BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

JANE0904

Masks - Part XVII
Saturday, February 13, 2010

Maya. Post-BDM. The trip down to the temple at Ling Miao isn't without incident, as Freya discovers. NEW CHAPTER


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1931    RATING: 10    SERIES: FIREFLY

The first time she found her way down there, they thought she was lost. They very kindly offered to show her the way back to the main corridor, but she surprised them.

“That’s a uranium accelerator core, ain’t it?” Kaylee had asked. “One of the latest ones. It sure is shiny.” She gazed at it, her eyes wide.

Chief Engineer Bryden Cho couldn’t help but smile. “You like engines?”

Kaylee coloured a little. “It’s what I do.” She’d explained, a little diffidently.

Cho chuckled. “Then it’s nice for us to have visitors.” He could see his subordinates nodding. “Mostly folks don’t want to see the workings. They prefer to think things happen by a kinda magic.”

“Oh, I know what you mean.” Kaylee grinned back at the grizzled man, probably as old as her father, and with more than a passing resemblance too, apart from his slightly almond eyes. “I can talk ‘til I’m blue in the face, but most of my crew don’t take in more’n one word in ten. If that.”

“Not meant to,” Cho said stoutly. “That’s for us to know, and them to marvel at.”

Kaylee laughed, delighted to be included in the ‘us’ part. “Captain dummy talk,” she said.

“Oh, that’s the truth.” Cho had twinkled at her.

From that point it was as if she was their favourite niece, or at least a good friend of the family, and they looked forward to her popping in whenever she felt she could get away from the others.

“Does she speak to you?” she’d asked at one point.

Cho nodded. “Tells me what she needs, when she needs it.” He looked at her shrewdly. “I'm guessing you’ve got the gift too, Miss Kaylee.”

She shrugged. “Serenity’s my girl. We’re like a partnership, each depending on the other, and neither of us is gonna let the other down.”

“It only seems to come to the best of us, that gift.”

She preened.

That morning, though, it was a brief visit.

“Can’t stay long,” Kaylee said regretfully. “We’re heading down to Ling Miao.”

Cho made a sound that resembled an elephant she’d seen once in a zoo on Greenleaf, then shuddered a little. “Sorry, Ms Kaylee. But that place gives me the willies.”

“I know what you mean. But don’t you ever want to see the sights?”

He shook his head. “Nah. I’ve been doing this route for too long. At first, maybe for a couple of trips, I’d cadge a lift down, go take a look, but once you’ve seen it, there ain't much to worry about.”

“I suppose. But it’s all included, and I want to get my money’s worth.”

He grinned. “That why you come down here?”

“Oh, no. I come down here because I love engines.”

He stroked his chin. “Say, would you like to see the converters? I don’t normally let anyone back there, but you’re the first young lady I’ve ever known take an interest, let alone know what I’m talking about.”

Kaylee danced from one foot to the other. “Converters? Dual backburners or –”

“Quads.”

If anything her eyes widened even more. “Ooh, lead me to ‘em!”

“Chief, we’re going to be approaching orbit in a little under an hour,” one of his men pointed out with regret.

“An hour? Hell, we can make a start.” Cho held out his arm. “Shall we, Ms Kaylee?”

She hooked her hand through his elbow. “My pleasure, Mr Cho.”

---

The announcements of their arrival at Aegis were already being broadcast through the ship when Kaylee ran back to their stateroom.

“Don’t you want to go?” Freya asked, smiling as she held the door open.

“Two minutes,” the young mechanic promised, shedding clothes as she crossed the floor.

“I’m holding you to that!” Freya called as Kaylee disappeared.

“What was she up to?” Zoe asked, scratching her shoulder.

“I’ll give you three guesses.”

“Engine room?”

“Got it in one.” Freya picked up the items of clothing, absently straightening them out.

“I'm surprised we can drag her away. Particularly for where we’re going.”

“Don’t feel like it yourself?” A thought occurred to her, and a sly look crossed her face. “Or are you trying to stay out of the way of a certain doctor?”

“Only if you’re talking about a certain doctor who’s going to end up being introduced to the business end of a gun.”

“I think we are.” Freya laughed. “And don’t shoot him – I don’t think he’d like it.”

“No, but I would.” Zoe shook her head. “You think he’d take the hint.”

“How heavily have you hinted?”

“Graphically.”

“He must be smitten.”

“No. I just think I’m different to the usual women he gets in his infirmary.”

“You can say that again.”

“Are you insulting me?”

“If I was, you wouldn’t have to ask.”

“Shiny.” She sighed heavily. “But I promise not to hurt him. Yet.”

The door opened, but it wasn’t Kaylee. Instead Inara glided into the room, wearing her yellow robe.

“Inara?” Freya looked surprised. “Aren’t you ready yet? And I thought Kaylee was the last.”

The ex-Companion fell elegantly onto the sofa. “I don't think I’ll come. Not this time.”

Freya and Zoe exchanged a worried glance.

“Are you okay?” the first mate asked.

“I'm fine. Just a bit of a headache.”

“You want me to call someone?” Freya asked. “I’m sure they could –”

“No, no. I’ll be fine. I just don't think a day in the sun would do me any good.”

Kaylee bounced back into the room. “Ready!” Then she saw Inara, recognised the informal clothing. “’Nara? Ain't you coming with us?”

“Not today.”

“You okay?”

“I'm fine, mei-mei.” Inara smiled. “Today I’m resting.”

“Only I'm kinda wondering what Val and Flynn are gonna get up to. I don’t really see ‘em being as quiet as they were at breakfast.” That was true. As everyone else had chatted amiably, the pair of them hadn’t said a word, just pushed their food around their plates. “You don’t wanna miss the fireworks, do you?”

“You know, I think I do.”

“I could get that Doc Barkin to come and take a look at you,” Zoe suggested.

“I’m sure you could. But no. Thank you.” She put a pillow behind her head. “I think I’ll just order a nice pot of Jasmine tea and relax for a while.”

“You don’t feel better by the time we get back, you’re seeing the doctor,” Kaylee warned. “They might not be as good as my Simon, but I’m not having Sam complaining we ain’t taking care o’you.”

“I understand.” Inara closed her eyes. “And I promise.”

“Good.” Kaylee picked up her purse. “Well, we gonna go or not?”

---

The guide was droning. “… by hand, using only the most basic tools. Their religious fervour, however, kept them going, and in a surprisingly short time the followers had carved this temple to their beliefs. It is said that there are secret tunnels, going deep into the plateau, but there’s no empirical evidence for them.”

“Think we should correct him?” Kaylee whispered, letting the sun heat her skin, her arms stretched out to catch as much as she could.

“I doubt he’d listen, mei-mei.” Zoe smiled. “And if you keep doing that, you’ll burn.”

“Just a while longer.” She grinned and closed her eyes, turning her face to the light.

“If she isn’t bright red tonight, I’ll buy dinner,” Zoe murmured to Freya.

“Mmn.”

“I said if Kaylee isn’t resembling a beetroot …” She paused. “Are you okay?”

“What?” Freya glanced at her. “Oh, I'm shiny. Just …” She looked back towards the object of her perusal. Or objects, if that was a valid description of three young people.

Flynn was about as far away from Val as it was possible to be while still nominally doing his job, while Phoebe flitted from one to the other, doing her best to wind things up.

Zoe followed her line of sight. “Want me to have a word with her?”

“No.” Freya sighed. “In all honesty I doubt it will do any good, not with Phoebe.”

“Yeah, she does like to stick her finger in a hornet’s nest and see what happens, don’t she?” Kaylee agreed.

“At least they’re not fighting,” Zoe pointed out.

“Or talking.”

“Which is fine by me,” Freya said firmly.

Zoe smiled. “Are you going to be like this with Jesse?”

“And Ethan.”

“Do they know?”

“I think they might be getting an idea.”

“I can’t wait to see the ructions.”

“So you’re going to be different over Ben?”

“Nope. Never said I was.”

“Then I can foresee plenty of fun in our futures.”

“The complex extends into the next cavern,” the guide was saying, “where a number of smaller temples cut high into the rock face can only be accessed by ladder. I hope you’re brought your climbing shoes.”

There was a dutiful smatter of laughter.

“However, if any of you do not feel up to the task there are refreshments in the shuttle, or you are more than welcome to explore the main site. Remember, though, if you find any treasure, we have to share.”

This time the laughter was a little more genuine.

“I ain’t gonna explore,” Kaylee said. “I know what’s down there. ‘Sides, it ain't changed that much.” She shivered, despite the heat.

“It’s stayed pretty much the same for some time now,” Zoe pointed out. “A year or so isn’t gonna make all that much difference.”

“Do you think he’s still …”

Zoe knew who she was referring to – Reed Prater, a man who’d tried to make the catacombs behind the temple their captain’s last resting place, and sell the others off to slavers, but who had fallen foul of one of the many pitfalls and gimcracks. “Don’t go thinking on it,” she advised. “They deserved what they got.”

“Hell, I know that.” The normal Kaylee flared back into life. “And I’m sure it couldn’t happen to a nicer feller.” She reached out to touch the wall, then laughed. “Ooh, look!”

Zoe peered closer at the pink stone, then had to smile. “That man’d deface anything.”

“Pretty much like the Cap’n, eh?”

“Not sure he’d do it to an ancient monument.”

“Maybe not. But I’d pretty much like to raze the whole thing to the ground.”

Zoe turned from the knife marks that spelled out ‘J Cobb’, and nodded. “Maybe we should have brought grenades.”

Kaylee giggled.

---

The thick carpet swallowed up her footfalls, but Inara’s mind wasn’t on moving quietly. Instead she was asking herself if she was doing the right thing.

It wasn’t as if she’d lied to the others. She did have a mild headache, and had in fact medicated herself with one of the powders she always carried, washed down with the admirable Jasmine tea their steward had brought her. It was just that perhaps she hadn’t told them the entire truth.

Idly she wondered if it was the same syndrome as a woman being attracted to a bad man and believing she would be the only one who could change him, turn him from his evil ways. Not that she was attracted to Saffron – even when she had been taking clients, that particular redhead would never have come up to her exacting standards, no matter how much money she’d offered. Although it might have been interesting as an experiment ...

Inara allowed herself a slow smile, inadvertently making the day of one of the small army of house staff who kept the ship running. In fact, he was so warmed by this staggeringly beautiful woman noticing he was there he almost dropped the coffee tray he was carrying.

Anyway, the point was that she felt a need to help Saffron. Maybe it was just an overflow of pregnancy hormones she’d picked up on, absorbing them like perfume into her skin and becoming instantly dependent on them, but it was an almost physical ache. It had made her dress quickly, barely touching her skin with makeup, before padding her way towards the Presidential Suite.

And there it was, the large double doors closed as always.

She lifted a hand to knock, but paused. Was she that desperate to have a child of her own that she was willing to spend time with a woman who had knowingly attempted to have the entire crew of Serenity murdered? Whose feelings towards Mal veered wildly between hate and love? Who could be relied on only to turn on the hand that was feeding her and bite down hard?

Maybe she should go back. Dial up Sam on the Cortex, talk to him. She could almost see his face, hear his voice. Except he’d probably tell her to do what she felt was right. That if, in her heart of hearts, she knew that Saffron needed help, it was her duty to provide it. If not for the woman herself, at least for her baby.

She sighed lightly, but knocked.

It was only a moment before the door swung silently open, and one of Saffron’s factotums stood facing her. “Madam Serra,” he said, bowing slightly and moving out of the way so she could enter.

She didn’t see the face peering out of the linen closet, drawing slowly back as the doors closed behind her.

---

“Shit.” Joy Danette looked up at the pink rock temple. She had sidled up to Freya, needing some physical contact.

“Can’t say I don’t agree with you,” Freya muttered. There was definitely something about it, that somehow rocks shouldn’t be that colour. The opening below, the blank windows above ... it resembled nothing more than an open mouth and blind eyes.

“It’s ... kinda creepy.”

“It is that.”

“Like there’s a load of dead people watching us.”

For a moment Freya through of Prater, of Cody and his sister Sadie, psychopaths all. Maybe Mal was right and they attracted folks like that, although at least this time the mouldering corpses were the bad guys. Pulling herself forcibly from her mental funk, she smiled at the girl. “You don’t believe in ghosts, do you?” Even if I do, she added silently.

“Nah.” Joy shook her head, perhaps a little too quickly. “’Cept when I'm in places like this.”

Freya laughed. “I honestly can't blame you.”

“And it’s so quiet.”

“Well, apart from us there’s no animal life to speak of.”

“Yeah, that too, but I meant Val and Flynn.” She grinned, her good humour back. “Not talking to each other like they ain’t. I’d gotten used to them arguing, especially when they thought you couldn’t see.” She looked around. “Where are they, by the way?”

Freya followed suit. Sure enough, there was Zoe chatting to Kaylee, Phoebe at their side, but there was no sign of the other twin and her erstwhile bodyguard. She stiffened. “Gorramit, where have they gone now?” She looked around her as if they might appear from solid rock. “What doesn’t she get about the meaning of don’t wander off?”

She let her barriers down a little, just enough so she could feel Val’s presence and not so the ghosts could get in. There. Inside. And at least she wasn’t alone. Flynn, from the taste, so at least he hadn’t given up on doing his job entirely.

Sensations crowded in. Chill. Dark. But also ... heat?

“Joy, you want to stay here with the others? I’m just going to find out what they’re up to.”

“Sure, Frey.” The girl almost skipped to Kaylee, who put her arm around her.

Zoe’s gaze found the captain’s wife, but Freya shook her head minutely. She could cope.

Zoe blinked, just once, then turned back to the conversation, happy and secure in the knowledge that Jayne’s little gun rested in the small of her back under her shirt.

Turning towards the open mouth of the main temple, Freya took a deep breath and plunged into the dark. Immediately the slight sheen of sweat on her skin froze, feeling like ice as it slid inside her clothing. Determined to spend as little time as possible in this mind-numbing place, Freya hurried towards where she felt Val to be.

A faint sound reached her ears. Heavy breathing, but halting, interrupted by ... was that moaning?

Freya walked faster, fumbling in her pocket for the tiny torch she’d had the presence of mind to bring. If Val were hurt ...

---

River was teaching, although after a brief but meaningful discussion with Mal she had reverted to Freya’s lessons. Almost.

“Auntie River?” Hope held out her pad. “This won’t work.”

River glanced at the workings out, seeing the problem immediately. “Think of perspective,” she advised.

“Um … okay.” Hope put the book back down in front of her and stared at it, trying to see if from her Aunt’s point of view.

“What’cha doing?” Jayne asked, clomping down into the kitchen and heading behind the counter for a bag of protein snacks.

“Working,” River said, giving him the eye.

“Oddly enough, I figured that out.”

“Then why ask?”

“Okay.” He knew when she was in a mood – it hung around her like a dark cloud, shot through with thunderflashes. “I’ll get gone again, shall I?”

Ethan looked up, his eyes pleading.

“Don’t let him distract you,” River said firmly, and the young Reynolds sighed loudly and went back to his work, acutely aware of Maoli lying stretched out under the table by his feet.

“Yes, Auntie River.”

She looked up again at Jayne. “Where’s Caleb?”

“Asleep.”

“Good.”

“Really?” He tore open the bag, popping a handful of crackers into his mouth. “I’d’a thought you’d be wanting him here, forcing that knowledge you’re so sure of into his little head.” He knew he was winding her up, but sometimes it was the only way to get her out of one of her black spells, and he couldn’t leave the kids to pick up the brunt. Still, it was a bit like poking a tiger with a stick, and he was ready to run if need be.

“Everyone should be educated,” his wife said, sounding more like her brother than ever.

“Yeah, but that ain’t what I'm saying. Education is a good thing, else everyone’d turn out like me.” He saw the children glance at each other, trying not to smile. “But as far as I can figure it, Frey tries to make some of it fun.”

River gazed at him, her dark eyes almost pulling him into their depths, and he wondered if maybe he’d gone too far. He didn’t want to upset her. Then she sighed and collapsed back into the chair.

“I should be good at this,” she said quietly.

He breathed again, heading out from behind the counter to sit down next to her. “’Cause you’re good at most things?”

“Yes.”

“It took Frey a while to get into the rhythm of being a teacher,” he reminded her.

“Yes, but –” She bit the sentence off.

“But you ain’t Frey?” he supplied gently. “And you can just do stuff without having to work at it? Like knitting?”

She glared at him. “Yes.”

“That took you a while, though, didn’t it? Having to practice?”

Her mind skittered to the very first piece of knitting she’d ever managed to produce, a small square that had dropped stitches and uneven tension, something she’d been so proud of as she carried Caleb towards the end of her pregnancy. “My Jayne showed me how,” she whispered.

“A’course.”

“And I got better.”

“Yep. That blanket you made for David Gabriel’s a wonder. But you had to practice.”

“Practice.” She sighed. “Yes.”

“And Frey’s showing you how to teach.” He put his hand on her knee.

She shivered at the touch of her husband’s fingers pressing gently into her flesh, and she felt the clouds begin to thin. “Oh.”

“So how about putting this aside for today, and we find something interesting on the Cortex to look at?”

“Like pirates?” Bethie piped up, unable to keep quiet.

“Dinosaurs!” Ethan put in, Jesse nodding hard in agreement.

“Spaceships,” Ben suggested, ever his father’s son.

Only Hope didn’t speak, having just that moment understood what her aunt had been getting at, and writing the correct answer into her book. Still, it would be nice to look some more at the great art treasures from Earth-that-was ...

River sighed again. “It’s in the cupboard,” she said, referring to the portable link Freya used.

“Great.” Jayne pushed his chair back with a squeal and got up.

Bethie had begun to jiggle in her seat, then something made her stop. Something that had tickled her senses from a long way away. She turned her mind outwards, pulling the tendrils in towards her .... Her eyes widened. “Oh.”

Jayne, at the cupboard, turned back. “What is it, short stub?”

River looked at her niece, then focussed, following the trail back towards its source. “Oh dear.”

“Moonbrain?” Jayne asked, taking a sharp step.

“Oh dear,” she said again as her lips lifted of their own accord, widening into a grin.

---

The sounds got louder, the moaning more prominent, and Freya could visualise, all too clearly, the young Reilly twin lying on the dirt, her leg twisted, her ankle at an unnatural angle.

As she rounded the corner, she switched the torch on.

“Val?” Freya eyes adjusted to the brighter light level as she spoke, and her eyebrows almost disappeared into her hair.

Valentia Reilly, her carefully coiffed hair askew and her lipstick smudged heavily, stepped back from the depths of Flynn’s embrace. “Aunt Frey!”

to be continued

COMMENTS

Saturday, February 13, 2010 3:01 AM

BRIGLAD


Of course, Kaylee would get all hot and bothered by a shiny engine room. And I loved how you have written Jayne here. Winding up River being like poking a tiger with a stick :-)

And how did I not see Val and Flynn getting caught making out.

Bravo

Saturday, February 13, 2010 4:16 AM

KATESFRIEND


Nice to see River isn't a genius at everything. Loved the inclusion of dinosaurs as an interest of Ethan's. It made it feel like Wash is nearby. The engine room scene is so in character for Kaylee and a nice intro for the new character. Nice fluff, as I can see how you're winding up for action - just can't decide which front is going to get attacked first!

Saturday, February 13, 2010 9:28 AM

BYTEMITE


Is Inara cheating on Sam?

Saturday, February 13, 2010 11:46 AM

BYTEMITE


Ah, wait, I think I got it, I just got confused about the part where Inara decides to go see Saffron over talking to her husband, and the part about reforming attractive red-heads.

It's an odd thing for Inara to be thinking about, though, and why does she feel the need to run around hiding everything from people who trust her? Suspicious, says I.

Temple Fun!

Saturday, February 13, 2010 5:12 PM

ANGELLEMARCS


Ha ha ha....last part sets the entire thing....great work!! And Inara....what's up with her?!


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“His name’s Jayne?”

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