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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Maya. Post-BDM. On Beaumonde, the women prepare to take their cruise. NEW CHAPTER (and a little longer than usual to make up for my tardiness)
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1881 RATING: 10 SERIES: FIREFLY
Beaumonde hadn’t changed. It was still colourful, brash, noisy, smelly, dangerous … and Mal took a deep breath, enjoying every molecule. As much as he liked Lazarus, there was something about it that sometimes made him a little sad, something that probably reminded him of Shadow, of his home and lost family. Freya could usually win him around, make him laugh again, but there were times seeing the mountains, the plains, and it stirred too many memories. And the truth was this place was nothing like it, at least not around the port.
“You wanna call in on the twins whilst we’re here?” Jayne asked, standing with him at the open cargo bay doors, looking out into the neon-coloured darkness.
“I doubt they’ll talk to me.”
“It’s been a long time since those men came to kill ‘em.” He was talking about the time of Miranda, and the blood that had run down the Maidenhead’s walls.
“And they still blame me.”
“Fanty and Mingo weren’t even there.” Jayne growled. “Off in the mountains someplace, I heard.”
“That didn’t stop the attack.”
“Not your fault.”
Mal didn’t answer. He really didn’t want to get into the same old discussion over guilt and responsibility. That was, as he’d said to a certain preacher once, a train long gone. “Anyway, no need. That job from Badger? We pick up some crates on Aberdeen, drop ‘em off on Santo and head to Persephone to get paid.”
“What’s the weasel into now?”
“Ore mining, apparently.”
For a long, pleasurable moment Jayne entertained himself with a mental picture of Badger with a pick in his hand, swinging wildly at a rock face, but it slid away all too quickly, replaced by the usual feeling of hanging over a precipice when they dealt with the mini-tycoon. “So that’s what we’re carrying?” He glanced over his shoulder. “Serenity gonna be able to lift off with a hold fulla metal?”
“It’s not much. Just some samples.” Mal smiled. “It seems Badger doesn’t trust the surveyors he hired.”
“And he trusts us?”
“No. But we trustworthily untrustable.”
“Huh?” Jayne’s brow furrowed.
“I know. But that’s what he said.”
“Nothing that’s gonna blow up, I hope.”
“We’ll check before it even crosses the threshold. Hank can play with that new little toy of his.” The pilot had spent some time rigging a small portable sensor, designed to pick up on the bits of grit that made living so pleasurable, like illicit explosive substances. “He’ll like that.”
“And if it works we’ll never hear the end.” Jayne sighed. “Sometimes I gotta wonder whether it’s worth staying.”
“My Jayne isn’t thinking of leaving?” River murmured, having whispered up behind the two men and slipped her arms around her husband’s waist. “I would be forced to break both your legs to stop you.”
Mal tried to keep the grin from his face.
“Ya think you can?”
“Do you want to leave?”
“Nope. Just bashing my gums.”
“Then we don’t need to find out.” She slid around under his arm. “Captain,” she said formally to Mal.
“Albatross. They ready?”
River watched a man walk by the Firefly with a monkey on a chain. They were wearing matching waistcoats. “Zoe is complaining.”
“She doesn’t want to go?”
“She wants to wear her gun.”
This time Mal had to smile. “She couldn’t draw it anyhow, not with her shoulder the way it is.” A chuckle rose up from his belly. “Besides, she knows they have scanners, doesn’t she?”
“I’ve told her. So has Frey.” River sighed. “She says she isn’t leaving the ship unless she has something to kill people with.”
“You think I should keep out of the way?”
“Probably a good idea.” She snuggled into Jayne’s chest.
“Only they ain’t got that much time if they want to catch the liner.”
“Kaylee is remonstrating with her, in between giving Simon copious notes on how to look after David.”
“And I’m betting he’s taking every one seriously.”
“Mmn. At the moment she’s telling him he has to take David into the engine room every day, so he can get used to it.”
Mal laughed. “Since that boy’s still happier with when we’re planetside, that’s probably a good one.”
“Not that Zoe is listening.”
Jayne shifted uncomfortably. “Oh, hell,” the big man said. “I suppose I could …” He stopped.
“Could what?” Mal prompted.
“If you don’t mind,” River said cryptically.
The psychic turned her dark pools of eyes on him. “Not talking to you. Talking to Jayne.”
“Then someone tell me what you’re talking about, ‘fore I take it into my head I could do without my two best gunhands.”
She giggled. “Empty threats,” she said softly. “We know you.”
Mal shook his head, sighing deeply. “Can’t even threaten you anymore.”
“Maybe on Thursdays. When there’s an ‘r’ in the month.”
Rolling his eyes, Mal turned to Jayne. “You gonna be any more understandable?”
The ex-mercenary was grinning. “Just hang on a sec.” He disentangled River’s arms from his waist and jogged across the bay floor, going up the metal staircase two at a time, his boots making the air ring.
“River?” Mal turned to the young woman at his side.
“Better call the others,” she said firmly.
“You ordering me around on my own boat?”
She smiled brilliantly at him. “No ‘r’.”
Mal hid the grin and turned to the comm. instead. Pressing down on the button, he said, “Anyone liking to get off here had better be in the cargo bay, packed and pressed, in the next five minutes, else the liner’ll be leaving without you.” He let go and glanced at her as the echoes of his voice died away. “Okay?”
Jayne clattered back towards them, something in his hands. “Here,” he said, holding it out.
Mal stared at it. “What the hell is it?”
“What does it look like?”
“A gun, but not like any I’ve seen before.”
Jayne stroked it lovingly. “Yeah. Katie’s pretty unique.”
Mal shook his head at the man’s insistence on naming all his weapons, and just studied the gun. It was about the size of an old-fashioned .38, if a little more bulbous at the stock end. It had a normal side loading magazine, adjustable sight, but it was the slightly golden tint, as if someone had polished it with watery sunshine, that caught the eye. Something stirred in Mal’s brain, and his jaw dropped. “Wait. Is that … a Feldman?”
“It is,” Jayne said proudly.
“Now I’m sure I ain’t ever seen one before,” Mal admitted.
The company of Feldman, Greenberg, Narcisso and Buck had been short-lived, but in the few years they were making weaponry had carved a name for themselves as innovative and daring. They been bought up, some might say inevitably, by Blue Sun some ten years previously, subsumed into the morass of Alliance-friendly firearms makers. Most of their pieces were in private collections or museums, so to find one in the hands of an ex-mercenary on a Rim-plying freighter was unusual, to say the least.
“Wanna take a look?” Jayne handed the gun over.
Mal tilted it first one way, then the other. “It’s light. Lighter’n I’d’ve thought.” He sited down the barrel, taking a bead on the stall a little way off selling wild birds in cages.
“Yeah. That’s the alloy. Something about it being mixed with a certain type of plastic, throws off the sensors enough so it don’t look like a gun.” He grinned. “Don’t stop it from being efficient, though.”
“Can’t help feeling it’s likely to fall apart on me.”
“Nope. Katie’s built to last, despite her looks.” Jayne took it back, admiring it anew. “I ain’t really had a chance to use her professionally yet, seeing as being intimidatin’ is my business, and that means having a lot of visible weaponry about my person,” he explained. “But she’s clean, and accurate, too.”
“What about ammo?”
“Takes standard 9s, but in this case I’ve got a box of Dreg shells.”
Mal’s eyebrows went up. Dreg coating – or diomorphic regenerated beryllium, to give it its proper terminology – was expensive, and generally limited to high-end production items, rendering whatever was covered virtually invisible to any normal scanner. This also made it on the verge of illegal, particularly when applied to weaponry. “Okay, so who’d you steal it off?”
If Jayne could have blushed, he would have. As it was, his ears turned a delicate shade of pink, just on the tips. “Well, ya see, after our run-in with the Reavers, you were a long time coming back to Hera to pick me and River up, and we had to do something, so we kinda explored, came across their armoury ...” His voice died away, and when he spoke again he sounded belligerent. “Got a problem with that?”
“Not particularly.” Mal shrugged. “In all honesty, I’d rather we had it than the New Browncoats, or the Alliance.” He saw Jayne relax. “And I think Zoe wouldn’t feel quite so naked if she had that with her. Thanks.”
“Hey, no problem.”
“But are you sure you don’t mind? I mean, she must be worth a pretty penny.”
Jayne shrugged. “Katie’s a gun, and guns needs to do what their meant to.”
“Fulfil the purpose they were created for,” River breathed, then trembled as her thoughts were drawn to the Academy.
“Yeah,” Jayne said, pulling her close, not needing to be a psychic to understand his wife. “And some of ‘em are more than their parts.”
For the second time in as many minutes Mal looked surprised. “You’re philosophising? Okay, who are you, and where’ve you put the real Jayne?”
River wrinkled her nose at him, then patted her husband on the rear. “Go and give that to Zoe.”
“’Kay.” Jayne dipped his head and put a kiss on her lips before striding back for the stairs.
“How come he doesn’t do what I tell him?” Mal wondered aloud.
“Because you don’t lie naked next to him at night.”
“Thanks, albatross. I really needed that mental image.”
“You’re welcome.” This time she snuggled up close to him.
“You having one of those days?” he asked, putting his arm around her shoulders. “Needing to be close to folks?”
“I’m hoping you’re meaning me and not this place.” He nodded out towards the hustle and bustle.
“Mmn.” She closed her eyes.
“I'm really starting to worry about the pair of you,” came a voice from above and behind them.
Mal glanced over his shoulder and smiled at Freya coming down the stairs, a borrowed case of Inara’s in her hand, wearing the dark purple dress Dillon had bought her. “And there I was thinking we’d been discreet,” he joked.
“Not that discreet.” She shook her head. “Just be glad Jayne isn’t here, or I might be missing a husband.”
“I'm fair sure I could talk him out of it,” Mal said.
Laughing, Freya crossed the deck and stood the other side from River, speaking to her. “Maybe I’m feeling a little jealous. Knowing you’re going to be the only woman on this ship for two weeks.”
“Bethie will be here,” River pointed out. “So will Hope.”
“Woman, River. Not girl.”
River peered around at her. “I'm not a girl anymore?”
“You’re a wife and mother. I think that makes you a woman.”
“Good.” She let go of Mal and stood straight. “I’d better go and hurry the others up, then. In my womanly capacity.” She skipped off.
Mal chuckled. “I think maybe you were wrong.”
“So where’ve you been?” he asked, sneaking his arm around her waist. “Thought maybe you’d decided to stay here with me instead of gallivanting around the ‘verse.”
“There was a wave from Dillon,” she explained, taking a deep breath of his personal scent to ward off the odours of Beaumonde. Although she liked a good, smelly bar as much as her husband, some of those wafting towards her were not only unidentifiable, but made her stomach roll a little. “He’s found someone he thinks might be suitable as a bodyguard.”
“Shiny. We can look him over when the liner gets to Persephone.”
“Actually, I’ll be doing the looking. He’s on Delphi, our next port of call.”
Mal’s eyebrows raised. “What’s he doing there? It ain’t like there’s much to do on that planet.”
“There’s hot springs, waterfalls, all the wonder of nature.”
“And no call for a gunhand.”
“Oh, I imagine there’s call for one of those pretty much everywhere.” She sighed. “But apparently this particular one fell foul of his last employer and decided to jump ship.”
“Not exactly a plus on his side.”
“We don’t know it was his fault.”
“Well, I’ll make sure.” She tapped her temple. “He won’t know. And if we don’t like him, Dillon will have time to find someone else.”
“Just be careful. Some folks don’t like having their brains rummaged in.”
“I will be.”
He nodded, satisfied. “So what’s this paragon of virtue’s name?”
“Never heard of him.”
“Which is a plus, considering the company we keep sometimes.”
“How do you figure that?”
“He must be inconspicuous.”
“Long as he can fire a gun and hit what he’s aiming at.”
There was a thud followed by swearing behind them, and Hank and Simon manhandled a trunk almost as big as Jayne through the common area doorway.
“Did you have to pack the gorram kitchen sink?” the pilot wheezed. “I’m never gonna be able to straighten up.”
“It’s a cruise,” Inara said soothingly, following them with a much smaller bag. “One never knows when one will be called upon to be stunning.”
“Oh, ain’t that the case,” Hank teased. “I have the same trouble.”
“Who knows, we might be invited to dine with the captain,” Inara went on, patting his arm.
“You have been for a week,” Simon pointed out, mentally enumerating all the aches and pains his body was complaining about, and wondering if he could prevail on River to give him a medicinal rub down with the high-power pain killing gel he kept hidden away. Then he pictured the look on her face, and decided he’d just have to do it himself.
Mal preened a little, but was deflated quickly enough as Inara said, “It’s not the same. The captain of the Empress of Sihnon is … well, he’s …” She stopped.
“Go on,” Serenity’s own captain said, amusement in his blue eyes. “What is he? And remembering I’m gonna be picking you up on Persephone.”
She didn’t let him intimidate her, though. “A gentleman,” she shot back, her chin lifting in defiance.
“So what am I? Something you walked in on your shoe?”
Inara coloured, just a little, along the top of her cheekbones. “You have to admit, Serenity doesn’t have quite the same cachet as the flagship of the line.”
“I’d probably argue if I knew what you mean.”
“You can play dumb all you want, Mal.” Inara looked down her nose at him. “We both know you understand.”
“Stop it,” Freya said mildly. “There’s to be no fighting, or one of you won’t be going anywhere.”
“Why not?” Inara asked. “It’s fun.” She laughed. “It reminds me of old times.”
“You mean those days when we were dancin’ around each other and getting precisely nowhere,” Mal observed.
“Well, those days are precisely gone,” Freya said, this time much more firmly, then made a show of looking around. “Where are the others? We really need to get going.”
“I'm here,” Kaylee said, stepping into the cargo bay, Bethie making a great show of humping a brightly coloured carpet bag over the lip.
“Heavy,” the little girl huffed.
“Not overly,” her mother said, taking it from her. “Ain't got that much, ‘specially since Inara said I had to leave my pretty dress behind.”
“You’re not taking your layer cake?” Mal asked in surprise. “I was sure you’d manage it somehow.”
“No room.” Kaylee sighed.
“Wouldn’t it fit in Inara’s –”
“No,” the ex-companion said quickly.
“It’s okay.” With a quick grin, Kaylee shrugged. “I know it ain’t the kinda thing for a grand trip like this. And I don’t wanna be showing anyone up.”
“You’d never do that, mei-mei,” Mal said gallantly.
The young woman glowed. “I love my captain.”
“At least someone’s got their priorities right.”
“I can carry it.” Zoe’s voice carried from the top hatchway, swiftly followed by Jayne, then the woman in question.
“Nope. River’d skin me if she thought I was gonna let you,” the big man said, carrying yet another of Inara’s borrowed cases down towards the others.
“Quite right,” his young wife said, stepping into the cargo bay from the lower door. “Messy.”
“You can say that again, moonbrain.” He grinned.
“And I’ve found the others,” River went on, moving to one side like a magician’s assistant, letting the Reilly twins enter.
Valentia smiled gently, but Phoebe dropped her bag unceremoniously onto the deck. She grinned widely. “Ready!” she announced loudly, and her sister rolled her eyes.
Inara shook her head. Perhaps they should make time for a refresher course in how to be a young lady.
The rented hovercar made the short trip to the bay where the Empress of Sihnon’s shuttle was berthed, the liner herself far too big to land, and stewards in black and gold livery quickly took all the luggage and loaded it aboard. Only Jayne and River were absent, ostensibly to look after Serenity, but in all honesty more to keep out of the way.
Inara and the Reilly girls boarded, leaving the three families to say goodbye more privately. Despite the rush of last minute passengers, they were a little ocean of stillness, with the transfer shuttle – in itself larger than Serenity – towering over their heads.
“Have a good time, Mama,” Ethan said, holding tightly to Jesse’s hand. “Don’t forget us.”
Freya, down on her heels in front of them, pushed his hair back from his face. “How could I? You’re my babies.”
“Not a baby,” Ethan admonished, but there was something very like a tear in his eye.
“Then you won’t want presents when I get home.”
“Well, pressies …” The thought seemed to cheer him up.
“I’ll look after him, Auntie Frey,” Bethie said, being all grown up and not gripping tightly to Kaylee’s dress, but only by sheer force of will.
“Thank you, sweetie.” Freya smiled for her then tugged her children into her arms.
Kaylee was still giving Simon instructions, her eyes flitting from his face to the baby in the sling around his chest. “… and make sure it ain’t too hot.”
“I’ll be careful,” he assured her.
Her forehead creased. “But what if he don’t like that milk?”
“He’s been fine on it for three days.” They’d tested the formula on the way to Beaumonde, and although the little baby had made an odd face at first, he seemed to enjoy it after that. “It’s got everything he needs in it until you get back. Besides, you expressed quite a bit, and if necessary I’ll add some of that.”
Mal winced, seeing Hank do the same.
Kaylee couldn’t let it go, though. “It’s just gonna feel … odd. Not feeding him.”
Simon smiled. “That shot I gave you will stop your milk production, but as soon as you’re home I’ll reverse it. Don’t worry.”
“You know I'm gonna, no matter what you say.”
“I know.” He held her as tightly as a man carrying a baby could manage.
Hank was also holding onto Zoe, but with much less in the way of aggression, seeing as her arm was still in a sling. Simon had at least taken the strapping off, but it was going to be a while before she was capable of drawing and firing a gun with that hand.
“Do you have the therapy sheets?” he asked, looking into her dark face.
“In my bag.”
“And you’ll tell the doctor, soon as you get on board.”
“And if he wants to know anything else, you get him to wave us.”
She had to smile. “Hank, it’s two weeks, not half a lifetime.”
“I know but … it’s not like we’ve been apart for that long before.”
“Just imagine what it’s going to be like when I get home.”
The pilot flushed. “I am. That’s the only reason I'm not bawling my eyes out.”
Zoe laughed. “Hold onto that thought.”
“Oh, it’ll keep me warm at night.”
Ben tugged on his mother’s pants, she of all of them not giving in to wearing a dress. “Can I have pressies too?” he asked.
“I’ll see what I can do,” she promised, her fingers cupping his chin.
Meanwhile, Freya and Mal were taking a more personal goodbye.
“You need anything, anything at all, you just holler,” he was saying, his hands on her shoulders.
“And you make sure that captain knows you’ve only got the two weeks. If you ain’t on Persephone when we land, we’re gonna come and find you, and that could be messy.”
“And …” He swallowed hard, pulling her to him instead of speaking, holding her as close as he could manage.
“I know,” she whispered. “Me too.”
“You talk to me. Every night. During the day too, if you’ve a mind,” he murmured.
“You’ll get fed up with me.”
“Nope. Ain’t done yet. I think it’s gonna take more’n a couple of lifetimes for that to happen.”
“Eight. That’s how many lifetimes we’ve already spent together, at least according to River.”
He smiled a little. “Is that all?”
“I know. Not enough.”
“Does that mean we’re soul mates?”
“I think perhaps it does.”
Zoe coughed discreetly. “I think they’re wanting to leave,” she said quietly, nodding towards the stewards waiting in the shuttle doorway.
“Right.” Mal pushed Freya away enough so he could look into her eyes. “You be good. And if you can’t be good …”
She laughed. “Okay.”
If their last kiss lasted longer than was seemly, nobody complained, and as they finally broke apart, Freya was slightly pink.
“Come on,” Kaylee said, tugging her friend’s hand. “Else I’m gonna start blubbering.” And yet, despite her words, she paused by Simon. “You wear that beacon, okay? No matter where you are.”
“I will,” he promised, brushing her lips again. “I’ve got it right now.”
“Good.” She kissed their son’s forehead, bent down to do the same to Bethie and Hope, then bruisingly once more against Simon’s lips before running up the ramp and out of sight.
Zoe followed at a more stately pace.
“Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do,” Hank called. As she turned to look at him, he gave a sheepish grin. “Unless, you know, you want to.”
“I won’t,” she promised, smiling for him before continuing inside the liner.
Hank, his face more than a little red, scooped Ben up onto his hip. “Come on, son,” he said, his voice oddly raspy. “I’ve got to get us refuelled ‘fore we can head to Aberdeen. Wanna help?”
“Yes, Daddy,” the little boy agreed, and they strode away through the crowds, giving each other comfort as only a father and son could.
“All ashore that’s going ashore!” The voice boomed from the tannoy, using words from Earth-that-was.
“I have to go too,” Freya said, running her fingers across Ethan’s head. “But the time will fly by.”
“Okay, xin gan.” Mal kissed her lightly. “I love you.”
“I love you too.” With one last, slightly forced smile, Freya walked away, and as she disappeared the ramp slid back inside the hull, and the door closed.
“Stand back!” the tannoy announced. “Everybody stand back beyond the yellow line.”
They retreated quickly, and a few moments later the shuttle lifted from its mooring, dust and other detritus blowing in the downdraught created, engines bellowing. For a moment it seemed to hang above the dock, then span on its axis, raising its nose, and headed for the sky, gathering speed until it was only a dot against the blue. Then it was gone.
“Mama’s coming back?” Jesse asked, her arms around her father’s neck, still staring upwards.
“A’course she is, JJ.” Mal smiled for her. “She’s just having a bit of a holiday, is all.”
“We had ours. Back on Lazarus.”
The little girl didn’t look convinced.
“Tell you what, sweetheart,” he said. “How ‘bout we all go to an ice cream parlour I know about, pretty close by? It has real bananas.” He suppressed the shudder that would have run through him. Somehow, he could never get enthusiastic over that particular fruit, although his daughter loved them.
Jesse’s eyes lit up. “Real nananas?”
“Me too?” Simon asked, eyeing his daughters, who were looking somewhat misty-eyed.
“I think maybe we can manage that.”
“And me,” Ethan put in, standing close to his father.
“What about Uncle Hank?” Bethie asked, wiping her nose on the back of her hand. “Don’t want him and Ben to miss out. Or Auntie River and Uncle Jayne.”
Mal smiled. “Then we’ll get some and take it back with us, okay? Maybehaps they’ll have a cold box so it won’t melt.”
“Only no syrup on mine,” Simon added. “I have to watch my waistline.”
“Why, doc? Nobody else is,” Mal quipped.
“At least I don’t have love handles.”
“You saying I’m fat?”
“Not where you could hear, no.”
“Frey don’t agree with you.”
“She’s married to you.”
“So you’re saying she has to?”
“I'm not saying anything …”
The idle bickering continued as Serenity’s family pressed onwards towards the ice cream parlour, and the crowd surged closed again behind them.
to be continued
Friday, November 6, 2009 4:55 AM
Friday, November 6, 2009 4:28 PM
Saturday, November 7, 2009 6:51 AM
Saturday, November 7, 2009 2:03 PM
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