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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Maya. Post-BDM. Mal and Freya discuss safety, while Jayne decides to come clean about his past. NEW CHAPTER
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1787 RATING: 10 SERIES: FIREFLY
Dinner that night was, not surprisingly, a subdued affair. Jayne had come back and thrown a few pots and pans around, at least until Simon took pity on him and told him to go and work off whatever the problem was.
“It’s my turn,” the big man had insisted.
“I know. And you’ll take it. Just not tonight.” Simon put his hand on Jayne’s shoulder. “Whatever it is, you need to sort it out. And I for one don’t fancy eating anything you might manage to cobble together in this frame of mind.”
Jayne stared at his brother-in-law. “Doc, I …”
Simon waited, but the words had seemed to dry. “When you’re ready, Jayne,” he said softly.
The ex-mercenary nodded and strode out of the kitchen, without a thank you or a backward glance.
Simon sighed. Whatever that ticket had been, it had affected him greatly. The sigh turned to a slight chuckle as he opened the stores to see what was available. It amused the doctor sometimes to ponder whether Jayne was still the same man who’d tried to sell them on Ariel. River had wrought so many changes, he’d seriously considered checking the big man’s DNA for signs of cloning. It was a thought that kept him occupied for many hours down in the infirmary, particularly when he was sewing up the various knife wounds and bullet holes their life provided.
Still, if Jayne cooked in this state, it would be more than usually inedible, so taking supper duty was Simon’s way of sparing the crew, and therefore not too much of a chore.
Nobody complained, clearing the dishes and polishing the plates.
Normally everyone would sit around for at least an hour, drinking coffee and talking about the day, planning the next job, or just chatting about nothing in particular. This time, though, as the meal finished the children needed no urging to go to bed, the events of earlier still hanging over them.
“Permaybehaps an early night wouldn’t do any of us harm,” Mal said, watching Freya lift Jesse onto her hip and walk towards their bunk, whispering quietly to her, stroking her hair. Sometimes he couldn’t seem to keep his eyes off his wife, especially when she was being so tender.
“Fine by me,” Hank said, grinning. “More time with Zoe.”
Mal looked down into the familiar blue eyes of his son and heir. “What, big feller?” Ethan held his arms out, the universal sign to be picked up. Mal did as he was bid, feeling concerned. The boy hadn’t asked for this in a long while, a sure sign he was still worried. “Everything’s okay, now,” he promised softly.
“Story?” Ethan suggested. “Story, Daddy?”
Okay, now Mal was positive. Ethan talked up a storm, only reverting to single words when he was upset. “You want a story?” He smiled, letting his son feel their shared warmth.
Ethan nodded firmly. “’S.”
Mal stroked Ethan’s hair from his forehead, pushing it back and seeing it fall forwards again, just as uncontrollable as his own. “Sure. I think I can just about manage that. What do you want to hear about?”
Ethan loved hearing about the ranch, the horses, even some of the milder exploits his father had got up to when he was a boy. Mal’s smile grew wider. “Okay. Shadow it is.”
Bethie’s ears had perked up. “Stories?” she asked. “Can we listen?”
“You wanna hear about when your poor old uncle Mal was a kid?”
Mal glanced at Kaylee. “If your Ma says it’s okay.”
“Sounds shiny,” the young mechanic said, beaming. “Wash and get ready for bed first, though. And teeth cleaned properly.”
Bethie grabbed Hope in one hand, Ben in the other. “Yes, Momma.” They all three ran out of the kitchen, almost falling over themselves in their haste, leaving the adults chuckling.
“They’re unsettled,” River said, clearing the last of the plates. “But a night’s sleep will make everything right.”
“And Jayne?” Mal asked. “Is it gonna make him right?”
“I don’t know,” the young woman admitted. “But I’m keeping an eye on him.”
Two stories and several glasses of water later, Mal had finally managed to persuade the children to head back to their own beds, although Hope appeared to sneak into Bethie’s room, while Ben slid into Ethan’s. He didn’t mind – at that point human company was probably what they all needed, and after his final check of Serenity he headed back to his own bunk for just that.
Freya was waiting for him, still fully dressed, sitting on the bed. “Mal, we have to talk.”
He’d barely got his feet to the deck, but he nodded. “I thought we kinda might.”
“With what’s just happened on Wayborn, and Alex’s message, I ...” She paused for a moment, then went on, “They’re desperate, Mal. The Alliance are desperate, and you know what happens when a desperate animal is cornered …”
“They’re at their most deadly.”
“Look at what’s happened to them over the past few years. They lost River, Mara Tam was stolen out from under their noses, the AntiPax … hell, the Miranda Broadwave …”
He crossed the small room and sat down next to her, taking her hand in his. “You’re really worried, ain’t you?”
“Aren’t you?” she countered.
“Hell, xin gan, I'm so worried I’m considering hiding.”
“Not a bad idea.”
He blinked. “What?”
“Finding somewhere, putting down roots, using Serenity just for short jobs, and everyone’s home in time for supper.”
“You can’t be serious.”
“Oh, you couldn’t do it. Neither could I. Jayne wouldn’t know how.”
He could see she had honestly been thinking about this again, a subject they touched on once in a while. “And the rest?”
“River’ll go where Jayne is, and Zoe follows her captain, at least unless Hank decides to plant his feet in the earth, but …”
“Simon and Kaylee.”
He took a deep breath, holding it, then exhaling steadily. “So what’s your solution? ‘Cause I’ve got a notion you’ve not come to anything lightly.”
“Those transmitters Kaylee made for Simon and River are good, but not enough. We all need to carry something, some kind of device we can activate if there’s trouble.”
He nodded in approval. “Good idea. I’m sure Kaylee can get something together if we all help.”
“Because there may come a time when River and I aren’t around, or we can’t hear –“
His grasp on her hand tightened. “Frey? You seeing something?”
“No. I …” Her brow furrowed. “I don’t know. I don’t think so. But … better to be safe than sorry.”
An ice-cold band slipped around his heart. “Frey, honey, if there’s something you’re not telling me … I’m a big boy. I can take it.”
She gazed into his eyes, their blueness holding her, making her want to swim in their depths. “I don’t think it’s anything,” she said slowly. “Probably just a hangover from what’s happened lately. I just feel like we’re missing someone.”
“Maybe it’s Inara,” Mal suggested, feeling the fear recede somewhat. “Spending that time together on the Empress, maybe you’re wanting to talk to your sister.”
“She’s not my sister.”
“Not what River says.”
“River says a lot of things. She told Hank fairies came on board every night and did the washing up, so she didn’t have to.”
Mal’s lips curved. “And did he believe her?”
“For maybe the smallest fraction of a second he entertained the idea. Then he threw the washcloth at her.”
“That how come there was water all over the floor the evening ‘fore last?”
She nodded. “They had a water fight.”
“Sometimes I wonder if that man’s not the youngest of all the kids,” Mal mused. Then he became serious again. “But that’s not everything, is it?”
She looked down at their joined hands. “How come you know me so well?”
“I have my wicked way with you most nights. I figure I maybe know a little something. And more’n that, I love you. Kinda gives me an edge.”
Freya looked up, and he was glad to see she was smiling a little. “There is, of course. I don’t think the kids should go anywhere without an armed adult.”
“Well, places we don’t trust.”
“I can’t see Inara taking kindly to –“
“Mal, don’t be obtuse. You know exactly what I mean.”
“Oh, I surely do. And I noticed you said armed.”
“Everyone should carry a gun. All the time we’re off ship. Even on Lazarus.”
Mal felt a shiver start at the base of his spine and work its way up to his scalp, making his hair stand on end. “Okay, now you’re giving me the heebie-jeebies. There is something you’re seeing, aren’t you?”
“I just want us to be safe.”
“Okay.” He decided to take it at face value for the moment, but the question was going to come up again, probably later on that night.
“And don’t think you can make me tell you something I don’t know, just because you’ve sexed me into a stupor,” she warned, catching the edges of his thought.
He laughed. “Thought that was me, ai ren,” he said gently, leaning over to press his lips to hers.
Jayne lay on his work-out bench, lifting and lowering the bar in concentrated rhythm, focused only on his breathing, his grip, ensuring his technique was correct as he exercised. He could feel the muscles starting to burn as he reached fifty, but only paused for a count of ten before beginning again.
A spasm in his left bicep had him having to manhandle the weights back into their cradle, wondering briefly if he was going to have to call for help, which would be embarrassing as well as difficult – his internal clock, usually very accurate at least as far as hours and minutes went, was telling him everyone had been in bed for some time. Then, just as he was about to swallow his pride, the bar slid home with a snick, and he sat up, rubbing his arm.
It was stupid, he knew, doing this sort of thing after a meal, and worse, alone, but he honestly didn’t know what else to do. Somewhere in the back of his mind he could hear the Shepherd, before he took to the corn rows and still with the scary hair, telling his unlikely work-out companion to talk to Mal, to explain, that he’d understand, try to help, but …
Always there was a ‘but’.
Maybe it was the adrenalin pumping through his system, or the tiredness meeting it the other way, but thinking of Book seemed to open the floodgates, and uncalled for memories flooded over him, washing through his brain and making the images dance.
So long ago …
She was pretty. On the plump side – which he liked – with long blonde hair that wound around her bare shoulders then fell to her waist, and green eyes that laughed as much as she did. Her name was Mallory, and they’d just had a roll in the hay that left him out of breath and ready for sleep. Still, he wasn’t going to allow himself to drift off: he was a mercenary, and he hadn’t lived as long as he had without having a few rules, and keeping to ‘em, number one of which was not to let his guard down at any time, not even when his John Thomas was thanking him very much for the experience.
Mallory lay on her back, staring at the cracked ceiling and smiling widely. “Gorram it, you’re the best I've had in a long while.”
“Bet you say that to all the fellers,” Jayne joked.
“Maybe I do. Means return business. But it ain’t just words with you.” She looked over at him, perspiration sitting as tiny balls on her top lip. “If’n I didn’t know better, I’d’a thought you’d been trained by a woman.”
“Maybe I was.”
She got up onto one elbow, her breasts touching his arm. “Knew it. You ain’t just in it for the quick thrust, you wanted to make sure I had a good time too.”
He shrugged, as much as he could lying down. “Better for me if you do.”
“Most men don’t see it that way. Almost feel like giving you a refund.”
He grunted a laugh. “Only almost?”
“Working girl,” she said apologetically. She began to run her nails across his chest, making swirling motions in his sweat-soaked hair. “Not in my good interests to do that.”
He lifted his hand and touched her back. “That what these are?” There were faint scars under his fingertips.
She wriggled a little, which felt more than good against him. “He’s a hwoon dahn.”
“Kill ‘im,” Jayne advised. “Nobody that beats up on a woman deserves to live.”
“Most of it’s my own fault.”
“What, you take off your dress and ask him to whup you?”
“No. But if I say the wrong thing, do something he doesn’t like …”
“Not give him the money he thinks you made?”
“Yeah, that kinda thing. My fault, see?”
Jayne shook his head, trying to get the pictures out of his brain, and they dissolved into mist, whirling away through the cargo bay. He hadn’t loved Mallory, had only spent a few nights in her company, leaving money on the dresser before he left. But like all the whores he’d spent his cash on he treated her right, not like some folk, and to see an honest working girl beaten like she was made him mad. Still, after a few weeks he’d left again, back into the Black on a freighter heading for Regina. He hadn’t been back.
Rubbing the back of his neck, he felt a slight tremble through his frame that he put down to over-exertion. One thing was sure, though: he needed to see his wife.
River hadn’t gone into their shuttle, he knew that. No matter his concentration, he hadn’t missed her, so as he stood up, wiping his neck with a scrap of towel, he let one word coalesce in his mind. Moonbrain?
He had to smile. There was no way she hadn’t picked up on his anxiety, and somehow having her fingers in good, Lazarene earth kept her grounded, less liable to suffer an episode that might lead to blood. Maybe he should try it, he pondered as he strode towards the common area and River’s garden.
Inside the old storage area the lights were turned low, simulating dusk, or maybe bright moonlight, but he could make out his girl tending one of the bins. On a blanket in the corner lay Caleb, his thumb in his mouth, fast asleep.
“What’cha doing, bao bei?” Jayne asked, leaning in the doorway.
“Weeding.” She plucked something small and green from the soil, dropping it into the basket at her side.
“This time o’night?”
“They keep growing.”
“Yeah, well, weeds tend to do that.”
“They’re tenacious,” she went on, not looking at him, apparently engrossed in the task at hand. “No matter what you do, they’re always there. Like memories.”
He shuffled his feet uncomfortably, wondering fleetingly how this 90-lb woman could make him feel no bigger than his son. “Riv, I –”
She looked up at him, but to his surprise it was with tenderness. “I didn’t peek,” she promised. “You projected.”
“Getting good at that,” he joked. “Not had much else use for my brain before.”
“My Jayne is clever,” she admonished, as if she was talking of someone else entirely. “I’ll hurt anyone who says otherwise.”
“Especially you.” She pointed at him with a dirt-encrusted finger. “You have intelligence.”
“Yeah, I’ll give you that. I'm pretty sure I'm still alive, else I’m standing here a remarkably good looking corpse.”
She smiled and went back to her weeding.
Still, a image of Mallory lying on the bed teased at the edge of his brain, and he stirred. “Riv … that girl …”
She shook her head. “It was a long time ago.”
“Yeah, but –“
“You paid her.”
“Yeah, yeah, I did, but that ain’t –“
“And you treated her well.”
“I thought you weren’t peeking.” He didn’t want to sound accusing, but heard it in his voice.
“I know you.” She sat back on her heels, her dark gaze once more on him. “That is who you are. You treated the whores like ladies, and treat me like a wife.”
“That’s ‘cause you are.”
“So how can I be jealous?”
“Not even a little bit?”
“You’re mine. I’m yours.” She touched the tattoo on her finger, the twin to the one on Jayne’s left hand. “Forever. And now.”
“I just don’t mean to hurt you.”
“Then don’t lie.”
“No. And I promise I haven’t looked. But I think you need to tell someone, whatever it is.” She stood up gracefully, closing the gap between them on bare, silent feet. “Don’t let it fester.”
“You think that’s likely to happen?”
She laid an earthy hand in the centre of his chest, feeling his heart beating strongly within under the palest of pale scars. “It might.”
He swallowed. “I know,” he admitted. “But … it’s hard. Part of my life I ain’t told anyone.” Not even you, he added to himself.
“You are ready.”
“I know. But you need to know too.” She reached up and placed a chaste kiss on his cheek. “Time for bed.”
“Not throwing me out, then?”
“Yes. But only temporarily,” she added as she saw the shock cross his mind. “If you won’t speak to me …” Her eyes drifted from his face towards the stairs leading from the common area.
“You think?” he repeated.
“I know.” She dusted her hands together, then went to pick up her sleeping son. “And after, we’ll be waiting.”
Jayne looked into the kitchen, the only illumination coming from the single lamp on the old wooden table, not surprised in the slightest to see Freya sitting there, illuminated by its glow.
They’d become good friends over the years, seeing something reflected from the other in their own makeup, even if to everyone else they had little in common. There had been a time, maybe at the beginning, when he’d considered making a play for her, but even then there’d been only one man for her, and he knew he didn’t stand a chance.
Besides, it was better now. Pals. Always having each other’s backs. And a good friend was worth more’n rubies in the cold ‘verse.
She looked up. “Hey.”
“Drinking alone?” He nodded towards the tin mug in front of her, the distinctive smell of some of Kaylee’s finest filling the room.
“Have one with me and I won’t be.” She grinned. “Pull up a chair.”
“Maybe just the one.”
He half-smiled and picked up a spare mug, sitting ready, almost as if she’d been waiting for him. “Mal know you’re here?” he asked.
“No. He’s asleep.” She watched him pour a healthy slug of alcohol before he sat down.
“You sexed him into unconsciousness?”
Freya laughed. “Come on, Jayne, you’re a man. You know men like to sleep after.”
“I ain’t exactly seen it from that side, but I guess. And women like to snuggle and talk.”
“Different species, I’ve come to believe.”
“Wouldn’t be surprised.”
“What about River?”
“Heading for bed. Soon be away with the fairies.” His lips twitched again. “Only don’t you go tellin’ her I said that.”
“River doesn’t mind. She knows who she is.”
“Most of the time, yeah.” He lifted his mug. “To absent friends.”
They toasted and Freya drank, feeling the familiar burning sensation reaching down into her belly. “So,” she said, when she was sure her voice was going to be almost normal. “Do you want to talk about it?”
“Not really. Mainly ‘cause you can pluck it outta my brain without my mouth getting in the way.” He swirled booze around his tongue before swallowing.
“You know I don’t do that.” At his look she smiled. “Much.” She leaned forward. “Jayne, everyone on the crew knows you’re hurting, even those who aren’t psychic.”
“Then everyone on the crew needs to butt outta my business.”
“They can’t. They care about you.”
“They shouldn’t do.” He shook his head. “I’ve done a lot of stuff, Frey. Hell, it’s been thirty years since I left Ezra – it’s to be expected. You must be around the same since you left your folks.”
“Nearly. Long enough to regret some things.”
“You saying I’m the same?”
Jayne sat back, contemplating his mug. “I guess. Bein’ with River … it’s changed me, I know. Stuff I’d’ve done without thinking before … stuff I’d never’ve done … she’s changed me.”
“For the better.”
“Prob’ly. Maybe.” He shrugged. “Just different.”
“I stand by my first comment.”
He smiled. “I want to live forever, but I know that ain’t possible. I’m going to the hot place, Frey, and Riv’s gonna be one of them angels, but I don’t mind too much. These few years here with her, they’ve been the best of my life. If I go tomorrow I ain’t gonna regret a day of it, and every hour is a bonus.”
Freya had to chuckle. “Mal’s right. You really are a deeply sentimental man.”
“Jayne, I think you have to admit it. The way you’ve always sent money home to your Ma and Mattie, even when it’s left you with virtually nothing – and there’s no point in denying it, I've seen it.”
“But that’s family.”
“Then the way you are with Bethie, Ethan, all the other children, and not just Caleb. Which is how we know you’re hurting.”
He acted like she hadn’t spoken. “That’s just being … protective.” He sighed, then added, “And I ain’t hurting. I don’t have those kinda feelings. I’m just … saying goodbye.”
She didn’t answer for a moment, just gazed at him. As the contemplation began to feel uncomfortable, she spoke, this time about herself. “Amon was my friend. My mentor. He saved my life, literally as well as figuratively. And I killed the man who killed him.”
“You handed him over to be strung up,” he corrected, pointing a strong finger at her.
She smiled. “You remember?”
“Not likely to forget.” He could still see her standing there, in front of them, trying to explain why she’d left, and the stone cold look on Mal’s face. It had taken a long time for him to forgive her, but it marked a sea-change in their relationship. If anything, it was stronger than ever. “Bloodied ‘cause you’d made him bleed …”
“So I do understand.”
His blue eyes, so different to Mal’s, gazed back at her, then he nodded. “Yeah. Guess maybe you do.” He made a sound in his throat that might have been a bark of laughter, or just easing the rawness. “Guess maybe there’s most people on this boat would understand too.”
“That they would. Even Kaylee, and she’s never had to avenge anyone.”
“Yeah, but I wonder sometimes if’n she’d be the worst of us all, if it came down to it.”
“I don’t think we want to find out.”
“Nah. Reckon we don’t.” He splashed more whisky into their mugs. “He was better’n me. Always was.”
She didn’t have to ask who. “Tell me about him.”
At breakfast Jayne and River were the last to sit down, the others already eating. For maybe the first time in living memory the big man didn’t fill his plate, just leaned forward and let the green slip of paper fall from his hand into the centre of the table.
“Jayne,” Mal said slowly. “I take it you’ve got something to say.”
Jayne felt River’s hand rest lightly on his thigh as he looked at Freya. “You tell ‘im?”
She shook her head. “Not mine to tell.”
“I don’t know more’n anyone else,” Mal allowed. “’Cept prob’ly our albatross here.” He glanced at River, but for once she didn’t come out with an incomprehensible comment, just gazed at her husband encouragingly. “Fine.” He looked back at Jayne. “So? I conjure you’ve kept us waiting long enough. And I hope it’s worth it.”
“I’m hoping for exciting,” Hank put in, then locked his lips together at Zoe’s glare.
“S’okay, Jayne,” Kaylee said. “Whatever it is, we’ll understand. You ain’t … you ain’t sick, are you?”
“Not, not sick, little Kaylee.” Jayne cleared his throat. “I …” He felt River’s fingers squeeze his thigh and he took courage. “You know Vera?”
Zoe smiled. “Jayne, everyone from here to the Core knows your Callaghan.”
“Well, maybe they do. And the story about the six men who came to kill me?”
“Well, maybe I left out a part of it.”
“How big a part?” Hank wanted to know.
“Pretty big. Indigo MacCready.”
“I take it that’s a person,” Mal said drily.
“A close friend?” Simon asked.
“Showed me the ropes when I became a merc. Without him, I’d be six feet under.” He looked at River. “You’d’a liked him.”
“Yeah. Well, he was there. At my back. Took out one of ‘em as was gonna shoot me in it, then watched as I did the same to the rest. He told me then I didn’t need him any longer. That I was ready.” Jayne grunted. “Hell, I’d been out on my own for years, meeting up with him once in a while, but I knew what he meant. So did he. It was the last time we saw each other.” If Jayne realised he made it sound like the two men were lovers, he didn’t show it. “He went off one direction, me the other.”
Mal exhaled noisily. “Jayne, as interesting as this is, it doesn’t exactly –”
“What?” Kaylee looked shocked, her warm heart saddened even though she hadn’t known the man existed until half a minute before.
“When?” Zoe asked.
Jayne shrugged. “Don’t know. Just know he’s gone.”
“And the ticket?” Mal prompted. “What’s that all about?
“It’s the way we figured to let the other know we were dead.” He shook his head, remembering. “One time we came across a stash of guns. Good ones. Looked like booty from a raid on an Alliance camp, but whoever’d done it … well, it didn’t look like they were coming back. Not from the dust on everything. Anyway, we took our pick. I pretty much sold mine straight off, seeing as I’d hit a lean spell, and I had this urge to eat. I just kept what I needed for the next job.” He saw Simon raise his eyebrows. “It was before I started my collection, okay?”
“Jayne, I didn’t say a word,” the young doctor protested.
“Anyway, we were drinking, and I told him how a mutual friend of ours had wound up in trouble and gotten himself hung, and Indigo didn’t know and it made him kinda maudlin so … anyway, we both of us still had one of the guns from the stash. We were near falling down drunk by that point, I admit, but we each of us took them to the local pawnshop, got tickets for ‘em.” He almost smiled. “Drank the money that night, if I recall. And had us some very fine feminine …” He came back from the then to the now, and looked sheepishly at River. “It was a long time ago, moonbrain.”
She nodded smoothly. “Yes.”
“Anyhow, we agreed that we’d keep ‘em, the tickets, and leave note that if we died it was to be sent to the other.” He pointed to the green slip. “That was Indigo’s.”
Mal leaned forward. “You mind?”
Serenity’s captain picked it up. It was indeed a cheap pawn ticket, marked with a number and an amount of credits, a signature at the bottom just identifiable as Indigo MacCready. He turned it over, and became very still.
“Sir?” Zoe felt a thrill of something run up her spine into her hair.
“You figure this is right?” Mal asked Jayne.
“Can’t see why not.” The ex-mercenary was almost at attention.
Hank was trying to see, his curiosity about ready to kill more than just a cat. “What …”
“Show ‘em,” Jayne said.
Mal nodded, and turned the slip around so that everybody could see.
“Shit,” the pilot breathed.
“Oh no.” Kaylee had her hand over her mouth.
“Yeah,” Jayne said quietly.
There, written on the back of the pawn ticket in thick black pencil from an unformed hand, were the words SHOT IN THE BACK. CASON’S POINT.
to be continued
Thursday, September 9, 2010 6:13 AM
Thursday, September 9, 2010 2:57 PM
Friday, September 10, 2010 5:49 AM
Friday, September 10, 2010 12:47 PM
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