glanced over her shoulder. “Where’s Jayne?”

River didn’t look. “Behind the church halfway down the street. He’s wishing we’d get on with it.”

“He ain't the only one. Come on.” She led the way inside.

---

“Come on,” Ethan said. “Race you.”

Ben and Hope scrambled from their chairs, glad lessons were over for the day, Jesse following a little slower. There might be homework to do later, but now it was time for fun and games.

“Don’t run!” Freya called as they headed out of the kitchen area, more in hope than expecting them to listen to her.

“Yes, Mama!” Ethan shouted back, his little feet pounding down the metal staircase towards the cargo bay.

Freya shook her head, a smile on her face as she put the portable Cortex link away, then realised Bethie was still sitting at the table behind her.

“Don’t you want to go play?” she asked, closing the cupboard. “You’re usually the first out of the gate.”

“Wanted to ask something.”

Freya smiled, looking at the little girl. “Go ahead, Bethie.”

“What exactly is a ‘lection?”

“An election.”

“Yes.”

Freya sat down. “Well …” She explained, not worrying too much about using long words, since she knew Bethie would understand, and if she didn’t she’d ask. “Did that make sense?”

“Mmn.”

“Why did you want to know?”

“No reason,” the little girl said guilelessly. “Just wondered.”

“We can look it up tomorrow, if you like. I was going to do a lesson on it later on anyway, but I can easily bring it forward. There have been some interesting ones in the last hundred years or so. I remember finding it fascinating when I was a girl.”

“P’raps.” Bethie thought for a moment. “Was Uncle Mal ‘lected?”

Freya smiled. “No, he wasn’t elected.”

“But he tells people what to do.”

“That’s different. This is his boat.”

“Bought and paid for.”

“Exactly.”

“So can people buy ‘lections?”

Now Freya knew she was deliberately dropping the ‘e’ to be cute, and she was content to let her get away with it for a little while longer, at least until she’d figured out what the little Tam was up to. “Yes, Bethie, they can. But it’s not right, not in a free ‘verse. The people who get elected, they represent everyone else, so they should be honest.”

“Like Uncle Mal.”

Freya had to stop herself from chuckling. “Yes. Like Uncle Mal.”

“I see.”

Freya could see wheels turning, thoughts ticking over, but she wasn't going to peek. That would make finding out in the natural course of things a lot less fun. “Is there anything else you wanted to know?”

“No.” Bethie got down from her chair. “Thank you.” She started for the doorway.

“Bethie?”

“Yes, Auntie Frey?”

“Whatever it is, no-one’s to get hurt, okay?”

“Okay, Auntie Frey.” Bethie gave her a wide smile and disappeared.

For a long moment Freya sat staring into nothing much, then shook her head. She was going to have control, if it killed her. People didn’t like their thoughts intruded on, to know someone had run naked through their innermost secrets, and besides, Bethie would know. Better to let it take its natural course.

She picked up the instructions Kaylee had left for her, written in a rounded, easy-to-read script. This was her homework, with a mock-up of the part in the engine room for when she felt ready for the practical application. She sighed and started to read. ‘Locate the inhibitor pin into the G-valve and give it a good strong turn to the left. It’ll lock. If it doesn’t, you have to …’

She sighed again. It was going to be a long day.

to be continued

COMMENTS

Tuesday, June 9, 2009 6:25 AM

ANGELLEMARCS


So...Zoe is feelin' needed and the pressures of a politician. I like that. It means she actually cares about what she's 'doin'. I also like the curiosity you have Bethie display. It is so childlike. Nicely written...but no keepin' Zoe on Jericho....LOL

Tuesday, June 9, 2009 9:33 AM

WAKEUPSOON


I'm intrigued about what Bethie's up to more'n anything if I'm honest - she can be too smart for her own good sometimes ... Lol. Can't wait to read more!
Anna.x.(:

Tuesday, June 9, 2009 10:40 AM

KATESFRIEND


Great chapter here, Jane, a lot of different characters and conversations and pacing - all very well characterized. But my favorite was the Mal and Zoe conversation. It said so much about their characters and friendship. But you sure have me curious about Bethie!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009 12:55 PM

AMDOBELL


I loved the conversation between Zoe and Mal at the kitchen sink. Those two are so close and I like how they always look out for each other. As for Bethie I have a horrible feeling she is going to get into trouble. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Tuesday, June 9, 2009 2:05 PM

NCBROWNCOAT


You've set up a lot of possible ways things could go pear shaped and most involve the female portion of the crew. Can't wait to see what happens.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009 9:45 AM

SLUMMING


Excellent chapter, as I'm always a sucker for a good conversation between Mal and Zoe! :)


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“His name’s Jayne?”

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