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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Mal looked at the man, seeing years put on him that hadn’t been there that morning, the lines around his eyes and the sallowness of his complexion. “I can’t say I blame you, not for any of it. People do bad things when they’re in a corner, and although a Shepherd might say a sin of omission is still a sin, I’m not like to hold it against you.”
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1731 RATING: 10 SERIES: FIREFLY
A.N.: A quick précis of the story so far, as it’s been a while.
Landing on Lazarus to effect some minor repairs, the crew find Inara pregnant, and keeping a secret regarding her own health. Freya is also keeping something from Mal, which only Simon is privy to. Meanwhile another secret comes to light – Molly, the daughter of the Bodens, Inara’s household employees, is being chased by bounty hunters after she was assaulted by the son of her employer, and took a handful of jewellery in recompense. The head bounty hunter, one Philo Cobb, is not a man to be put off easily, and tells them that the Bodens – under the name Grogan – are both wanted for murder. River has an episode when she picks up a necklace, a blood red stone in a gold cage, and Hank tells Mal he’s found out the truth about the Bodens … Now read on.
Mal glared at his pilot. “Okay. Before you bust something and make a mess, what about the Bodens?”
Hank led him away from the entrance so they wouldn’t be overheard. “I did a little digging, seeing as my middle name is curiosity.”
“I thought it was annoying.”
“That too. But it was mainly because of the pictures, with those names. Grogan. Something tickled my memory from a long time ago.”
“You likely to be coming to the point any time soon?”
“They’re wanted. It’s not murder as such, but it … well, it’s worse. Terrorism charges.”
“What?” Mal’s jaw dropped. “The Bodens?”
“Joseph and Mary Grogan, actually. It took a lot of skill, even if I say so myself, because someone’s gone in and changed the history, but the warrant’s still active, far as I can see. Look.” He held out his small Cortex link.
There it was, slightly grainy black and white. The same pictures, with the warrant’s date and time of issue. “This was at the end of the war.”
“Yeah. Just read a bit further.”
Mal scrolled down, and his shoulders visibly stiffened. “You planning on telling anyone else?” he asked.
“Nope. Not unless you think –”
“I’m saying don’t. I’ll have a word with them, at least Jacob – or Joseph – or whatever. See what he has to say.”
“And no word of this to Zoe.”
“Mal, you know what she can be like if she thinks I’m keeping something from her.”
“You know her history. You really want to drag all this back up?”
Hank shook his head. He remembered how it had nearly broke them up when he found out she’d been a Dust Devil, and even now just the thought of what he knew she’d done was enough to make him feel cold. “No, but –”
“Hank, folks will do a lot of things when they’re motivated. When they think they’re in the right. If’n the Browncoats had won, you think the Bodens would still be regarded as terrorists, in any shape or form?”
“History’s written by the winners,” Hank admitted, grudgingly.
“Surely is. And if Zoe becomes persistent, send her to me. I can tell her in a way that ain’t likely to get me relegated to the couch.” He reached into his pocket and took out the necklace, one part of his mind well aware he was keeping his handkerchief between the stone and his fingers. “I want you to carry on digging, but on this.”
Hank took it, staring at it every which way, but at least he didn’t scream. “This what caused all the fuss?”
Mal nodded. “See if you can find anything out about it. Anything might have made River take on like she did.”
“Will do.” He handed it back, not consciously realising he’d wiped his palm down his pants leg after.
Mal wrapped it up and slipped it into his pocket, wondering at the weight that seemed to drag at him. “And remember what I said. Not a word to Zoe, or any of the others.”
“Okay.” Hank half turned to go, then said, over his shoulder, “How do you do it, Mal?”
“Keep all these secrets.”
“I don’t have any.”
Hank smiled, a little sadly. “Sure you do. Yours, and everybody else’s.”
“I ain’t got no secrets, Hank. What you see is what you get.”
“Now, if that had been Jayne saying that, I might have agreed with him.” Hank continued up the metal staircase towards his own domain on the bridge.
Mal exhaled slowly, wondering once again if being in such close proximity to so many psychics was in any way catching, although his pilot was the last he might have considered to be infected. Still, he wasn’t wrong. “Too many gorram secrets around here,” he muttered, heading towards the infirmary.
Freya was waiting for him outside in the common area. “He did what he thought was right.”
Mal couldn’t get angry. As much as he knew how much she liked him to tell her things, keeping from reading his mind as much as she could, right now she was open, receptive to any danger that might surround them. Inara’s pregnancy might be masking a lot, her hormones interfering with however Frey’s mind worked, but the connection between man and wife was more like something physical, a warm spider’s web, or a soft silken thread, and sometimes she just couldn’t help herself.
“Hank?” he asked quietly.
She nodded. “He’s trying to be helpful.”
“I figured that.”
“And your secrets are just that.”
His lips twitched. “Can’t keep a thing from you, can I?”
“Don’t apologise.” He glanced towards the infirmary windows, where he could see Simon fiddling with something at the counter while River lay on the medbed, talking to Jayne. “So she’s awake.”
“She doesn’t remember anything.”
“Can’t or won’t?”
Freya shrugged. “I think in her case it’s a bit of both. That kind of emotional overload … her brain’s probably decided it’s best not to remember.”
“Okay. So no to the specifics. How about the general? She aware of what happened to her, if not the why?”
“Yes. But …” She paused for a moment. “It’s like a black hole. Fine if you leave it alone. Her mind sort of skitters around it, afraid to get too close. And you’re not to ask.”
“Frey, if I don’t –”
“If you do she’ll try to remember, because she wants to make you happy.”
“That sounds a little creepifying.”
“To be helpful. Like Hank.”
“You think that’s better?”
She smiled, slapping at his arm. “And I want to be helpful, too.”
“More, then. Give me the necklace.”
He took a step back, both hands held up, palms towards her. “No. Nope. Not gonna happen.”
“Mal, if I can read it –”
“And have you end up like River? Forget it.”
“I said no!” His voice rang through the room, and inside the infirmary Simon looked over, his face concerned. Mal took a breath. “Frey, you listen to me. Didn’t you just finish telling me how River can’t remember anything? Why do you think it would be any different for you?”
“Because I’d be expecting it. And no matter how much I try, there’s no way I’m as powerful as River. It might not affect me as much.”
“Or it might be more.”
“And yet you’re willing for her to remember.”
“Don’t try and be logical with me. And I’m fine with my double standards.”
“Mal, I can pretty much guarantee I won’t pick anything up, but we won’t know unless I try.”
“And I ain’t riskin’ it.”
“It’s not your risk.”
“You’re my wife. That makes it my risk.” He moved closer again and put his hands on her shoulders. “Besides, I’m captain. What I say goes.”
“Yeah. Sometimes. But this is one time you need to listen.”
A familiar, stubborn look crossed her face, then she closed her eyes for a moment. When she opened them again she nodded. “Fine. I won’t. But you have to promise not to hassle River.”
“I wasn’t planning of hassling. Just asking.”
“I have already. Don’t you believe me?”
“Of course I do.”
“Except you think she might tell you something she kept from me.”
“You’re being logical again.” He shook his head. He knew she had a point – he’d always been more likely to believe a face to face conversation rather than hearsay, maybe something to do with being unable to believe Command had left them to die, that day in Serenity Valley, not until he saw the Alliance angels raining fire on his men. “Okay,” he finally agreed. “I won’t push.”
“Just … you don’t do anything stupid either.”
She touched his chest. “That goes double for you.”
“Well, I’m gonna go talk to Jacob Boden again. One of these days someone might actually tell me the truth without me having to use dynamite.” He kissed her quickly then strode back up the steps and into the cargo bay.
“Frey?” It was Jayne, standing in the doorway to the infirmary. “Everything okay?”
“For a given value of okay, sure.”
He startled her by giving a short bark of laughter. “Now you’re sounding like my moonbrain.”
Sighing Freya had to smile. “I can’t tell if you’re complimenting or insulting me.”
“Take it as a compliment. Prob’ly for the best.”
“I was pretty sure you’d come.” Jacob Boden was in the shed, fixing some piece of machinery that was currently eviscerated and spread out along the work bench.
“Kaylee’d be glad to help, if you asked.”
“What?” Jacob looked surprised for a moment, then shook his head. “No, sir. This is what I do when I have to think. I’ve been working on it for a few months now.”
“What was it?”
“Used to be an engine I was going to put on the rowboat.”
“A few credits of parts.”
Mal understood. “I tend to go look at the stars when I need to contemplate anything.”
“I can’t say I feel the same, sir. I’ve never much liked being in space.”
“I guess some of us are more suited to the ground.”
For a long moment they merely contemplated each other, then Mal spoke again. “So. Jacob. Or Joseph. Which is it?”
“Jacob, sir. It’s who I am now.”
“And your wife?”
“Mariah. It always was, only someone misspelled it once on a form and … anyway, she’s Mariah.”
“Shiny. Well, I’m not going to be talking to her ‘less I don’t get the answers I need.” He held out the Cortex unit. “You maybe wanna explain?”
Jacob’s face fell. “I thought we’d left it all behind. Got away from it.”
“Alliance has long fingers, and they don’t like to let go of anything.”
“We didn’t know,” Jacob insisted, then his lips thinned. “No. That’s not … you wanted the truth. We didn’t want to know. The things they did … we don’t hold with the how, but the why …”
“We’d better sit down.”
“I’d rather stand.”
“Shiny.” Mal crossed his arms, planting his feet squarely on the compacted earth and ignoring the little voice in the back of his head saying that what he really wanted to do was lay down somewhere in a dark room and let everyone else deal with things. “Explain it to me.”
“Just tell me. Was it Mariah? Did she break down?”
“Nope. She’s a strong woman, your wife. It was Hank. He always did have a curious nature.”
Jacob nodded, looking almost gratified that she hadn’t confessed. “We ran a place on Persephone. Not much, just a guest house, really. A dozen rooms, clean, respectable.”
“I can guess the kind,” Mal said gently. “Been in a few, although some have been little more than dives.”
“This wasn’t. We were proud of it, proud of what we’d been able to accomplish.” Despite having said he’d rather stand, Jacob pulled a stool out from under the workbench and sat on the very edge. “Folks stayed with us, then told their friends, who stayed with us, until one day …” He stopped.
“Someone came by who maybe wanted something more than just a bed and board?” Mal suggested.
“It was a man. Actually a cousin of Mariah’s. He’d heard about how well we were doing, and he … he wanted a place to hold up for a while.” Jacob gazed at Mal, his face yearning to be understood. “It was coming up to the end of the war – we knew it, everyone did. The Cortex was full of how Serenity Valley was going to be the final battle, about how the Alliance were going to crush the Independents into the dust. Daniel – that was his name – said we couldn’t let that happen.” Suddenly Jacob looked tired, like an old man. “We didn’t want to know what he was planning, not then. It was enough he was running from the Alliance. So we took him in, let him stay. Then he brought a couple of friends, vouched for them, and we put clean sheets on the beds and doubled the order for coffee.”
“Then another couple.”
“More than a couple.” Jacob ran both hands over his face. “By the time of the surrender, most of the people staying with us were ‘friends’ of Daniel. Then, just a week or two after they said it was all over, we saw a news report on the Cortex, about that … that fire in the restaurant on Ariel.”
Mal nodded slowly. He might have been a guest of the mighty Alliance by that point, but he’d heard, they all had. The guards had delighted in telling them all about the explosions that rocked the Core cities over a two month period, and how many people had been killed because the terrorists were scum Browncoats. The restaurant had been the first, incendiary devices planted at all entrances, with no escape for the people inside. Dozens had died. “They caught the fellers. Hanged ‘em, I seem to recall.”
“Yes. And it was three of the men who had been staying with us.” Jacob sank even further onto his seat. “We spoke to Daniel, asked him to leave, told him we wanted no part of this. He wouldn’t listen.”
“And you didn’t even consider turning him in.”
“We couldn’t. He was family.” Jacob sighed mightily. “In the end we heard from friends that a warrant had been issued for him, and us, as accessories before and after the fact.” He looked up. “I swear we didn’t condone any of it.”
“I daresay Daniel thought he was in the right, too,” Mal mused. “Funny how that can be the excuse for a lot of suffering.”
“Yes.” Jacob shook his head. “Anyway, Mariah and me found a transport ship with a captain who wasn’t about to ask too many questions, paid an exorbitant amount to be taken off Persephone, and we’ve been running ever since.”
“Until you came here.”
“We thought they must have stopped looking for us. That we could be safe. And we both adore Ms Serra. She’s …”
“Yeah, I know.” Mal looked at the man, seeing years put on him that hadn’t been there that morning, the lines around his eyes and the sallowness of his complexion. “I can’t say I blame you, not for any of it. People do bad things when they’re in a corner, and although a Shepherd might say a sin of omission is still a sin, I’m not like to hold it against you.”
“Thank you, sir. But we’ve still put everyone at risk. It would be better if we leave.”
Mal almost smiled. “Saying it again ain’t gonna change my mind. You’re best off staying put, at least for the time being. Give me a little breathing space, and maybe I can come up with something.”
“I don’t want you to feel obligated to help us.”
“I don’t. But my momma would be mortified if I didn’t extend some Christian charity. And my own wife’d relegate me to the couch for so long I’d probably be six feet under before she forgave me.”
“I don’t believe that, sir.”
“It’s Mal. And I think we know each other to stay on first name terms, don’t you?”
“I’ll try.” He smiled tiredly, but there was still defeat in his eyes. “You were at Serenity Valley, weren’t you?”
“Seems like maybe I was.”
“Fighting the Alliance.”
“Fighting what we thought was wrong, didn’t much care what name it went under.”
“How do you deal with it? All the things you must have seen, the people you killed?”
Mal was a little taken aback by the question, but it was a fair one. “You live. Pretty much that’s all you can do. You start thinking about their families, that they had a Ma and Pa, brothers, sisters, kids … you’d end up in the bottom of a bottle and never come out. You move on.”
“And did you?”
“Not for a long time.” Mal almost laughed. “I carried a small piece of that place around with me, still do. It gets under your skin, burrows into your soul. All you can do is live with it. I’m not saying I haven’t killed folks since, but generally that was because they were about to kill me. War’s different.”
Jacob was nodding. “Burrows into your soul. Yes. Exactly like that. And no matter that we didn’t build the bombs, didn’t plant them, it’s still there.”
“It ain’t gonna go away.” Mal put his hand on the older man’s shoulder. “You just learn how to not let it ruin what you got left.”
“And the nightmares?”
“Man can’t be held responsible for his dreams.” Mal shied away from the memories. “Anyway, how come the warrants weren’t wiped out in the general amnesty they so graciously granted?”
Jacob chuckled sadly. “War criminals? They never go out of style.”
“Reckon maybe they don’t.” Something occurred to him. “How’re your IDs? They pass muster?”
“They’re not the best. They were all we could afford, and that was a lot of our savings.”
“Let me take a look at them. Not saying I can do something myself, but I know folks who might be able to assist.”
Jacob stirred uneasily. “I don’t want anyone else to know who we are …”
“Not like that,” Mal assured him. “Besides, with a baby on the way and Sam to deal with, I figure ‘Nara needs all the help she can get.” He smiled. “Look, she’d be heartbroken if you left. You’re family, and we look after our own. Give me your IDs – if nothing else, if anyone comes calling you can honestly say you don’t know where they are. Give me a little time, and promise me you won’t do anything foolish.”
“I … I’ll try, sir.”
“What?” Mal had barely set foot back on Serenity before Freya spoke. He looked up to where she was standing on the catwalk, leaning on the railing.
“Monty. He got us those IDs for River and Simon. He can do the same for the Bodens.”
Mal grinned. “I shoulda known you were listening,” he said as he started up the stairs.
“I … can’t seem to stop myself at the moment.” She looked faintly ashamed.
“Good job I wasn’t doing anything I shouldn’t, then.” He let an image play across his mind, and to his secret delight she blushed. “Prude.”
“Would you want it any other way?” she countered.
“You’d never’ve made it as a Companion,” he said, shaking his head sadly even as his eyes twinkled with mischief. “All the things you’d’ve had to do, all the people you’d have done them with … disgraceful.”
“As opposed to doing them with you?”
“Damn straight.” He reached her and stood close enough to smell her personal perfume and feel her heat.
“And you shouldn’t be thinking things like that anyway,” she chided gently. “What if Bethie were peeking?”
“Hey, least I was imagining being on my own.”
“And you think that makes it better?”
“She’s seen worse.”
“And in what ‘verse is that good?”
He pulled her into his side. “You gonna tell on me?”
“I’m not sure. How are you going to stop me?”
He kissed her, his hands running up her back and settling his body into hers, fitting as naturally as if they were made for each other.
“How about that?” he asked when he let her breathe.
“Not sure. But I suppose it will do for a down payment.” She pulled him back to her.
to be continued
Monday, October 14, 2013 10:53 AM
Monday, October 14, 2013 11:26 AM
Monday, October 14, 2013 7:48 PM
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