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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Maya. Post-BDM. Just a little fluff before people start breaking the law. The run up to the final meeting. NEW CHAPTER
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1737 RATING: 10 SERIES: FIREFLY
Zoe opened her eyes, stared into the darkness above her, then shifted slightly in bed. Don’t do that again, the little voice in the back of her mind said as a groan forced itself past her lips. Muscles she wasn’t even aware she had were complaining, and her ribs were backing them up in far too loud a fashion.
Moving to try and see the clock out of the one eye that wasn’t almost swollen shut, she had to bite back on another moan that threatened to erupt. Told you. She glanced to one side – at least Hank wasn’t in bed next to her to hear her being weak. Not weak, the voice put in again. Not your fault.
No. This time it was someone else’s, and she had to smile as she remembered Freya’s return, even though it tugged on the sealed cut on her cheek.
Freya had finally arrived back just as everyone was sitting down to supper.
“You were gone long enough. I was starting to wonder if I maybe needed to send a rescue party. Jayne okay about staying?” Mal asked, moving up slightly to make room for her to get by.
She slid into her seat, smiling at Ethan next to her. “Shiny,” she said to Mal. “Mercy was just about to cook so Jayne had a grin on his face when I left.”
“Well, you did warn her about not letting him in the kitchen.”
“I think she was looking forward to preparing a meal for him. I doubt she has guests that often.”
Mal’s own lips twitched. “Was that all he was grinning about?”
“Well, no,” Freya admitted. “He rather enjoyed having his ‘word’.”
“Are they still walking?” Simon wanted to know, handing her the plate of food he’d put to one side.
“Just.” Freya laughed. “They won’t be threatening anyone else for a while, that’s for sure.”
“He didn’t ...” Even now the young doctor was circumspect, wary of little ears around the table listening in. He shouldn’t have worried.
“Did Uncle Jayne beat them up?” Bethie asked, apparently intent on getting as much mashed potato as possible onto her fork while still paying strict attention to the conversation.
Simon rolled his eyes while Kaylee said brightly, “No, honey. Uncle Jayne didn’t beat anyone up,” at the same time as glaring at the captain’s wife.
“It’s okay, sweetie,” Freya agreed. “Jayne just talked to them.”
Bethie gave her a look that said she knew exactly what Jayne had done, and nobody was going to be able to convince her otherwise. With a sigh she went back to something much more interesting, and began shovelling her food into her mouth again.
It was only later, when everyone was turning in for the night, that Mal took Freya and Zoe to one side. “Well?” he asked. “Did he figure out who paid them? And am I looking at my gunhand getting bound for killing anyone?”
“No,” Freya said. “They might have a few more cuts and bruises, but they’re alive.” She exhaled steadily. “And it’s who we suspected.”
“Bea Jarvis,” Zoe supplied.
“You didn’t set them on us.”
“I know. But …”
“What do you want to do about it?” Mal wanted to know.
“Not sure,” his first mate admitted. “I think I’d like to sleep on it.”
“Are you going to tell Mercy?” he asked.
“No.” Zoe paused. “At least, I don’t think so. Like we’ve been saying all along, she has to live here after we’re long gone.”
For once Freya disagreed. “She has the right to know. If she does win, and decides to give Bea a job, don’t you think she should be aware the woman tried to have her hurt? Or worse?”
Mal looked at her. “Do you think that’s what would have happened?”
His wife shrugged. “I didn’t Read them, if that’s what you’re asking. But Jayne seemed pretty sure they wouldn’t have just stopped with their fists.” Her mouth curved slightly. “I think that’s partly why he talked to them longer than was strictly necessary.”
He wasn't surprised. There wasn’t a man on board Serenity who condoned violence towards women. “I’m guessing they ain’t gonna be walking well for a few days.”
“A few weeks, more likely.”
Mal had seemed more than happy at the result, and he’d escorted Freya off to bed with a smile on his face.
Zoe, on the other hand, had taken advantage of the fact that they were landbound, and took the longest shower of her life, knowing the water tanks would be refilled before they left. Just standing under the hot spray, letting it alternately pound into her aches then caress them, made her feel a whole lot better, despite the continuous loop in her mind of the open air debate. She had to smile, though. Mercy had really come through, and if she didn’t win, it wouldn’t be through lack of trying. And after the next meeting, Zoe was going to make sure.
Finally stepping out of the shower, she dried her hair as much as possible, then peeled the waterproof weave off her cheek, examining it in the mirror. The cut was barely damp, although in the stark light of the tiled room it looked a lot worse that it had before. Broken blood vessels had also darkened her skin around her eye, and she had to agree with Simon – it looked like she was a battered wife.
Well, good. She had what she was going to say all planned, and even if it didn’t have the clever lilt of the speech written for her, it was going to come from the heart.
She’d barely managed to fall into bed before sleep overtook her.
Now she lay on her back, watching Hank descend the ladder into their bunk.
“Hey, sleepy,” he said, grinning at her. “I thought for a while you were going to doze the day away.”
“Too much to do,” she said. She stretched, ignoring the pain this time, although obviously not enough.
Hank crossed to the bed, sitting down on the edge. “Here.” He held out his hand, open palm up.
She stared at the little tablets. “What are they?”
“Patented Simon medicament, guaranteed to perk you up, curl your hair, and cure you of anything that ails you. Including colic, the gripes, and ingrowing toenails.”
She had to laugh, then wished she hadn’t. “Honey, were you a snake oil salesman in a former life?”
He put his free hand on his chest, above his heart. “You got me. I lied about everything, and I'm really a snake oil magnate with billions of credits in the bank, and a penchant for travelling the ‘verse under the persona of this poor, penniless pilot.”
“I thought so.”
“So all this time we’ve been trying to make ends meet, and you’re sitting on a pile of dough.”
“Yes.” He nodded, his untidy brown hair unnaturally serious.
“You know what that makes you, don’t you?”
He perked up. “A scoundrel?”
“A liar,” she corrected.
“Oh, no, let me be a scoundrel. I’ve always dreamed of being one. Heading off into the night on my dashing black steed, seducing women left, right and centre, before coming home again with the dawn.”
“How many women?”
“This seduction. I think I need figures here.”
“Um …” He began to count on his fingers. “Multiply by … then carry the …” His grey eyes screwed up as he concentrated. “Then take away the number you first thought of …” He returned his gaze to her. “One?”
“That’s fine, then.” She took the tablets from him, idly wondering for a moment what it was about her that attracted these odd men, and what about them attracted her. First Wash, now Hank … Somehow, from where she sat – or more precisely, lay – it seemed like perhaps it was inevitable.
He nodded, almost as if he knew what she was thinking. It wouldn’t surprise her if he was a little bit psychic. Or possibly crazy.
“You know,” he said conversationally, “those little pills will work a lot quicker if you take them. I mean, they could make you feel better just by holding onto them, but I think you might find actually swallowing them –”
“Fine.” She lifted herself onto her elbow. “Water?”
“Water.” He jumped to his feet, saluted, and hurried to the small sink.
She watched him as he filled a glass, and wondered if they were always going to be like this. Oh, they argued. Sometimes for days at a time. Mal had always said never to go to bed angry, and he’d done his best to keep to that with Frey, but Zoe wasn’t made of the same stuff. Until Hank finally admitted to his gambling problem, she had seriously considered her options, whether it was leaving him and taking Ben with her, or making him go. Living on a ship, of course, didn’t help. Close proximity meant they had to work things out, not let them fester. Although maybe that was a good thing.
He headed back to her, and for a moment a serious look passed over his eyes, as if … No. He was probably just picking up on her expression. Holding out the glass he said, “Here you go.”
“I’m glad I didn’t get rid of you,” she said, the words coming out almost without intervention of her brain.
Hank sat down again, letting his fingers glide through her curls, ghosting over the bruising on her cheek. “Yeah. Me too.” There seemed to be more that he wanted to say, probably along the lines that she shouldn’t put herself in harm’s way, but they’d come to an understanding a long time ago that he’d keep things like that to a minimum. Instead he grinned. “Come on. If you want food you’d better get up now.”
Swallowing the tablets quickly and washing the bitter taste away, she shook her head. “I’m not that hungry.”
“That’s a pity.” He sighed theatrically. “Considering Simon said you had to eat when you took those pills.”
She narrowed her eyes slightly. “And you couldn’t have told me this before I took them?”
“No. Because then you probably wouldn’t have, and you’d be in pain for the rest of the day.” His tone might not have been serious, but he meant every word. “Besides,” he added, jumping to his feet and stepping to the ladder, “then you wouldn’t have been in for a Hank surprise.”
He held up a finger to tell her to wait, and scrambled up the ladder, returning only a second later with a tray he’d obviously had waiting. Climbing down with only one hand to hold onto the rungs had its precarious moments, but he made it to the deck. Stepping back to the bed he placed it next to her. “Voila!” he said, twitching the cloth from the top,
Zoe had to laugh, even though it hurt. On the tray was a bowl of hot cereal, a jug of warm milk, what looked like half a loaf of toast, whatever substitute it was they were using this month for butter, and two mugs of coffee. “You did all this?”
“I did.” A semi-guilty look passed swiftly across his face. “Well, Frey did the cereal. But I put the rest together.”
She shook her head. “Maybe I have to get beaten up more often.”
“No.” His hand was suddenly on hers. “Don’t.”
Looking into his grey eyes, she saw the depth of his feelings so clearly it was as if he’d sky-written them. She nodded this time. “Okay.” Glancing down at the tray, she added, “You know, there’s far too much for just me.”
He grabbed one of the two spoons lurking under the bowl. “I never thought you’d ask.”
Jesse had finally finished her breakfast, taking her time as usual, and had got down to play with Maoli who was lying stretched out on the rest area chairs, her tail flicking as the little girl tried to catch it.
“If’n that cat scratches her, there’ll be tears,” Mal warned.
Freya smiled. “Maoli’s far too good for that.”
“She’s a feline type creature.”
He looked at his wife, only the pair of them still at the table, nursing final cups of coffee. “That supposed to be an answer?”
“Cats are remarkably intelligent,” Freya explained.
“Always preferred dogs myself.”
“Well, me too, but I can see the appeal.”
Jesse giggled, stopping the one game to start another, running her hand all along Maoli’s body from nose to tip, eliciting purrs that should, by rights, have come from a much larger animal.
“Anyway, getting back to what I was saying.” Mal took a sip of coffee, finding it had grown almost cold. Standing up he motioned with his mug, but Freya shook her head, indicating she’d had enough. He went to top his up. “I just think Jayne’s being surprisingly ... well, not like Jayne,” he said as he tipped the beverage away down the sink before refilling from the pot.
“Oddly enough, Jayne’s pretty much a gentleman when it comes to women.” She watched him lean nonchalantly against the counter.
“Jayne? We are talking about the same feller here, ain’t we? The same one as kept a whole stable of whorehouses in business?” Mal shook his head. “Only I don’t remember seeing much evidence of any chivalrous behaviour.”
She chuckled and stood up, stretching slightly. “He hasn’t been to a whorehouse in years, as you well know.” Picking up her empty mug she joined him in the kitchen area. “I doubt he’d have the energy, not with River to keep him warm.”
Mal put on a pained looked. “I really don’t need to know that, xin gan.”
Grinning, she elbowed him gently out of the way so she could get to the sink where she rinsed the mug quickly, drying it on a towel. “Anyway, why shouldn’t he be a gentleman towards Mercy?” There was no answer. “Mal.”
“Mmn?” He wasn’t really taking that much notice seeing as he was standing very close behind her, and using his height advantage to look down her shirt. She hadn’t buttoned as high as usual, and he could see the swell of her ...
“Stop that!” She glanced at him, an indulgent smile on her lips.
“Why? I like looking.”
“You were sleeping next to it all last night. And considerably less clothed, too.”
“Yeah, but there’s something about seeing it all ... hidden like that.”
“Anyway, why shouldn’t Jayne be like that?”
“What? Oh. Just … it ain’t like him. It kind of freezes the blood.”
“Actually, it is like him.”
He moved around so he could look into her face. “Explain.”
“He doesn’t hurt women. Well, not unless he’s being paid to. But when he used to visit those very same whorehouses, there wasn’t one that turned him away. He treated the women he bedded well.”
“He tried to sell River on Ariel.”
“And now they’re married.”
“Hell of a way to start a relationship.”
“Mal, Jayne was brought up to respect women. His Ma made sure of that. And even if he was on his uppers it would take near starvation for him to take a job to kill one.”
“Unless it’s Saffron.”
“Unless it’s her.”
Mal glanced over his shoulder at Ethan, who was just stepping down into the galley. “I’ll tell you later.”
“Does nakedness come into this?”
Freya snorted a laugh. “What is it about this crew?”
“Too gorram pretty for our own good, that’s the trouble.” He pressed a little closer.
“Stop that,” she said again, this time keeping her voice low. Making him move back she smiled at her son. “Morning, Ethan.”
“Morning, Mama.” The little boy rubbed his eyes and yawned. “Morning, Daddy,” he added, somewhat indistinctly.
“Did you oversleep?” Freya asked.
“Mmn.” He stretched, his pyjamas riding up to show his pale belly, then ran across the room for Mal to pick him up.
“Oof,” his father complained. “You’re getting heavy.” He settled him on the counter.
Ethan grinned, pushing his hair out of his eyes. “I'm growing up,” he said proudly.
“Not too fast,” Freya amended.
“No, Mama,” he agreed. Then he looked down. “My tummy’s making funny noises.”
“Mmn.” He smacked his lips.
“Well, breakfast’s done, but I'm sure I can find something for you.”
Mal felt someone tug at his pants.
He looked down into Jesse’s upturned face. “What is it, sweetheart?”
“’M hungry too.”
He lifted her up to sit next to her brother. “You’ve just eaten.”
“Cookie?” she asked hopefully.
Mal laughed. “Ask your mother. I’ve got things to be doing down in the cargo bay.” He ruffled both their heads and started for the stairs.
“That’s it,” Freya called. “Make me out to be the bad guy when I say no.”
“Then don’t say no.” He just managed to duck out of the way of the metal mug that clattered into the corridor in front of him.
Somehow the day didn’t seem to have enough hours in it, and all too soon it was coming up on the time they needed to be gone. Mostly it was Kaylee doing the work, although for anything that needed heavy lifting or welding she had a number of pressganged volunteers, even though she itched to do it herself.
By five the old mule was ready, the engine muffled as much as the young mechanic could make it, and various protuberances poking out from underneath.
“Is it gonna work?” Mal asked, staring at the old vehicle.
“Sure it is.” But even Kaylee’s bright disposition couldn’t let that go by without adding, “Long as you don’t break it.” She gave a low chuckle at the affronted look on his face, before she added, “Back in a mo,” and hurried off to the washroom to pee yet again.
River spent the last hour or so stretching, climbing the catwalks from the outside and worrying everyone by hanging off them apparently by her toes. Eventually she seemed to be satisfied. “I'm going to change,” she said, her bare feet not making a sound as she ascended the stairs to the shuttle.
If she was surprised when Mal followed her inside, she didn’t show it.
“Xiao nu …” He stopped, aware he’d called her ‘daughter’ before he could stop it slipping from his lips.
“You want to know if I’m positive this is the only way,” she supplied, stripping her sweaty top from her skin without thinking.
“Hey!” He turned around, barely in time to stop himself from seeing the creamy pale flesh exposed.
“Sorry,” she said, grabbing her robe and pulling it on. “You can look again.” As he turned warily back, she shrugged. “Used to getting undressed in here,” she said. “Didn’t think.”
“Your mind not on the job, albatross?”
“It will be,” she said firmly.
“And yeah, you’re right. I need to know. Is there another way we can do this? I hate putting you into danger like this.”
“No danger. Just me and the building. One against the other.”
“That don’t make it sound any better.”
“That’s because you care about me, jia yan.”
“Not your father,” he said, but without any heat.
River smiled. “And everything will be fine.” She hugged him, planting a kiss on his cheek. “Now go. I have to change.” She went to open her robe. “Unless you’d like to watch?”
Mal backed up, shaking his head. “No, no, that’s … And don’t you even go mentioning to Jayne you suggested it, even in jest. No telling what the man might do.” He hurried out of the shuttle to the sound of River’s laughter.
Zoe was already in her bunk, brushing her hair and getting ready for the last meeting, at least until Hank took the brush from her hands and did it himself. For a moment she watched him in the mirror, at the way his concentration was centred on the one task, running his fingers through her heavy tresses.
“You like it, don’t you?” she asked softly. “My hair.”
His reflection smiled. “I love it. Just like I love you.”
“You’re just jealous.”
The doppelganger laughed. “You think I’d give up this mess I call a hairstyle for yours? Never.” He let himself feel the weight. “Are you going to wear it up?”
“No. Just the usual.”
“Shiny.” He picked up the curved wooden hair slide and its accompanying pin, a gift she’d told him once that Wash had carved for her. It was polished walnut, apparently, and the pattern in the grain shone through the oiled surface. Catching her locks at either side of her head, he pulled them gently back into the curve, then slid the pin expertly home, catching it in place. His grey eyes travelled to her dark ones. “What about clothes? I’ve got that dress ready for –”
“No,” she said firmly. “No dress. I'm not going to pretend to be what I'm not. Not anymore.”
“But if you’re planning on going naked …” He tried to make a joke of it, aware she might just take offence.
To his intense relief she smiled. “No. Not naked. I think they’d like that too much. I’ll be wearing clothes, just not a dress.”
He grinned. “That’s my Zoe. No dress, and no make-up on this either.” He touched the bruises marring her beautiful dark skin. “Showing these hwoon dahn what their planet’s really like.”
“I know what you mean.” She gazed at herself in the mirror. “Shouldn’t be that way, either. I mean, you look at it and it’s a nice place. Then you start digging, and it’s built on all this poison …”
Hank put his arm around her shoulders. “Then it’s time it got lanced, don’t you think?”
She nodded. “I surely do.”
to be continued
Thursday, July 16, 2009 7:16 AM
Thursday, July 16, 2009 12:43 PM
Thursday, July 16, 2009 12:44 PM
Thursday, July 16, 2009 2:00 PM
Thursday, July 16, 2009 3:11 PM
Thursday, July 16, 2009 6:20 PM
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