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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Maya. Post-BDM. Freya and Jayne have a late night chat, and Hank decides to take a walk. Then meet the Tanners ... NEW CHAPTER
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 2076 RATING: 10 SERIES: FIREFLY
River pushed him in the shoulder. “Jayne.”
Immediately he was awake, reaching for the small handgun he kept above the bed. “Problems?”
He lay back on the bed, staring into the darkness. “Riv, I was asleep,” he complained mildly.
“And mother is awake, sitting in the kitchen.”
“She ain't your mother.” It was automatic, and she ignored his words.
“She needs to talk.”
“Fine. I’ll wait here ‘til you get back.”
“Needs to talk to someone like her.”
He lifted himself onto his elbow. “Are you meaning me?”
“We are all alike, on a molecular level. But higher ...” She rested her chin on his chest. “Somehow you are close. Friends. And I think she needs a friend.”
“She’s got Mal.”
“Someone who understands the darkness.”
“She’s got –”
“Fine.” He swung his legs off the bed. “Shiny. I’ll just go ...”
“Good.” River settled back down, her eyes closing as she pulled the covers back up to her neck.
Jayne pulled on a pair of pants and a t-shirt. “You ain’t gonna wait up for me?” he asked, surprised.
“I’ll be listening,” she said, then yawned widely.
“Right.” Jayne shook his head as he walked quietly out of the shuttle.
Mal rolled over in bed, reaching out to Freya to pull her close, but her side of the bed was empty. Forcing his eyes open he scanned the small room, noting the fact that her clothes were missing from the heap she’d left them in, and the large red shawl he’d bought for her had gone from its place on the chair, and he sighed. It had been a while since he’d woken alone, several months in fact, but it wasn’t all that unusual. Freya sometimes found it hard to sleep, waking from dreams that had made her sweat hard, her breath coming in great gulps. So rather than toss and turn, maybe disturbing Mal, she’d go and sit in the kitchen, playing solitaire until she felt ready to try again.
He glanced at the small chronometer on the table by the bulkhead – it was so late a man might call it really early. Smiling slightly he reached out and touched the pillow next to him, but it was cold, indicating she’d been gone some time. With a sigh he swung his legs off the bed and stood up, dragging a pair of baggy sleep pants over unresponsive feet before climbing the ladder into the corridor above. He shivered slightly, then padded towards the kitchen.
He had to smile. He was right – there she was, sitting at the table, only she wasn’t alone. He could also see Jayne sat opposite, and the smile died in a flare of jealousy.
No, that was crazy. There was no way Freya would have anything going with the ex-merc. Mal ran his hands over his face. Okay, maybe he was tired, more tired than he thought. And there were other reasons for them to be awake in the wee hours. As hard as it was for him to accept, in some ways his wife and ... and Jayne were alike. They both had a dark side, something Freya did her very best to keep hidden, using the techniques taught by her mentor to control it. At least, that’s what she thought. Mal had yet to see a sign of it himself, but he had to admit maybe that was because he loved her so absolutely.
Besides, the pair of them were just sitting, talking. Admittedly there was a bottle of whiskey on the table between them, glasses in front of them, but Freya was wrapped in her shawl, and Jayne needed to shave the skin around his goatee, so neither of them looked as if they were about to ... get squishy. Instead they were talking, quietly, and Mal found himself not wanting to interrupt. Instead he gave into the other urge, and he slid down the wall to sit on the deck, eavesdropping.
“That bad?” Jayne was asking, pouring a glassful each.
“Mal hasn’t heard everything.” She stared into the dark liquid. “Actually, I’ve told him pretty much nothing. Just thinking about it makes my skin crawl.” She picked up the glass and tossed its entire contents down her throat.
“Hell, Frey, if you’re gonna do that I'm gonna get out the rotgut.”
“You mean this isn’t?” she asked, her voice strained, her eyes tearing up.
He picked up his own glass and sniffed it. “Smells okay to me.” He sipped. “Taste fine.”
“Must be me, then.” She wiped at her cheeks.
“’Cept I’m wondering if maybe it’s not the booze, but the memories,” Jayne said with rare perception.
“Maybe you’re right.” She sighed. “I can’t even say how long I was there. Oh, I know the date I left, and the date Amon finally admitted to it being, but in between … Sometimes it felt like only a month, others like it was forever. What they did …took from me …”
“You don’t have to,” Jayne said, putting out his big hand and covering hers. “I ain’t the best of people to talk to.”
“Don’t sell yourself short. In a way, we’re more alike than most other people on this boat.”
“You ain’t got a goatee.”
She had to laugh. “No, that’s true. But you know what I mean.”
“Yeah, I know.” He looked down at his untouched drink. “There was a time maybe I thought we could’ve … ‘cept you only ever had eyes for Mal.”
“Yes. Sorry about that, Jayne.”
He lifted his head, and she was glad to see him grinning. “Nah, don’t be. If’n we had, I’d never’ve found out how River felt about me. Or how I felt about her.” He chuckled. “It’s just strange, don’t’cha think? A goodly bit of my life I’ve gone about doing what I want, and she wasn’t even alive. I didn’t know what I was missing.”
“It makes you feel complete.”
“You know, I’ve shot someone afore for saying something like that. Just on principle.”
“I'm glad you’ve changed then.” She held out her glass. “Come on, we were going to drink a toast.”
“That we were.” He refilled it. “Absent friends.”
They drank together.
“If you want you can talk about it,” Jayne said, pouring again. “What they did. I know I won’t understand any of the long words, but I ain’t gonna go around blabbing about it either.”
She gazed at him for a long time, until he felt an uncomfortableness.
“I … don’t know,” she admitted finally. “So much of it is hazy, as if my mind’s blanked out a lot. And what I do remember is full of pain and blood. And voices. Voices all the time, telling me to do things, telling me not to, and others out on the edge just thinking about their lives.”
“Those ones’d be in your head?”
She nodded. “I thought I was going crazy. In fact I knew I was. So I hid in the darkness, only it tried to eat me.”
“You know you’re sounding more’n a titbit like my moonbrain,” Jayne pointed out.
“Not surprised.” She sighed. “They made me do things, Jayne. I don’t have anything but … pictures, images, snapshots of that time, but I'm pretty sure they’re real.” An intense wave of sadness passed over her face. “If there’d been some way of killing myself, if they’d left me alone long enough, I would have.”
“Then you got out.”
“I still don’t know how. But I was outside, and the building was burning behind me.” She swallowed, still hearing the screams of the dying both in her ears and mind.
“Good riddance to ‘em all,” Jayne said fiercely, and she knew he was thinking about his own wife, fast asleep in the shuttle.
“They thought they were helping.”
“You’re kidding.” He sat back, fingering the glass.
“They thought, if they could make fighters, weapons, they could make everyone behave, and that would in turn make everyone civilised and happy.”
“Yeah, seen that before. Civilise ‘em until they’re dead.” An unfiltered image of Miranda crossed his mind, and he barely suppressed the shudder, throwing the whiskey down his throat to drown it out.
“They let something out, Jayne, out of me, and I’ve been trying to control it ever since. But without Amon, I’d have been six feet under half a lifetime ago.”
“Yeah.” He smiled slightly. “Figure it was the same with Indigo.”
“Tell me about him.”
Jayne knew she didn’t want to talk about her past anymore, so he talked about his. “Never really did figure out whether he was called Indigo ‘cause of all the tattoos, or the tatts came about ‘cause of his nickname, but he sure was sorta blue all over.” He chuckled. “Some of ‘em … well, you wouldn’t want anyone with any moral pro-clivities to see ‘em.”
“Oh? Do you have pictures?”
The chuckle became a laugh. “Nah. You’d go bright red.”
“I don’t know where I get this reputation for being something of a prude –” Freya began, but Jayne interrupted her.
“Prob’ly from the times you’ve been a mite uncomfortable when folks have talked about sexing.”
She shifted on her seat, then glared at him when he laughed again. “It’s private, Jayne.”
“Only if you ain’t a prude.” He grinned, then went on, “Anyways, a boy could get an education from reading Indigo.”
“Is that what you did?”
“Hell, I weren’t a boy. And I’d had a pretty good education from more’n a coupla whores. But he taught me other stuff. Like how to know when a man was lying. And half a dozen ways to kill without getting up from the table, but that’s ‘cause Indigo said you should never waste energy if’n you didn’t have to.”
“He ... sounds like quite a guy.”
Jayne chuckled again. “There was more, a’course, but ... yeah, he was.”
“I can see why you want to avenge him.”
“It ain’t about revenging anyone, Frey. What happened to Indigo happens to a lot of fellers in my line o’ work.” He stared into his empty glass. “Shot in the back, hanged, taken by the Alliance ... there ain’t many get to sit back in a rocker in their old age.”
“That won’t happen to you, Jayne,” Freya said, reaching across and touching his hand, just a brush of her fingertips across his skin.
“It woulda.” His blue eyes were sincere. “Maybe not now, but ... before ...” He waved at the metal skin surrounding them, keeping them safe from the Black. “All this.”
Freya understood. And yawned. “Sorry.”
Jayne smiled, not the leer normally associated with his interactions with women, but a warmer, more personal grin that was in fact far sexier. “Better be getting back to Mal. He wakes up and finds you gone ... well, he might think we’re up to something we shouldn’t be.” He stood up and stretched, the room smaller than it had been a few seconds before. “Riv’ll be wanting to snuggle, too.” He went to pick up the glasses.
“Leave them. I’ll wash them in the morning.” She got to her feet, tugging the shawl tighter around her shoulders. “Night, Jayne. And ... thank River for me.”
He laughed. “We ever gonna be able to put one past you?”
“Everyone does, all the time. Ask my children.” She smiled. “You’ve got that to come with Cal.”
“Nah,” Jayne wrinkled his nose. “My son’s a good boy.”
“You just keep telling yourself that, Jayne. It’s safer.”
“Well, I’m to my bed.” He headed for the doorway. “Night, Frey.”
She waited until he’d gone, hearing his footsteps disappearing as he went down the stairs, then picked up the glasses and placed them on the counter before climbing into the corridor and walking along to the bridge.
“Are you coming to bed?” she asked, turning around to sit on the steps.
Mal sighed from where he was hiding. He’d heard Jayne coming, and figured he didn’t have the time to actually climb down the ladder into his bunk, and jumping down was just asking for a broken ankle, so he’d leaped to his bare feet instead and run to the bridge. “You knew I was here, huh?” he said quietly.
“Yes,” she said, equally quietly. She rested her wrists on her bent knees. “And you don’t have to be jealous.”
“I know.” He joined her, leaning against her.
“It doesn’t stop it, though, does it?”
“Nope.” It didn’t. Sitting there, listening to her talking to someone who wasn’t him ... He shook his head. “Sorry, Frey. I didn't mean to listen in, but ... you don’t tell me things, and sometimes maybe I get worried ‘cause you open up to Jayne and not to me,”
“About my past.”
She didn’t respond for a moment, then just as he was about to prompt her, she sighed. “He’s safe.”
“I guess.” He figured that was because Jayne wasn’t likely to go telling anyone.
“Yes. And no. Not just that.” She'd read his mind.
“Then why, Frey?” He turned so he could look at her, seeing her beauty even in the dim night lighting, but feeling his belly tighten. “Ain’t I good enough for you to talk to? Ain’t I made it plain how I feel about you over these years?”
“You have,” she agreed. “And therein lies the root of the problem.”
“Frey, you ain't making any sense.”
“I talk to him because he understands, and because ... he won't stop loving me.”
Mal couldn’t help it. He sighed. It was either that or get angry, and even then it was a close run thing. His wife’s insecurities and occasional bouts with the green-eyed goddess were part of her, making her the woman she was, but sometimes he’d like to take them out and give them a gorram good hiding.
He took her hand. “Ai ren, there ain’t nothing in this whole, wide, nefarious ‘verse that’d make me love you even on iota less. Ask River. She’ll do the math for you.”
Her lips might have twitched, he couldn’t be too sure, not in that twilight. “I'm sure she would,” she said softly.
“And we all got our secrets,” he went on. “Things I did in the war, some since ... But what those hwoon dahns did to you in that place, how they hurt you ...” He had to stop for a moment to gather himself. “I wanna kill each and every one of ‘em for you. Take ‘em to pieces. Just the thought of what they put you through makes my blood boil.”
“That’s not good for your heart.”
“My heart’s fine. ‘Cept maybe it’s like the rest of me and wants to do some murdering for you.”
“’Cept I'm wrong about that. It wouldn’t be murder. It’d be justice.” He squeezed her hand. “And ‘cause you won’t tell me, I got all these possibilities running round my brain, and they just make me ...” He took a breath. “Frey, I love you so much.”
“I know. And I love you too.” She leaned her head against his shoulder. “And it was worse.”
The fire in his blood turned to ice. What had they done to his xin gan, to his beloved, that was worse than the blackest imaginings in his mind? “Frey ...”
“I don't want to tell you, because I can’t,” she said, so quietly he wasn't sure if she was speaking or thinking.
“You ever gonna be able to?”
“I don't know.” She took a deep breath, the vibration transferring to him through their touching skin. “One day, maybe.”
“Well, when that day happens, I’ll be here. I promise.”
“Thank you.” She yawned again.
“Come on.” He stood up. “I think maybe Jayne had the right of it. Time to get some sleep.”
“I love you so much, Mal.”
Tugging her gently to her feet he wrapped his arms around her, feeling her heart beating against him. “I love you too, ai ren.” He breathed in the scent of her hair. “Just you promise me something ... if the time comes ... you let me kill ‘em for you.”
Her arms tightened. “I promise, Mal.”
Next morning Kaylee hefted a huge bag of tools carefully down the stairs towards the open cargo bay doors.
“Mei-mei ...” Mal complained, hurrying across to take it from her.
“Thanks, Cap.” She grinned.
“Gorramit, what you got in here?” he asked, impressed despite himself at her quiet strength, probably from twisting wrenches and bending pipes.
“Just a few bits.” Kaylee shrugged. “Won’t know what’s wrong with the pump ‘til I get it taken apart, and it’s just easier if I have what I might need with me. Then I don’t have to make a second trip.”
“You really think you’re going to be needing the kitchen sink?” He just about managed to get it into the back of the old ATV.
“Never know,” she said sunnily, joking along with him.
Jayne stomped his way out of the shuttle above them, River following with Caleb on her hip.
“You ready?” he called down.
“Ready.” Kaylee waved her fingers. “Morning, Cal,” she said.
Caleb giggled and waved back. “Kay-Kay,” he mumbled around the other hand in his mouth, his name for his Auntie Kaylee.
“Teething,” River explained, coming down the stairs after her husband. “He’s chewing on everything. He tried to taste Vera this morning.”
“Just so long as she wasn’t loaded,” Mal said pointedly.
“You think I’m that stupid?” Jayne asked, reaching the deck.
“I don't recall using those words, but ...”
“No arguing,” River said, moving smoothly to her captain’s side.
“Not arguing.” Mal looked down into his surrogate daughter’s face. “Just looking out for my crew.” He chucked Caleb under his chin, making the boy laugh.
“For family,” she corrected.
Hank and Zoe came out of the doorway to the common area.
“You got a comm.?” Mal asked his first mate.
“Yes, sir.” She shrugged into the heavy coat she was carrying.
“Soon as Kaylee lets you know she’s done, you call Jayne.” He turned to the ex-merc. “You come back straight. No procrastinating.”
“Wouldn’t know how, Mal.”
“I'll make sure he does,” Hank said unexpectedly.
“Huh?” The big man turned, pausing in the act of leaning his rifle in the ATV. “You coming hunting with me?”
“It’s a nice day. I could do with the exercise.”
“You think that’s a good idea?” Mal asked, a picture of Jayne ‘accidentally’ shooting the pilot crossing his mind.
“I’ll keep out of the way.” Hank pulled on the jacket they hadn’t noticed he’d had draped over his arm. “I just ... like I said, I need the exercise.”
Jayne stared at him, wondering if this was Hank’s way of being supportive over Indigo. Then he finished packing his weapons in the old vehicle. “Don’t mind,” he said.
“I'm coming too,” River said.
Now Jayne really was amazed. “Moonbrain?”
“I shall visit with Mallory,” she said. “While Kaylee’s working and Zoe’s standing guard.”
“And I shall play nice.” She handed Caleb to Mal. “I promise.”
Mal’s mouth curved. “Looks like maybe she doesn’t trust you as much as you think, Jayne.”
River gave him her haughty look. “Of course I trust him.”
“Whatever you say.” He looked down. “Hey, Cal, don’t you be doing that.” He gently removed his suspender from the little boy’s mouth.
“I’ll get a teething ring,” River said, running past her husband and up the stairs to the shuttle.
“And a coat,” Mal called. “And boots. You ain’t going nowhere making me feel cold like that.”
She laughed, the sound filling the bay like her namesake.
In the dining room of the large house a distance from the town, Brad Tanner piled a plate with scrambled eggs from a serving dish on the sideboard, then joined his brother at the long table. The room was styled on a baronial refectory from Earth-that-was, but neither of them took any notice of their surroundings.
“They’re still here. Cutter waved,” Brad said, salting his eggs. “Sticking their noses into things that don’t concern them.”
“There’s nothing about MacCready’s death to find out.” Wes sipped his coffee.
“Except who killed him.”
“And nobody’s going to tell Cobb anything. Not if they know what’s good for them.”
“That’s the thing.” Brad filled his fork. “People don’t know how bad it could be.”
Wes smiled slightly. “Then Cutter can have a word with them in his capacity as sheriff to explain.”
Medea Tanner swept into the room, nodding at her sons. “Good morning.”
“Morning, Ma,” the two men chorused.
She crossed to the sideboard and lifted the cover on one of the dishes, selecting a single rasher of bacon and placing it on a plate. “Are we likely to have any more trouble with Cobb?”
Wesley glanced at his brother, then shrugged. Despite being younger by nearly two years, Brad tended to defer to him in matters that demanded more than the most basic intelligence. “I doubt he’s going to be around long enough.”
“I want you keeping an eye on him.”
“Cutter McCoy’s already doing that.”
“I don’t care about him!” Medea flashed him a glare. “I told you to. And I expect you to do as I ask.”
Brad fingered the scarring on his neck. “We could always just kill him. I wouldn’t mind doing it.”
His mother came to the table and sat down, setting her sparse breakfast plate in front of her. “I know Cutter is being paid very well, but it isn’t a good idea to kill people just for pleasure. It could get back to the Alliance, and we don’t want them involved, do we?”
Another glance passed between the brothers, then Wes said, as he topped up his coffee, “A man like that, Ma? They’d probably pay us.”
“And I said no.” She looked over to a small cabinet by the wall, covered in still and moving captures, all of the same young man, and her expression softened as much as it ever did. “Troy wouldn’t have argued with me.”
Wes bit his tongue, stopping the hard comments that wanted to spill from his lips by sheer effort of will. Instead he arranged his attractive features into a smile. “I’m sorry, Ma. Of course we’ll do what you say.”
“Good.” She nodded approvingly then reached for a slice of dry toast. “That’s my good boys.”
to be continued
Friday, February 18, 2011 9:44 AM
Friday, February 18, 2011 12:43 PM
Friday, February 18, 2011 2:42 PM
Saturday, February 19, 2011 4:36 AM
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