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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Maya. Post-BDM. The crew is agitated because of Hank's shooting, Mal goes to see the sheriff and River does something so not genius. NEW CHAPTER (oh, and apologies for the delay)
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 2236 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
The sun was heading towards its low zenith by the time Mal left the ship the next morning, but very few people would have been able to point to it. Heavy grey clouds had replaced the thin blue skies of the last couple of days, and he could smell snow on the breeze. Maybe Kaylee was right and they were going to have a dusting.
He’d not had a good night himself, but then neither had any of the rest of the crew. They were all concerned about Hank, even more so when Simon admitted there should have been sign of the pilot waking up by now. Zoe even asked if he was keeping her husband sedated on purpose, but the young doctor assured her that the only medication he was giving Hank was painkillers and muscle relaxants so he didn’t strain anything when he did stir. Simon went on to say that it wasn’t unheard of for someone to be in a coma of their own accord, it being the brain’s way of dealing with hurt, and allowing the body time to heal, but ... There was always that but.
Supper had been quiet, and the table emptier than usual. Zoe had taken a plate of food down to the common area, Ben not leaving her side, just so she could watch Hank’s still form through the doorway to the infirmary. Simon stayed inside the cool room, munching absently on sandwiches Kaylee had made for him, and making notes in one of his journals.
Kaylee herself wasn’t much better. She pushed her food around her plate, chewing on the inside of her lip instead until she was afraid she could taste the tin of blood. Bethie, her normally ebullient appetite suppressed, kept her eyes on her mother for most of the time, for once not asking for seconds.
It was Ethan Mal felt the most concern for, and not just because the boy was his son. Freya had explained what seemed like a long time ago that Ethan was empathic, able to feel what other people felt, and all this worry wasn’t doing him any good. The little boy’s face was grey, and his mother’s wasn’t much better, so it didn’t take much cajoling to make everyone take an early night, and his suggestion that Ethan stay with Jesse in the nursery wasn’t met with the usual emphatic shake of the head, and Mal’s concern deepened when his son didn’t complain about being picked up either.
He’ll be all right, Freya assured him, tucking their boy into his old bed, lifting the covers up to press around his old knitted alligator, the very same toy Hank had given him such a long time before.
“Are you sure?” Mal asked quietly as she slid the door across.
“We get hurt. It happens.”
“That doesn’t make it right.” He started to unbutton his shirt but tiredness seemed to overwhelm him and he sat down on the bed, his suspenders halfway down his arms.
“No, it doesn’t.”
“You know, seeing the table tonight ...” Mal shook his head. “It made me think too much of the weeks after Miranda. Even when everyone was healed physically ...”
She hadn’t been there, but he knew she understood what he meant. With all the time she’d spent stepping nimbly through his thoughts, she had to have seen the guilt he still carried for the losses, the empty chairs at table, no matter how much she told him he didn’t have to. Probably something to do with all that church-going he did when he was young, when his own Ma would put on her Sunday-best and they’d drive the buckboard into town and pray for their souls. Do unto others, and all that.
“Stop it,” she said mildly.
“Right.” She went down on her heels in front of him. “Hank’s still alive, and he’s going to recover.”
“I know.” She tapped her temple.
“I thought River was the one who saw the future.” He smiled slightly, just a little tilt to the corner of his mouth.
“Mal, Hank isn't going to die.”
“He’d better not make you break your word.” He exhaled heavily. “Zoe won’t forgive him, and neither will I.”
“I’m sure he knows that.” She straightened up, unbuttoning her shirt and turning away from him to glance into the mirror over the sink unit. “Mal, you and Zoe ... You’ve been together a long time.”
He didn’t suspect anything, just concentrated on attempting to lever off his boot with his toe, too tired or too lazy to do it properly. “Sometimes it seems like most of my life.”
“So why didn’t you ...”
He lifted his head to stare at her. “You gonna get all jealous over her now, like you used to over Inara?”
“No,” she insisted, still not looking at him. “I just wondered. She’s a damn fine woman, beautiful, strong ... just your type.”
“Maybe.” Mal couldn’t help the slight smile. She was describing herself, even if she didn’t consciously know it. “And maybe there was a time, right at the beginning ...” His memory tossed him the bone of a static image, frozen like an old fashioned capture, of Zoe in that gorram purple armour, her rifle pointing directly at him. He’d wondered at that point if he was ever going to feel another heartbeat, let alone see another sunrise, but she’d surprised him the first of many times.
“But you didn’t give into it. Did you?”
Dammit, Frey, he thought, but said, “No.” He stood up, crossing the small room in a single stride to stand next to her. With gentle hands he turned her around. “No, Frey. Never did.”
She gazed into his eyes. “Because I’d understand if you had.”
“We never did anything we shouldn’t,” he insisted. “Well, not over and above facing down the chi wu Alliance. And we never had sex.”
“Or made love?”
He internalised the sigh. As much as he wanted to understand women, he knew he didn’t, and somehow he was aware that situation was never going to change, particularly as his darling wife was unlike any woman he’d ever met before. “Or made love,” he agreed.
“’Cause you know they’re different.”
“I figured that out a while back.” He steered her to the bed, making her sit next to him. “A’course, that doesn’t mean we didn’t sleep together,” he joked. “There were some cold nights, and it was either snuggling or waking up a frozen popsicle.”
Her mouth twitched. “Well, if it was a case of surviving, then I think I can forgive you.”
“Why didn’t you give in, though?”
He looked into her face, but there was only honest query in it, not the scab-picking she occasionally indulged in. She just wanted to know, and he wanted to be truthful. “Frey, there ain’t a reason, not really. You’re more’n aware of what it was like – sometimes you couldn’t even get space to piss by yourself, let alone do anything more ... passionate. And by the time we got some R&R ... it was already too late. Zoe was my corporal, I was her sergeant ...”
“And you don’t do that sort of thing.”
She smiled softly. “Glad of that.”
“And Hank’ll be okay.”
“I believe you.” He paused a moment, then asked the question that had been lurking in his mind ever since he’d seen his pilot bleeding. “Can you ... pick up on who did this?”
“No.” Freya sounded annoyed with herself. “No more than River can. Or Bethie, for that matter.”
Mal shook his head. “I don’t want that little girl looking for folks that’d do that to a man.”
“You can’t stop her. Hank’s her uncle, even if it’s not by blood.”
“You think Ethan’s doing the same?”
She leaned against him and took his hand in hers. “He wants to help.”
He stared into her hazel eyes. “Can’t you do something? In those lessons of yours? Teach ‘em about control, about how it’s not good for them to ... to ...”
“To hurt because Hank’s hurting?”
“Yeah. Pretty much.”
“I can try,” she conceded. “But Bethie’s strong, and Ethan backs her up.”
“I guess.” He stroked the back of her hand with his thumb. “You know, I see trouble in the future for that pair.”
“You mean as a couple?” Freya laughed, breaking the tension. “There’s a few years to go before you need to get down to some serious worrying about that.”
“You think? Frey, there’s more than one planet I've been to where a girl’s had young’ns of her own around her skirts, and she’s barely thirteen.”
“Mal, you even suggest to Simon that his darling daughter is likely to be a mother in a few years and he’s going to shoot you himself.”
“I’m just saying –”
“You’re just trying to change the subject.”
“Yeah, well, what if I am? The idea that my son’s trying to ...” He had to stop.
She put her arm around him, her warmth pressed against his shoulder. “I’ll talk to him. To them both.”
“Thank you,” he said honestly, then added, “Is it bad I'm glad Jesse ain’t showing no sign of having these kinda talents?”
“You mean that she’s normal?”
“Not normal. Hell, I ain’t sure anyone on board this boat’s actually normal, but ... that she ain’t gifted in that sort of way.”
Gifted. He called it gifted, and meant it. Her heart swelled, and she pressed closer. “She won’t need to be, Mal. She’s got her family around her.”
“Even if that includes Jayne.”
She breathed in his ear. “Even then.”
They’d gone to bed just a short while later, for once not making love, just holding each other until they drifted off. Still, he couldn’t help waking every half an hour or so, unable to stop listening to every creak and groan of Serenity around him.
He was almost glad to get outside the next morning, striding through the outskirts of town to the sheriff’s office. Simon had assured him Hank was, if not doing well, at least not doing badly, and he’d had a quiet conversation with Zoe, who’d obviously not actually gone to bed at all.
The children were notable by their absence, staying in their rooms for company of their own age, while only Jayne was in the cargo bay as he left, doing idle arm curls with a dumbbell that would have made Mal break out in a sweat just lifting it.
“Keep an eye out,” Mal said, wrapping his scarf around his neck.
“Wasn’t planning on doing anything else.”
“I’m kinda surprised River ain’t down here, insisting she comes with me.”
Jayne shrugged. “Maybe you ain’t gonna get shot today.”
“Not planning on it.” Mal opened the inner door to the airlock. “Not going to go see Mallory again?”
“Nope. Nothing I got to say to her.”
Something stirred in the pit of Mal’s stomach. “Jayne, I don’t want you going off half-cocked. In fact I don’t want you going off at all, least not until there’s something you can aim at.”
“Don’t worry about me, Mal,” Jayne assured him. “I’ll wait.”
Still, Mal’s crew was surely on his mind as he pushed open the door to the sheriff’s office, stepping inside and coming almost face to face with the current incumbent.
Cutter McCoy was probably Jayne’s age, maybe a year or two younger, but he looked like someone had dropped him in a pickling vat and left him there for the duration. His skin was tanned to a deep mahogany, suggesting hours out in the sunshine, although it was possible this was something in his ancestry from Earth-that-was rather than a love of the outdoors. He had high cheekbones and a hawk nose, while his long black hair was tied back in a ponytail hanging from the nape of his neck, although his hairline looked like it was receding, making his forehead very high.
He was sitting behind an ancient desk, his chair balanced on the two back legs, booted feet up on the old wood. A locked cabinet of a dozen rifles on the metal wall behind him, but all his attention was on the magazine on his lap, open at the centre spread of two naked women. Silicone enhanced breasts defied gravity to point at him.
“You like the articles?” Mal asked, nodding towards the girlie mag.
Mal had been brought up to be polite, with an occasional slipper to his backside when he was young, and more often a spell at weeding the vegetable patch as he got older, and his Ma would have been horrified if he hadn't gotten to his feet when a stranger walked into the room. Cutter McCoy obviously hadn't had the same training, as he merely leaned back further in his chair and put his hand on his sidearm.
“What can I do for you?” McCoy asked in turn.
Fine, Mal thought. He wants to be all business, that’s fine by me. “I need to report a crime.”
“Really. Someone pick your pocket?”
“You get a lot of that around here in Cason’s Point, so you?”
“A bit. Mostly by strangers.” McCoy shrugged. “And I don’t know you.”
“I'm Captain Malcolm Reynolds. That’s my Firefly out on the dock.”
“I seen it.”
“And I've got me a man on board’s been shot.”
“Really.” McCoy lowered his chair slowly until the front legs were on the ground, his boots joining them. “A friend of yours?”
“And how did this accident happen?”
Mal hitched his thumbs into his gunbelt. “Now, I’m pretty fair sure I said it was a crime, which in my book makes it deliberate.”
“Well, like I said, we have a quiet town around here. Not much goes on I don’t know about, and I don’t allow any kind of miscreants.”
“Miscreants. That what you call it.”
McCoy raised an eyebrow. “So you think someone tried to murder your man.”
“Can’t see it being anything else.”
“Where did it happen?”
“Out near the old Alliance camp.”
McCoy’s eyes darkened. “That’s more or less off-limits. We’ve had folks hurt there before, taking it into their minds to have a look around, and they’re fallen down shafts, over broken concrete, that kind of thing.”
“Well, since he didn’t fall ...”
“No. You said. But lots of people go hunting around there too, so maybe he was hit by a stray bullet.”
The sheriff looked annoyed. “He say anything?”
Mal shook his head. “My medic says he’s got a fair chance, but he’s not woken up yet.”
“Then maybe you should wait to accuse anyone until he does.” The unspoken if he does hung in the air between them. “I don’t take kindly to suggestions of defamation of character.”
“Was that what I was suggesting?” Mal pondered. “I kinda thought I was saying it loud and clear.” He shrugged. “Well, I figured you’d want to know. Just in case you caught any miscreants might have done the deed. In case there’s maybe a serial killer on the loose on Ithaca.”
“Shiny.” Mal looked around. “Well, is there anything I need to sign, seeing as I have reported it?”
“Nope. I’ll make a note of it.” McCoy put his feet back on the table and pushed his chair into balance again. “If I need any more info, I’ll wave.”
“Think you can find me?”
“Yours is the only ship visiting right now,” McCoy said, picking his magazine up again. He turned it from left to right, admiring the images. “See yourself out.”
Mal allowed a tiny, cold smile to curve his lips, then strode out into the fading light. Overhead the clouds were thickening even more, and there was the smell of tin on the breeze. He paused for a moment, ostensibly buttoning his coat, but his ears listening for ... yes. There.
In the office Mal could imagine the magazine forgotten as McCoy activated the small Cortex link on his desk. The connection established, he said, “Mrs Tanner. Now.”
“She is engaged at the moment, sir.” A man’s voice, probably aged, stooped. A butler maybe.
“I need to speak to her.”
“Sheriff McCoy, she is engaged. I can ask her to wave you.”
“Fine. You do that.”
“And is there a message, sir?”
“Yeah. Tell her Wes and Brad’ve been up to their old tricks again, only maybe they’ve gone too far this time.”
“Of course sir.”
Mal had heard enough, and strode towards the dock, unaware that someone out in the surrounding hills was watching his every move with high powered binoculars.
She was slim, on the border of skinny, her serviceable white blouse done up to her neck hiding any cleavage she might have, her long black skirt covering what were probably pale thin legs. Her hair, clean at least, was done up in a low bun, although a tendril had escaped to curl on her shoulder.
Medea Tanner looked her up and down, much as she would do an animal she was planning to buy, but saw nothing special.
“And why do you want to come and work for me?” she asked, one eyebrow questioning.
“Because I understand you are the most successful of all the families on Ithaca,” River said. “And I have many skills.”
“Really.” Medea patted at her own pale blonde hair. “Such as?”
“I am an excellent ladies maid. I can cook. Or tutor children.”
“I have a maid, and a cook. And my children are all grown.”
“I have green fingers,” River went on. “I can grow anything.”
“I have a gardener.” Medea shook her head. “I can’t see you being able to offer anything I don’t already own.”
“Perhaps, but you’re far too young. And perhaps too flighty.” Her eyes narrowed. “You came from the ship at the Port, yes?”
“Yes. Madam,” River added quickly.
“Why do you want to leave them?”
River allowed herself to chew her lip before answering. “It’s the people, Madam,” she said finally, looking down at her feet. “They’re all so ... unrefined.”
Medea’s face cracked into a slight smile. “Unrefined?”
As if emboldened, River looked up, taking half a step forwards. “Yes, Madam. I used to live in the Core, at least until my father ...” Her voice broke and she took a deep breath. “We fell on hard times, and had to leave. I’m on my own now,” she admitted, much quieter. “I had to take any job that I could, and ended up with ...” Another pause, then, on almost nothing more than a whisper, “I have to lock my door at night.”
A fleeting glimmer of satisfaction passed through Medea’s eyes. “I see.”
“I keep looking, but nobody wants to give me a chance.”
There was a long period of silence, and River could feel herself being scrutinised. It was mutual, of course, although the old woman’s walls were very strong, and the psychic was afraid to push too hard.
After perhaps two minutes Medea finally shook her head. “No. I'm sorry, but I don’t think I can help you. I have no vacancy that would do, and if I did there are families I’ve known for much longer who can supply me with anyone I need. And I don’t know you. For all I know you could be a thief on the run.”
“Madam ...” River whined.
“Enough.” Medea reached into the alligator purse and pulled out a coin, tossing it to River who caught it easily. “For your trouble, but I don’t wish to see you here again. And I suggest, if you find it so terrible on board your present ship, you use that to buy your way off.”
River allowed her head to drop. “Yes. Thank you.” She turned and walked out, aware of Medea’s calculating gaze on her back until she was through the door.
Back in the fresh cold air, she allowed the breeze to cleanse her skin before starting back towards the town. The walk would do her good, and perhaps break the memory of those eyes trying to see into her soul. She glanced down at the coin in her palm – a hundred platinum piece. Medea Tanner was nothing if not generous, although it screamed blood money, sending jagged shards of pain up her arm until she thrust it into her pocket. The sounds were muted, but still there, seething through her mind’s eye.
She shivered, and not from the cold. Better to think of other things, of hot chocolate when she got back to Serenity, of the arms of her husband, of Mal’s approval when she told him what she’d ... learned ...
Oh. That ... wasn’t good.
Mal had got back to the ship to find Jayne waiting at the doors. “What is it?” he asked.
“Mal, did you take Riv with you?” the big man wanted to know.
“No. You saw me leave.”
“That’s what I thought.” His hands were stuffed into the pockets of his cargo pants, but Mal was betting they were in fists.
“I take it she’s not here.”
“Maybe she went to see Mallory.”
“Jayne, we’re talking about River here.” Mal pushed down on the thread of concern that had started to rear up in his belly. “She might not have.”
“She woulda to me.” Jayne’s eyes were scanning the visible horizon. “Gorram moonbrain’s up to something.”
Mal turned, looking for himself. “Did you ask Frey?”
“Yeah. She said she couldn’t feel anything. Zoe’s too worried ‘bout Hank. Short stub said the same.”
So he was worried enough to ask Bethie. “Okay.” Mal took a deep breath. “I’ll get Frey, then tell Zoe she’s to join us. We’ll search.” A thought occurred to him. “Maybe Simon –”
“She ain’t hurt,” Jayne interrupted quickly. “I’d feel it.”
“Okay,” Mal said, wondering if his active imagination was ever going to stop giving him possible scenarios, this time ones involving River being on the wrong end of a Sharps herself. “Better get yourself a coat.”
Mal ran up the stairs, looking first towards the bridge and noticing the Hank-sized hole before turning towards the kitchen. Freya was there, sitting making notes on her lesson plan pad, although the children were nowhere to be seen.
“I thought it best not to, at least for a day or two,” she said before he had a chance to speak. “They need a little down time.”
He nodded, crossing to the counter and pouring half a mug of coffee. “Grab your guns,” he said without preamble. “River’s missing.”
“She’s not in any trouble,” Freya insisted, getting slowly to her feet. “Jayne asked me before.”
“And you couldn’t tell about Hank until it happened,” Mal pointed out, ignoring the flash of hurt in her eyes. Instead he swallowed the coffee, forcing it down. “We have to find her.”
He slammed the mug down. “Now, Frey! I ain’t having someone else dying on my watch!”
“Fine.” She walked past him towards their bunk. “I’ll get my coat.”
River had persuaded herself everything was fine. In fact, the argument she’d had with herself had been stimulating, bringing up all sorts of points of view she hadn’t considered before. But she’d prevailed, and now strode towards the open cargo bay doors with a spring in her step and her head high.
Jayne stepped out of the shadows. “Where the diyu have you been?”
“That wasn’t what I asked.”
“I went visiting.”
Jayne’s jaw dropped. “You did what?”
She raised her eyebrows at him. “I said. I went to visit Medea Tanner.” She shifted her shoulders slightly. “I need to change.”
He stared at her as she crossed the cargo bay to the stairs, her low heels clicking loudly in the silence. Then he thrust his hand on the com. “Mal. My shuttle. Now.”
to be continued
Wednesday, April 13, 2011 7:52 AM
Wednesday, April 13, 2011 9:31 AM
Wednesday, April 13, 2011 1:06 PM
Thursday, April 14, 2011 11:02 AM
Thursday, April 14, 2011 3:50 PM
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