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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Maya. Post-BDM. Jayne decides to help Mallory as much as he can, and River tells Mal what she's found. NEW CHAPTER
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 2153 RATING: 10 SERIES: FIREFLY
Mal caught up with Jayne halfway back to town, but only because the big guy had reined in his mount, letting the horse tear at a gorse bush.
“You okay?” he asked, doing the same and taking the opportunity to shift slightly in the saddle to a more comfortable position – it had been a while since he’d been on a horse, and there were parts of his anatomy that were beginning to complain.
“Someone was watching us,” Jayne said, without preamble.
Mal’s discomfort disappeared, and he was as serious as a Reaver attack. He didn’t even think to question the expert tracker’s statement. “Us? Or Mallory?”
“Can't tell. Caught a flash in the foothills behind the farm.”
Jayne shrugged. “Figure that. Or long distance glasses.”
“Is that why you left in such an all-fire hurry?”
“Maybe I was just wanting to get home.”
“And maybe you were worrying about Mallory getting in the middle of something,” Mal said astutely.
“Her and her boy didn’t kill Indigo, so if someone’s gunning for us, she doesn’t deserve to be anywhere near it.”
“You sure about Josh? He handled that rifle better than most kids his age.”
Jayne knew Mal wasn’t honestly suggesting Josh killed anyone – he was just playing devil’s advocate so that all the options didn’t colour the facts. “Nah. He wouldn’t’a shot you, least not on purpose.”
“That’s nice to know.” Mal’s voice was drier than the Sihnon desert. “And if he thought your pal was threatening his Ma?”
“Indigo weren’t like that.”
“You don’t know. It’s been as long since you saw him.”
“He might’ve done stuff another man’d be ashamed of – if that other man wasn’t me – but he never abused a woman as I’m aware of.” He shook his head. “Josh didn’t shoot Indigo. I’d bet my life on it.”
“Hey, I was the one at the end of the gun.”
Jayne had to smile. “As if that was something you ain’t used to.”
Mal’s own mouth twitched. “More’n once, Jayne, more’n once.” He pulled his horse away from the scrub, turning his head back towards town. “Come on. We can ride and talk. Least, if you think you can do both at the same time.”
“Might be able to manage that, Mal.”
They ambled along, the sun high enough now to be pleasurably warm on their backs, but Jayne seemed once more reluctant to open up, so Mal felt obliged to push things a little. “So apart from offering the use of my mechanic to fix her pump, did you get anything interesting out of Mallory?”
“Not really.” Jayne glanced across, tearing his gaze from the horizon, his hands resting loosely onto the pommel. “She was about as helpful as a burr under my saddle.”
“She didn’t tell me any more than Addie had, probably less.”
“Do you think she was scared?”
“Not ... scared. Wary, but that’d be normal considering I’m a stranger.”
“Not quite, Jayne.”
“Close enough. And a man sharing your bed doesn’t make him a friend.”
“Since I ain’t never had a man sharing my bed that way, I conjure I’ll take your word for it.”
Jayne shot him a look, but then shook his head, a chuckle forcing its way from deep in his chest. “I reckon you ain’t. And hardly ever visited a whore, either, am I right?”
Mal’s mind threw up an image of a bed, ropes, his cousins Harry and Vinnie standing over him in his somewhat naked and empty-pocketed state, laughing their heads off ... “Hardly ever, Jayne.” In order to change the subject he asked, “What about his stuff? Was there anything in it might give you an idea what Indigo was up to?”
“I didn’t ask.”
“Jayne, you go to all the trouble of finding out Mallory had his stuff, we ride all the way out here ... and you didn’t ask?”
The big man fixed him with ice blue eyes. “Maybe it occurred to me Addie might’ve gone through his things, taken out anything that I might find in the least interesting.”
Mal couldn't help it – he laughed out loud. “Sometimes you can still surprise me.”
“’Cause I’ve got more’n killing folks on my brain?”
“Shit, Mal ... right now, it’s all one and the same, ain’t it?”
Mal nodded, then took a breath. “Look. Jayne, I can’t say I disagree with Mallory, or Addie, for that matter. Your pal’s dead, and as much as I'm sorry, it wasn’t your fault, and maybe you should let sleeping dogs lie.”
“Then how come someone was watching us?”
“Said yourself, this place is under Medea Tanner’s thumb. Who’s to say it wasn’t one of her men making sure we weren’t about to upset the apple cart?”
“Sleeping dogs ... apples carts ...” Jayne had to chuckle. “You’re spending way too much time with Frey.”
“She’s my wife. It comes with the ring.”
“Right. Like you wouldn't anyway.”
Mal understood. For all that Jayne was still absorbed in the matter of his friend’s death, he didn’t want to talk about it more than he had, at least for now. “Too true. Okay. I’ll get Zoe to take Kaylee up to Mallory’s to see about the pump. If anyone can sort it out, she can.”
“Probably make it twice as good for half the power.”
“That’d be Kaylee.”
Jayne’s brow furrowed. “And how come Zoe?”
Mal returned it. “I think maybe she’d be better, don’t you?”
“Than me, you mean?”
“If Mallory does know something, do you really think she’s gonna be able to hold out against Kaylee’s sunshiny nosiness, do you?”
Now it was Jayne’s turn to burst out laughing. “That’s low, Mal.”
“Yeah, I thought so.” Mal had that smug look on his face again.
“Might work, though. And Zoe’s more’n capable of looking after ‘em both, second of which she’s not threatening.”
Mal raised an eyebrow. “Zoe? We are talking about the same person here?”
“Okay. Maybe threatening ain’t the right word. But she’s a woman. Mallory might talk to her, too.”
“A’course, I could ask River to go, do a little peeking –”
“Uh, no,” Jayne put in quickly, suddenly struck with the notion that his wife might just find out some things he wouldn’t want her to know. “Zoe’d be good.”
“Glad you think so.”
“You know, if we’re gonna be staying a while, I’m going hunting,” the big man went on. “Might get some fresh meat. And if there’s enough we could share it with Mallory, stock her shelves a little.”
“And maybe take a look around the foothills?” Mal almost laughed at the surprised look on Jayne’s face. “Contrary to popular opinion among the riff raff in the bars we frequent, I’m not as stupid as I look.”
For once in his life Jayne didn’t rise to the opening to insult his captain, which tended to say more about his state of mind than anything. Instead he said, “Might take advantage of the situation. Just to see what could be out there.”
“Jayne, you get yourself shot and there might not be anyone about to help you this time.”
“Hell, Mal, I’m just gonna go hunting. That’s all.”
“Just make sure it’s wild animals. Something that doesn’t shoot back.”
“That’s the plan.”
Mal shot a glare at his ex-merc, but the big man’s gaze was back on the horizon, looking like butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth, despite the way he’d spoken.
Freya was waiting for them as they walked up to the Firefly, having dropped the horses back at the livery stable.
“Hey,” she said, stepping down the ramp towards them. “I was wondering when you were going to get back.”
“We went visiting,” Mal said, slipping his arm around her waist.
“So Hank said. And?”
“And ... not much,” he had to admit. “Met some nice folks, and some not so nice. All in all I'll be glad when we leave.”
“After Kaylee fixes the pump,” Freya said.
“So you were listening.” He wasn’t accusing, more than aware she liked to keep tabs on him, particularly since his brush with heart failure, however much that hadn’t been his fault.
“A bit.” She smiled slowly. I don’t want it to happen again, she added mentally.
“’M I ever gonna have my head to myself again?” he asked, smiling.
“Do you want it?”
He chuckled. “Not for all the credits in the Alliance.”
“That’s all right, then.”
“Hey, Cap.” Kaylee stood at the Firefly’s entrance. She rubbed her hands together. “Ain't warmed up much, has it?”
“That it hasn’t.”
“Time o’ year,” Jayne said. “I seem to recall it snowing sometimes after a day like this, but ...” He looked up into the sky. “Not today.”
“Daddy!” Ethan almost tumbled down the ramp to his father. “Daddy, can we go and play?”
Mal looked down into a familiar blue gaze. “I don't know about that,” he said. “This ain’t exactly a place I want you kids wandering around in.”
“We’ll be careful.” He glanced over his shoulder at the other children lurking in the shadow of the cargo bay. “Honestly, Daddy.”
Mal looked at Freya, who shrugged. “That ain’t helping,” he murmured.
“He’s not asking me.”
His eyes narrowed a moment, then he let go of his unsupportive wife and went down onto his heels in front of his son. “Ethan, it ain't a case of you being careful. This town ... I’d rather you stayed close.”
Ethan heaved a sigh of such magnitude from his little chest that it seemed to come right from his boots. “Okay, Daddy.”
Kaylee covered her quite possibly grinning mouth with her hand, even as there were disappointed mutterings behind her.
Mal stood up. “Mei-mei, there’s an old friend of Jayne’s needs some of your talent.”
“Something broken, Cap?” Kaylee asked, all back to business as she stepped down the ramp.
“A water pump. Seems it stopped working a few days ago. Think you can do something about it?”
“I can take a look. Might be something real easy, and if not then maybe I got a part that’d do.”
“Good.” He nodded. “Any idea how long it’ll take?”
“No way of knowing, not ‘til I take it to pieces, Cap,” Kaylee admitted. “Could be an hour, might be half a day.”
“Then we’ll leave it ‘til tomorrow. The sun’s already heading for the horizon, so best we all start fresh in the morning. Don’t fancy being out after dark,” Mal decided. “Zoe’ll take you straight after breakfast, make sure you’re settled.”
“I don't need a nanny, Cap.”
“And what did I just tell Ethan?”
Kaylee glared at him, but her sunniness burned through. “That’ll be shiny. She can pass me the tools when I need ‘em. Just like when you’re the nurse and Simon’s being the doc.”
“It’s usually Mal being the patient, bao bei,” Simon said, strolling into the angled sunlight, stroking his hand down Bethie’s hair as he passed her.
Mal ignored him. “Whatever she needs to be, Kaylee.”
“I’ll be with you as well,” Jayne put in unexpectedly. “Least as far as Mallory’s. Introduce you.”
“Mallory?” Kaylee repeated. “You mean she’s the friend of yours? The one you told us you used to –”
“That's the one,” Mal interrupted, wary of little ears listening in. “Anyway, sounds good. And you might as well take the old ATV, give it an airing.”
“Xie xie, Captain,” Kaylee said brightly.
“Then ... Daddy?” Ethan was tugging on his pants leg. “If nobody’s going anywhere right now ... can we go for a walk?”
Mal looked down, and wondered if he’d ever been so innocent, so ... happy with simple things.
Of course, he heard in his mind. Still are. That’s why we’re still flying.
He glanced at Freya and smiled. “Okay,” he said, as much to her as to their son. “Go and get your coats.”
Ethan grinned. “Yes, Daddy!” He ran back into the Firefly, and the combined whooping of a happy crowd of kids belted out of the open doors.
“Do you think they’re pleased?” Mal asked Freya.
She laughed lightly. “Probably. I’ll go grab ours too.” She followed the children, if somewhat slower.
“Want I should come too?” Kaylee asked, rubbing her hands together.
Mal smiled. “I’ve a notion Frey and me can probably handle ‘em between us.”
“I don't know about that ...”
“I didn’t think you wanted to go walkabout here,” he pointed out.
“I don’t. I mean ...” She glanced down at the engine grease seemingly permanently engrained on her palms. “I just thought, if you wanted –”
He put his arm around her shoulders. “It’s okay, xiao mei-mei. We’ll be taking a com with us, so if we need help, we’ll yell.”
She looked relieved, and guilty, in about the same amounts.
“Kaylee, want to help me get supper ready?” Simon asked. “Since it seems to be my turn again, according to the rota. I thought I’d do something slow-cooked.”
“You know, there’re times I wonder if that rota’s rigged,” Kaylee said, glad of a change of subject, and giving Mal a faintly dirty look. “Seeing as my husband seems to be in the kitchen twice as much as anyone else.”
“Hey, I’m captain,” Mal protested. “I don't have to answer questions like that.” He squeezed gently. “’Sides, I kinda think on it as a piece of mercy – Hank can burn water. And don’t you worry – he makes up with it on the septic vac.”
Jayne, despite his preoccupation with other matters, chuckled low in his throat.
Mal sat back in the pilot’s chair and gazed out into the night. Although there were stars shining in the dark sky, it seemed naked compared to the drifts he was used to up in the Black, and the slow-rising moon made the frost that was forming sparkle. It actually made Cason’s Point seem almost pretty. As long as he ignored the undercurrents even he could feel.
They’d had a nice walk, enjoying the crisp air as they took the left hand road away from the town, although he’d noticed the children maybe didn’t range as far afield as they usually did. Jesse, in particular, preferred to walk along holding Freya’s hand, although in Caleb’s case it wasn't his choice, as he was in the reins River had made for him. Still, that didn’t stop him swinging around on the end, laughing as he went. Mal had hauled him back more than once, but in the end just let him get on with it.
He’d been more concerned with the way Freya kept watching the landscape, and eventually pulled her close to his side.
“You okay, ai ren?” he asked quietly.
She smiled. “Shiny.”
Wanna try that again? He knew she was going to pick up his thoughts, and that she’d realise he didn’t want to possibly upset Jesse.
Not sure. She looked into his blue eyes. I just feel like somebody’s watching us.
He’d told her about Jayne’s assertion that they’d been observed at Mallory’s. Dangerous?
I don’t know. She bit her lip, looking very like her daughter. All I can feel is Jayne at the moment.
Ah. Not good. He squeezed her waist gently. Think we should head back?
No. She took a deep breath. No. We’re not in danger. Not with our shadow.
She smiled. Jayne.
He resisted the urge to look over his shoulder. He keeping an eye on us?
On Caleb more.
The little boy surged forward, almost as if he knew he was being thought about, but it was only to attempt to pick up something that might have once been alive.
“No, whoa there, Cal,” Mal said, tugging back on the reins. “You got no idea where that’s been.”
Considering who his parents were, Caleb simply chuckled to himself and toddled on, his interest captured by something else.
“Good boy,” Freya murmured.
“He sure is a happy kid.” Mal shook his head. “Kinda makes you wonder what Jayne was like as a boy.”
“You could always ask him.”
“Don’t want to know that much.” This time he made it look natural as he glanced around. “Where is he?”
“Doesn’t he trust us?”
“Doesn’t trust this place, more like.”
“He’s not the only one, xin gan.”
Still, nobody made a play for them – in fact they didn’t see anyone until they were on their way back, when a small pony and trap overtook them from the direction of the foothills. It didn’t stop, but Mal could see it was being driven by Addie from the saloon, lifting a hand when the woman waved back at them.
He wondered idly where she’d been, although it wasn't really his business. Maybe she was making a housecall. At that point Freya had elbowed him in the side, and he knew she’d pick up on it. He smiled.
The fresh air seemed to make everyone hungry, and they polished off Simon’s slow-cooked protein stew in double quick time, before various yawning children were put to bed. Jayne went outside to smoke one of his cigars after Kaylee told him she’d got the scrubbers turned down low to save energy, but most of the rest of the adults took advantage of an early night, even if they weren’t intending necessarily sleeping.
Hank had jumped at Mal’s offer to turn the ship down to its night cycle, leaving the captain on the bridge, staring at the stars. Nothing in particular caught his attention, and he spoke quietly.
“Did you find anything?” he asked the empty bridge.
River stepped silently over the sill. “You knew it was me.” Her voice was accusing.
“I was kinda wondering when you were gonna tell me.”
“So you guessed.”
“I didn’t hear anything, so I knew it was you.” He glanced down at her bare feet. “Don’t suppose you’d listen if I told you to put your boots on.”
“Not in the slightest.” Her eyes narrowed. “You didn't hear anything so you knew it was me?”
He grinned, for once having been the one to non-plus her rather than the other way around. “That’s right.”
“And I am not non-plussed.”
“Stay outta my brain.”
A chuckled rolled up his chest. “You’re gonna be the death of me, you know that.”
“No, jia yan. I will save you.”
“You usually do.” He turned back to the windows. “You gonna sit down or keep making the bridge look untidy?”
She slid into the navigation chair. “Cason’s Point.”
“Most of it belongs to the Tanner family.”
“Figured as much.”
“Medea Tanner inherited it from her husband, Howard Aloysius Tanner.” She sighed. “He has a plaque in the church.”
“Nice.” He waited. “That it?”
“Of course not.” She lifted her feet onto the seat and arranged her dress over her knees. “Three sons, Troy, Bradley and Wesley. Troy is buried next to his father, but the other two are like cankers on the green shoots of life in Cason’s Point.”
“You planning on being poetical for the whole of this conversation?”
“Just so’s I know. I’ll try and keep up.”
She flashed him a warm smile, then sobered again. “Their bank accounts were a little difficult, but eventually they gave up their secrets. Medea Tanner holds the purse strings, and keeps a tight rein on her boys.”
“So Jayne said.”
“Except they have money in accounts she knows nothing about.”
Mal relaxed a little more into the chair. “Now, why don’t that surprise me?”
“I couldn’t backtrack enough to find out where it comes from, but it’s regularly topped up, every six months or so. It’s due now.”
He nodded slowly. “Slavers.” He opened his mind enough to let her see the memory of the three men in Addie’s saloon, and his own remembrance of the one with the scar on his chin.
“Any idea what, or where?”
“Not at the moment.” She sighed. “I shall consider the matter.”
“Nope, don’t you be doing that.” Mal pointed outside. “You see those lights out there?”
“Well they ain’t nothing to do with us. And as soon as your other half has done what he thinks is his duty and supplied Mallory with a locker full o’ meat –”
“And Kaylee has fixed the water pump.”
“That too ... anyway, then we’ll be on our way. We’ve got that job on Jubilee, and I don’t want to be burning good fuel just to make sure we get there on time.”
She turned her big eyes on him. “Do you want me to talk to him?”
“Think it’ll help?”
She shrugged, a delicate action entirely suited to her frame. “I don't know. He’s already afraid I might learn something I don’t like about him.”
“I’d’a thought you knew everything was to know by now.”
“No. Not everything. Even he has locked doors that I don’t venture beyond.”
“Does it worry you? Knowing there’s stuff you don’t know about him?”
“Does it worry you?” she asked in turn. “There is much of mu qin’s life that you are unaware of.”
“I know.” He allowed a small smile. “Believe me, I know. And I live in hope that maybe one day she lets me into those locked rooms.”
“And if she doesn’t? Will it stop you loving her?”
The smile grew. “I know what you’re saying, albatross. And no, you’re right. Nothing’d stop me loving Frey, no matter what. And you wouldn’t stop loving Jayne, either, would you?”
“Not in a billion, trillion, quadrillion years. Or infinity, whichever is longer.”
He had to chuckle. “We’re a pair, ain’t we? Found our soul mates through sheer luck.”
“That too.” She stirred. “Jayne’s back inside. You can lock us down.”
“Will do.” He ran an arpeggio over the control console. “That’s it.” Glancing at her he added, “You need me to keep the lights up for you?”
“No.” She stood up, her dress floating down. “I know my way around Serenity blindfold. As you do.”
“Guess so.” He flicked another switch and the illumination slowly died down, leaving just a gentle glow to stop anyone falling down the stairs. “’Night, River.”
“Goodnight.” She turned to leave but paused, her dark eyes seeming even bigger now. “Do you want me to continue my research?”
He seriously considered it, then shook his head. “No. Like I said, this place is nothing to do with us. And I don't want you to be found pitter pattering places where you shouldn’t.”
“I understand.” She cocked her head. “And Freya is waiting for you.”
“Mmn. And if you wait much longer, she’s going to start thinking we are somehow doing something we shouldn’t.”
“You and me, xiao nu? I doubt it.”
She laughed, the sound showing how young she really was under the crazy lunatic assassin exterior. “She trusts you.”
“And not you?”
She leaned down and put a very chaste kiss on his cheek. “I can’t be trusted at all.” She laughed again and ran off the bridge.
to be continued
Wednesday, February 2, 2011 3:48 PM
Thursday, February 3, 2011 4:30 AM
Thursday, February 3, 2011 1:22 PM
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