BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

JANE0904

Indigo - Part XII
Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Maya. Post-BDM. Simon operates on Hank, and things are seen from Mal's point of view. NEW CHAPTER


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 2412    RATING: 10    SERIES: FIREFLY

In contrast to the almost frenetic activity of the previous few minutes – Mal driving the mule into Serenity’s cargo bay, Freya ready with a stretcher to transfer Hank into the infirmary, Simon and River removing the pilot’s clothes as quickly as possible – the next hour seemed to move through treacle.

Simon was fully prepared to have to order Zoe out of the cool blue room, but was surprised to realise she was nowhere to be seen. “Where –”

“With Ben,” his sister said quietly, pulling on a pair of white latex gloves.

“Of course.”

River knew, and still didn’t say, that Bethie and Ethan had the other children in her room, but Ben needed his mother right now, just as much as she needed him.

Mal helped take off Hank’s armour, idly wondering what would have happened to his pilot if he hadn't been wearing it, considering, then stepped back.

“You need me,” he murmured to Freya as she removed as much of the blood from Hank’s chest as she could, “you just yell.”

“I will,” she responded just as quietly, concentrating on not disturbing the flowering of emergency foam bandage that emerged from the wound.

It’s bad, isn’t it? he thought carefully.

It’s not good. She glanced up into his face. “He’ll be fine, Mal,” she said, giving the lie easily.

He understood. Thinking was one thing – she never lied in her thoughts to him – but maybe saying it aloud would make it true.

“Ready?” Simon asked, looking from River to Freya, visually checking the bags of blood, saline and other supplies ready for use.

They both nodded, but it was River who said, “Ready, ge-ge.”

He took a deep breath, then used a scalpel to open an incision alongside the solid foam.

Mal watched for a good long while, as always quietly amazed at his luck in having such a man as Simon Tam on his crew. Without him he didn't doubt that most of them would be the worse off, quite possibly dead, and while things had happened because of his presence that had changed all their lives, at least for the most part they still had them. And Hank had the best doctor outside the Core, and probably inside it too.

He took a deep breath, holding it until he felt his lungs were going to explode, then released it slowly, as if in doing so he could give Hank his own strength, make sure his first mate wasn’t a widow for the second time.

The beeps from the monitors increased in pace, almost stuttering in their haste to race each other to the finish line, but Simon simply continued his work, River passing him instruments before he asked, Freya adding her hands to his inside Hank’s belly. After a minute the beeps steadied, slowed, counting off the seconds instead of slicing them into nothing.

Mal felt his own heart start beating again, and knew he wasn’t helping. Instead he walked up the steps into the cargo bay, two at a time, determined to keep himself busy.

Not that it helped. Settling the old ATV back into its normal spot under the hovermule merely gave his brain time to think, and what it came up with didn’t settle his stomach any easier. His inclination was to run, make sure everyone was on board and take off, ditch this niou se planet to fend for itself, but that meant tying Jayne up and tossing him in the hold for at least a week – there’d be no other way of making him leave.

He felt the shuttle reattach, and it was barely settled into its cradle before the door opened and Kaylee flew out.

“Cap’n?” she asked, seeing him down on the floor of the bay.

“He’s still alive, mei-mei,” he assured her.

“Can I ...”

“Simon’s working.”

“I won’t interfere.”

“Then I’m sure he wouldn’t mind knowing you’re around.” He smiled a little, just a lift of his lips.

She nodded, immediately running down the stairs, almost falling over her own feet as she hurried into the common area.

Mal waited, and it wasn’t long before Jayne ducked his head out of the shuttle doorway. “Took you long enough,” Mal said.

Jayne shrugged. “Had to go pick up my guns.” He stepped out onto the catwalk, lugging a deer carcase after him. “Seemed a shame to leave this behind too.”

“Better butcher it outside.”

“I intend to.” Lifting it up Jayne tossed it over the edge, and the deer landed on the deck with a lifeless thud.

“Did you have to do that?” Mal complained.

“Didn’t splash.” He stomped down the stairs.

“Did you tell Mallory?”

“As much as she’d let me. Said it was none of her affair and closed the door in my face.”

Mal stirred uneasily. “You think she knows something?”

“No idea.” He reached the bay floor and stared at Mal, hardly any expression in his eyes. “The doc still working?”

“Hank’s still alive, if that’s what you mean.”

The big man shrugged again. “Sure.”

“Jayne –”

“Better get on getting this cut up into steaks, don’t’cha think?” Jayne asked, grabbing one of the deer’s hind legs and walking towards the bay doors, dragging it behind him.

Mal watched him go without further interruption.

He doesn’t mean it, jia yan. River’s voice echoed slightly in his mind without going through his ears first.

Oddly enough I figured that, xiao nu.

It’s because he cares - he just isn’t practised at showing it.

Suppressing a chuckle he turned away from the sight of his ex-merc jointing the deer out in the weak sunshine. Just so long as he knows we’ll probably be talkin’ about this again.

River sighed heavily, quite a feat for a mental exclamation. He knows.

This time Mal let the smile slip onto his lips, even as he walked back through the common area. Kaylee was glued to the window, watching the proceedings as if dynamite wouldn't move her. She didn’t even acknowledge him as he moved past her towards the lower crew quarters.

Stopping outside a half-closed door, he called softly, “Zo?”

“Come in.”

He slid the door open and stepped inside. “Hey.”

“Hey.” His first mate was sitting on the bed, her son curled up next to her, his head in her lap. He had his thumb in his mouth, something he’d have been told off about otherwise, but at the moment he needed the comfort. “He’s asleep,” she went on.

“Then I won’t –”

“Sit down, Mal.”

Swallowing, partly at her use of his first name, he lowered himself to the bed, attempting not to disturb the boy. Ben snuffled a little, but didn’t wake. “You okay?”

“I'm not the one being operated on.”

“No. True.”

She ran her hand gently through her son’s curly brown hair, teasing it with her fingers. “I shouldn’t have let him out on his own.”

“He was with Jayne.”

“Not when he was shot.”

“I guess that’s the case.” His hand wandered towards his pocket and the slug that was still sitting there. “He was wearing his armour.”

“He was sensible.”

“Seems to me he’s been a lot more like that lately.”

“After Jayne adjusted it for him, he figured he should wear it.” She took a deep breath. “It didn’t stop the bullet, though.”

“Jayne seems to think it saved his life.”

“I’ll thank him later.”

They sat quietly for a few minutes before Mal murmured, “I'm sorry, Zo.”

She turned her dark face on him, her look inscrutable. “Why? You didn’t shoot him.”

“We know this place isn’t safe. I shoulda made him stay on board.”

“How many places are safe, Mal?”

She’d used his first name again – even if he hadn't known her as well as he did, this made it as plain as could be. “Not that many,” he admitted.

“I don’t think there’s been a one,” she said softly. “Not for a long time. Considering what’s happened to us, to our friends ... even Lazarus and Phoros ain't without their dangers.”

Mal’s mind skittered over the Monster taking Noni Reynolds from Inara’s home, Niska’s men kidnapping Kaylee’s brother Peter and ... and Hank ... “No, reckon they’re not.”

“You’ve always said, safest place is out in the Black.”

“Yeah.”

“I think you’re right.”

“Law of averages says I have to be sometimes.”

She paused a moment, her gaze dropping back to Ben. “We’re trying, by the way. In case you were wondering.”

Mal was glad of the change of subject. “Trying?”

“For another baby. A brother or sister for Ben.” She stroked her son’s hair again.

Mal half-closed one eye. “You think that’s a good idea?”

“A good ...”

“Ain't one Hank in the ‘verse enough, but you wanna populate it with even more?”

For a moment he thought she was going to hit him, and he held his breath, but finally she cracked the very smallest of a smile.

“I’ll tell him you said that when he wakes up.”

“You do that. In fact, I’ll tell him myself.” Anything to stop her feeling as guilty as he did himself. “And me and Frey’ve got first dibs on another kid. Then maybe I’ll take petitions.”

“From the sounds coming from the shuttle sometimes I think Jayne and River might get there first, sir.”

He relaxed, just a notch. ‘Sir’. As much as he wished she’d call him Mal, somehow it was more comforting when she didn’t. “Have to see about that.”

“I’d wait to tell them if I were you, sir.”

“Oh, I’ll pick my moment.”

Zoe.

One word, dropped into both their minds.

Her eyes met his, and in a moment she was up and running out of the cabin, Ben sitting up and rubbing his face, asking what was happening. Mal was only a step behind her.

“Well?” Zoe was already by the medbed when he got to the infirmary, looking down at the pale, still face of her husband. She put out her hand and touched his untidy brown hair, feeling sweat on her fingers.

Simon looked tired as he stripped the gloves from his hands. “He’s lucky.”

There was the sound of collective breaths being released.

“Lucky?”

“He’s not out of the woods, and he’s lost a great deal of blood, but the bullet did less damage than I could possibly have hoped.”

Zoe clutched the edge of the bed, and only those who knew her well realised how near she was to collapsing. The thing was they all knew her, really, really well.

Freya pulled a stool under her and River helped her to sit down.

“Tell me,” Zoe said, not really noticing the other women.

Simon nodded, realising she needed to know so that she didn’t imagine anything worse. “I was worried about his left kidney, and it was nicked, but I’ve repaired the damage. Otherwise it was stopping the bleeds and stitching up the other injuries, dealing with the shock.”

“And?”

He waited until she looked up at him. “Zoe, I won’t lie to you. He’s still critical, but there’s a chance. If I didn’t miss anything, if there’s no infection, if the blood loss didn’t damage his heart ... he has a chance.”

“And the luck?”

“He isn’t dead.”

Zoe nodded. “Keep him that way, will you?”

“I’ll do my best.”

There was a tug at Mal’s pants leg, and he looked down into the coffee face of Benjamin Malcolm Hoban Mills. “Hey.” Mal swung the little boy up onto his hip and moved away from the infirmary door.

“Is Daddy going to die?” Ben asked, his cheeks wet with tears.

“Well, he ain’t well, but your Uncle Simon’s doing his very best.”

“Uncle Simon’s a good doctor,” Ben agreed.

“That he is.”

“Can I see Daddy?”

“I don’t think that’d be a good idea. Not right now.”

“Please?”

Mal was about to say no, but a tap on his shoulder made him turn. It was River.

“Better he sees so he knows,” she said, holding out her arms.

“You think?”

“Serenity child.”

For a long moment Mal wished he’d never heard that phrase, but then he sighed deeply and passed Ben across. “Just for a minute,” he said firmly.

River nodded, carrying Ben into the infirmary and standing by Zoe. The dark-skinned woman looked up, and after a second the little boy was handed over again to sit on his mother’s lap, talking quietly to her.

“Daddy?”

Mal looked down. “Ethan.” He went down onto his heels to look into his own son’s blue eyes.

“Is Uncle Hank okay?”

“It’ll take time, but I think he’s going to be.” Briefly Mal wondered at the ease of hoping for the best that bordered slightly on the lying, but the look on Ethan’s face suggested he understood more than he should. “Ethan, I don’t know,” he added quickly. “Simon’s the best, and your Ma and Aunt River were helping. But I ain't a doctor.”

“Then he’ll be fine.” Ethan looked determined.

“You think?” Mal pushed his son’s bangs back from his forehead. “You can see that?”

Ethan nodded firmly. Then shrugged. “Is hoping the same?”

“Maybe.” Mal pulled the little boy towards him. “How are the other kids?”

Ethan snuggled up to him, his arms around his father’s neck. “Unhappy.”

“Not surprising.”

“Are you going to kill the man who shot Uncle Hank?”

Mal was still, not moving, shocked by the words coming out of his son’s mouth. “Ethan ...” The arms around his neck tightened, but there were no more words.

Gorramit, Mal thought to himself, shame flooding through him. What the diyu have I done to my family?

Nothing.

He looked up to see Freya standing next to them. He shouldn’t know about things like that.

Serenity child.

Shit. He stood up, Ethan still clasped to him, and moved across the common area to the yellow sofa, sitting down carefully so his son was in his lap. Freya joined them, leaning against him.

It’s how life is. I wish it were different, but he understands.

He’s five!

I know.

“Use words,” Ethan muttered, his face still in his father’s chest.

“Sorry, Ethan,” Mal said. “It’s just sometimes your Ma and me need to talk about things we have to keep to ourselves.”

Ethan sighed deeply. “I know.”

“Think you could do me a favour?” Freya asked, stroking her son’s back.

“’S, Mama.” Ethan sniffed loudly and looked up.

“Can you get the other children and take them up to the kitchen? I think we could all do with something to eat, don't you?”

“’Kay, Mama.” He rubbed his nose. “Not Ben, though.”

“No, not Ben. He needs to be with Auntie Zoe for a while.”

Ethan nodded, taking a moment more in Mal’s embrace before scrambling down to the deck. “’Kay, Mama,” he said, running off to fulfil the request.

Mal watched him go, seeing the seriousness he shouldn't have at that age, then laid his head back on the sofa. “Shit, Frey.”

“He’s your son, Mal,” she said softly. “This is his home. And as much as I'd give to make it that he didn’t know about things like this, he does.”

“He asked if I was gonna kill the man that shot Hank.” Even saying it himself the words still stabbed like a knife in his gut.

“Are you?”

He glanced sharply at her. “Don’t.”

“It’s a perfectly valid question.”

“I don’t wanna kill anyone.”

“Neither do I.” She leaned her elbow on the sofa back so she was closer to his face. “But something bad’s going on here, and I know you.” She touched his cheek, feeling his beard starting to push through the skin. “You came here to give Jayne some kind of closure, but this changes things.”

“We should go. Right now.”

Freya smiled, just a tilt of her lips, a faint echo of something wider. “I might have agreed before you met Mallory. Before someone attacked an innocent man.”

He stared back into the ceiling over his head, idly counting the rivets, giving him a second to think. “Hank’s about as non-threatening as you can get.”

“That he is.”

“He comes up against anyone pointing a gun at him and he’s more likely to say something he thinks is funny and run like hell.”

“Eminently sensible.”

“He calls it being a coward.”

“Zoe doesn’t.” She waited as Ethan and the other children came out of the lower quarters and hurried up the stairs, the little boy making sure they didn’t peer into the infirmary.

“I know,” Mal murmured.

“He’s just like you.”

“You make it sound like that’s a good thing.”

Freya leaned across and put a gentle kiss on his cheek. “Oh, Mal. It’s the best that could ever happen.”

He felt a warmth spread through him, and he turned enough so that their lips met. “You do talk fei hua, ai ren,” he said into her mouth.

Kaylee watched them from her perch on the steps, staying silent, feeling unnecessary.

After what seemed like an age Freya sighed and let go, getting to her feet. “I’d better go and make those sandwiches.”

“Jayne’s cutting us some steaks,” Mal pointed out.

“I don’t think the children will wait that long.” She smiled slightly crookedly. “And you’d better go and talk to him while he’s a captive audience.”

“I wasn’t planning on it.”

She patted her pocket and nodded down to his. “I think you were.”

“Witch.”

“Absolutely.” She blew him a kiss then headed for the stairs, briefly looking into the infirmary before going up towards the kitchen.

She was right, of course, Mal knew. There were questions Jayne might have some answers to, and there really was no time like the present.

to be continued

COMMENTS

Tuesday, March 8, 2011 10:41 AM

BYTEMITE


Wow. That was really good, with the surgery and the talking, and Mal's reaction to hearing how life has hardened his own kids.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011 3:34 PM

AMDOBELL


I loved this though I was holding my breath while Simon was operating on Hank. I hadn't expected him to be that seriously injured given that he was wearing the vest. Every bit was great, the part between Mal and Ethan, and Zoe and then the Maya goodness at the end. I like how well Frey knows Mal and how River drops thoughts into their heads too. All of it is good, very shiny Thanks! Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Tuesday, March 8, 2011 3:55 PM

ANGELLEMARCS


I always like the way your Mal is around his kids. Ethan here is just wonderfully his daddy. As for Hank, I am glad Simon is as talented as he is. And he best be okay....

Tuesday, March 8, 2011 5:17 PM

KATESFRIEND


This was great - all your characters were spot on and loved Mal's moralizing over Ethan's childhood on Serenity. Glad Zoe realized that the Black is the safest place for them all - I hate it when the band breaks up. Loved your grumpy Jayne! Your writing is as dynamic as ever.


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