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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
“I don’t always trust him when he’s operating on Jayne. A slip of the scalpel, too many drugs, too little oxygen, and I would be a free woman. My worries. Not his thoughts. But he is my brother. For better or worse. For richer or poorer. In sickness and in health. And we have experienced them all.”
[Maya. Post-BDM. Home stretch now on Secrets, with the crisis passed for now and decisions made. Thanks so much for those of you who have stuck with this!]
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1134 RATING: 0 SERIES: FIREFLY
The next few days seemed to pass in something of a pleasurable blur. The rain continued, but that didn’t stop the children from playing outside, nor the big kids (namely Jayne, Hank and River) from joining in and getting just as muddy and then arguing over who got to use the bathroom first.
Inara had been taken back to her own room in the house after hours of reasoned argument. The fact that Simon had only given in when she got out the big guns of a single tear running down her cheek and a faintly quivering lip was beside the point.
“Just proves he’s an old softie,” Kaylee confided to Freya later, having witnessed the entire proceedings. “There ain’t no-one can stand against that kinda heavy artillery.”
Inara wasn’t, though, able to shift Simon on his insistence that she not walk anywhere for at least a fortnight, so she was transferred from Serenity on a litter knocked together by Mr Boden and Jayne and carried by the big ex-merc and Hank. To keep the rain off her there was an awning supported on four long poles and managed by Dillon, Breed, Alex and Mal, who complained mightily that it was below his station as captain to be treated like a servant.
River didn’t help matters by insisting on dancing in front strewing late flowers along the path and referring to Inara as ‘your majesty’. At least this time she was wearing underthings beneath her soaked dress, so Mal’s potential heart attack was averted. All in all, the mission was accomplished with little damage beyond a pulled muscle (Hank, who was revived with the promise of hot chocolate and brandy) and Kaylee taking a few captures for, as she put it, posterity. Or possibly blackmail.
That afternoon Monty announced he had to be getting along.
“That job won’t wait forever,” he growled, standing on Serenity’s ramp out of the rain as Carrie-Ann began to power up.
“Thanks, Monty,” Mal said, holding out his hand then not being surprised to find himself enveloped in a bear hug.
“Hey, it’s what we do. Ain’t no point in wearing this coat if’n we can’t help each other out once in a while.” Monty squeezed just a little tighter.
“Monty, put him down,” River said, passing by on her way across to visit with Inara. “Oxygen is becoming an issue.”
Monty laughed and carefully placed the other captain back on his feet.
“Thanks,” Mal gasped.
Monty clapped him on the shoulder, and he felt like he’d been driven an inch into the deck plating. “Just keep me posted on Inara. I still have hopes of being one of that baby’s godfathers.”
“You?” Mal looked at him askance.
“Yeah, me. What, do you think a fine figure of a man like me should be overlooked?” He puffed out his chest, grinning through his beard.
“Depends if she wants a rogue and a scoundrel.”
“That too.” Monty chuckled.
“You really do have a soft spot for a certain ex-Companion, don’t you?”
“Well, sure. Don’t you?”
“Not where Freya can hear.”
The chuckle turned to a laugh. “’Sides, she did me a great favour in taking this place off my hands when she did. I was about down to my last red cent after some deals went south, and Carrie-Ann was on the verge of being towed to the scrap belt. Her input of cold hard cash pulled me over the hump and kept us flying ‘til things eased.”
“If’n you’d needed a loan –”
Monty held up his hand. “Nope. I know what you’re gonna say. And it ain’t like you had that much to give, even though I’m grateful for the thought. Anyway, it’s fine now.”
“You get like that again …” Mal left the offer hanging.
The two men nodded in understanding, each aware there’d be snowball fights in hell before they called on the other for money. Not from a lack of friendship – in fact, just the opposite.
“So …” Monty grinned. “Best be getting back ‘fore my wife thinks I’ve jumped ship.”
“You mean she’s planning on taking over?”
“She’d probably do a damn fine job of it too. Only don’t go saying I said so.”
“My lips are sealed.”
They stepped outside, still under the cover of Serenity’s overhanging prow, but now able to feel the spray of the rain.
“Are you gonna be staying?” Monty asked, pulling his coat up tighter under his beard.
“A few days. A bit longer, maybe.”
“I’ve got a few feelers out about jobs –”
“I meant Inara.” Monty pulled a disreputable hat from one of the voluminous pockets of his brown coat and screwed it onto his head. His hair fanned out like a halo underneath. “You know young Simon ain’t gonna want to let his patient out of his sight. She might be fine, but she’s still expecting.”
Mal sighed. “Can’t say it hasn’t crossed my mind.”
“And I can’t see you sitting here for the duration. Something you might be maybe need to think about.”
“Oh, I have been, Monty. I have been.”
“Figured you might. Wouldn’t be the fine upstanding captain I see in front of me if you hadn’t.”
Mal rolled his eyes, and Monty made the raindrops dance by laughing mightily.
River watched Carrie-Ann take off from inside Inara’s bedroom, then came back and arranged herself like a cat on one of the armchairs by the fire.
River locked her arms around her calves. “Possibly.”
“River …” Inara was propped up in her own bed, so many pillows around and behind her that she looked like she was adrift in a wild, white sea.
The younger woman shrugged. “Not my secret to tell.”
“But you knew.”
“I almost knew.”
Inara picked at the fringed hem of the shawl around her shoulders. “I’m glad you didn’t tell.”
“I was beginning to think I had to.”
“Is Mal still mad at me?”
“No.” There was a pause. “Well, not much.” River sighed. “I’ve broken Freya’s wrist since then, so he’s more angry at me at the moment.”
“Not on purpose.”
“I should hope not!”
“And I have already been admonished.” River stretched her naked toes. “Septic vat.”
Inara’s lips twitched. “How long?”
“Jia yan wasn’t forthcoming.”
“I’ll speak to him.”
“I don’t think it will do any good.” The sigh was even deeper this time.
Inara understood, having been told of what happened matter-of-factly by Mal, with big, awed eyes by Kaylee, and in somewhat florid, overly emphatic terms by Simon himself. “He will,” she promised.
“Yes.” Even the teasing wasn’t enough to lift the spirits of a thoroughly depressed River.
“So.” Inara changed the subject. “I can get up in a few days, if I wanted.”
“Simon said two weeks.”
Inara waved away the objection. “Take some gentle exercise, perhaps sit in the orchard.”
“It’s still raining.”
“That’s the problem with Lazarus in the autumn. It rains a lot.” She patted the bed next to her. “Come here.” River was out of the chair and across the room almost before she’d finished speaking, sitting next to Inara with her head in the older woman’s lap. “I’ll speak to Simon too.”
River sighed again. “It won’t stop him being a boob.”
“I’m not without my own wiles, you know.”
The younger woman looked at her, her eyes wide. “Really?”
“Do you have pictures?”
“Pity.” River finally smiled. “And are you going to make him leave?”
Inara looked confused. “Leave? Who?”
“My boob of a brother. You know he won’t want to go, not before you give birth.”
“Ah. Yes. I have to admit the thought has crossed my mind. But I don’t know if I could stand him fussing for the next few months.”
“Then I have an idea …”
Of all of them, only Freya seemed out of sorts. Simon had kept out of her way as much as possible, and she was determined not to give in to the urge to read him, to pick at the scab and find out if he still hated her. The strain of keeping herself under such rigid control so there wasn’t even an accidental touch resulted in a powerful headache, and after saying goodbye to Monty and his crew at breakfast she’d had no recourse but to go back to bed in the house, the heavy curtains drawn against the grey day, the bunk being too claustrophobic and constricting.
“Mu qin hurts,” River said, coming up behind Mal on silent feet.
Mal successfully prevented himself from screaming like a little girl in surprise, and merely turned the pilot’s chair around to face her. He’d been checking the status of their fuel and seeing if he’d had any responses to his feelers about possible jobs on the horizon, but so far only Badger had got back to him, and working for that weasel was pretty much the last resort. In fact he’d spent most of the time since Monty left wondering if he shouldn’t get Hank to move Serenity, since his Firefly seemed to be listing again.
“It will stop raining soon,” the psychic added. “We won’t sink.”
“You sure about that?”
“Like you think Frey’s hurting?”
“Ain’t attaching blame. Just asking for a little clarification.”
Mal found an image slipped into his mind of his wife in bed, the covers pushed back and a pillow held tightly over her face, moaning gently. “You exaggerating?”
“Then why ain’t she seen Simon if …” His voice trailed off.
“Exactly.” River slid into the other chair. “He is the problem.”
Mal could now see her dress was wet and sticking to her thighs. “You been dancing between the raindrops again?”
“If I was I missed. And you’re changing the subject.”
“Maybe a little. But your bro ain’t exactly conducive to my good humour at the moment.”
“Nor mine. But he is my brother.”
“Has he said something to Frey?”
“No. But she is afraid he will.”
“And she needs a painkiller only she won’t …” Mal snorted. “That woman’s her own worst enemy.” He got up.
“Simon’s in the infirmary,” River supplied helpfully. “Running some more tests. It’s a suitable place in case you intended to break his jaw.”
“Wasn’t my plan, xiao nu.”
“Why not? He’s being a sha gua chun zhi.”
“I’d’a thought you’d be defending him.”
“Not this time. He knows why what was done was done. He’s just making a lot of dumb show and noise signifying nothing.”
“And I’m fair sure you’re mixing up your Shakespeare.”
“I was improving it.” She lifted her heels onto the chair lip.
“And you ain’t wrong.” Mal shook his head. “He gonna leave, little one?”
“Not unless you have dynamite.”
“As in, you wouldn’t be able to shift Kaylee from Serenity unless …”
“… I had dynamite. Right. ‘Cept if he don’t trust us …”
“I don’t always trust him when he’s operating on Jayne,” she admitted, staring out into the rain. “A slip of the scalpel, too many drugs, too little oxygen, and I would be a free woman.” She ran her thumb across the tattoo on her ring finger as she glanced at him. “My worries. Not his thoughts.” She dropped her head to gaze at the ink. “But he is my brother. For better or worse. For richer or poorer. In sickness and in health. And we have experienced them all.”
“You make it sound like you’re married to him.”
“It’s worse. I can’t divorce him when he’s a boob.”
“He does that often enough.”
She laughed suddenly, her face lighting up as she looked at him. “But over and above all, we are family. And that’s what counts. Even if I have to break his legs to stop him going.”
“Only one leg, albatross. Since we seem to need his services on a distressingly regular basis.”
“One leg,” she agreed. “Then he can pretend to be a stork. Or a flamingo.” She extended one of her own legs into a perfect pointe, and waved her arms as if she was flying before turning it into a shooing motion. “Go. Before he heads back to the house. Mu qin needs those painkillers.”
He hid the smile as he started to leave. “You know, I was successfully dosing my own crew for some time before the pair of you turned up.”
Her voice followed him down the steps. “I’m surprised you survived …”
Mal chuckled to himself as he passed through the empty kitchen towards the back staircase. “She ain’t your Ma,” he muttered to himself. “’Cept you two do seem to be more alike than is natural.”
You say that like it’s a bad thing …
Get outta my brain.
Happy to. Some of the things you’ve got hidden away are shocking. Quite shocking.
You don’t wanna go poking around behind closed doors, girl.
And I don’t intend to. Don’t you ever clean out the rubbish?
And he was alone again in his head. As he headed down towards the infirmary, he pondered on the nature of his crew, and wondered if it was him who attracted such a strange bunch.
Simon was about to leave the cool room. “Oh. Captain.”
“A mite formal today, ain’t we?”
“I thought …” Simon coloured just a little. “Can I help you?”
“What’s good for a headache?”
“Where is it?”
“I thought –”
“Not me. Frey.”
“Oh. Yes, of course.” Simon turned back and went to one of the drawers. “Tablets or a hypo?”
“Better make it a hypo. I might not be able to make her take pills.”
“Yes. Yes, she can be awkward.”
“She can at that.”
The doctor turned back, a small hypo held out in his long fingers.
“Thanks.” Mal took it and studied the pale blue liquid. “Not poison, is it?”
Simon looked astonished and affronted at the same time. “Of course not!”
“I thought I’d better ask. Seeing as Frey ain’t exactly in your good books at the moment.” Mal tucked the hypo into his breast pocket and crossed his arms.
“I … it’s not …” Simon took a breath. “I was angry. I still am, I admit it. But Kaylee … we talked, and … I can’t help how I feel, Mal.”
“Least it’s my given name this time.”
“This cure, however it worked … it could help so many people.”
“And we ain’t gonna make you forget it.”
“Only because it isn’t convenient,” Simon sniped, a spark of the anger in his words.
“You’re right. It ain’t. But that don’t mean you can’t take advantage of the situation. Use that brain of yours to figure out a way of … I don’t know … replicating the effects without having to use the Re-Pax or Frey’s DNA. You’ve got a starting point and an end, which is more than you had before. You just need to work out the middle.”
“You’re not going to stop me?” This time the expression that crossed Simon’s face was surprise.
“Nope. ‘Sides, it’ll give you something to do on the long evenings between stitching us up.”
“Are you planning on getting shot, then?”
“Not actively, no. But these things happen.” He turned to go and Simon felt like he dodged a bullet somehow.
He spoke again. “Mal, wait.”
At least he thought that’s what she said, since she was facing away from him on her side curled up into a foetal ball, her face hidden in the blankets.
“Only I have it on good authority you’re not feeling too well.”
Freya half rolled onto her back so she could see Mal standing by the bed. “It’s just a headache. I’m not sick. I just need to rest.”
“What you need is this.” He held up the hypo.
“Yes, Mal.” He sat on the edge of the bed and pushed her hair out of her eyes. Her skin was clammy to the touch and her eyes red, as if she’d been crying. “It’ll help.”
“It’s just a headache,” she repeated, leaning into his hand a little.
“And I’m captain. Now we’ve got that out of the way, why don’t you take your medicine like a good girl?”
“I’m not three, you know.”
“Then stop acting like it.”
Her eyes widened and she tried to kick him through the covers. “You –”
“And you think behaviour like that’s gonna make me believe you’re an adult?”
“Maybe I should put you in the nursery with the rest of the kids.” He pretended to consider the option. “Only they might end up having their cursing vocabulary extended somewhat.”
“You’re enjoying this.”
“No, actually I ain’t. I hate seeing you hurting. So for the sake of my own health will you take the gorram painkiller?”
She glared at him, then lifted her chin to expose her throat. “Go on, then. Wouldn’t be the first time you’ve doped me without my permission.”
“And I doubt it’ll be the last.” He pulled a patch from his top pocket and pressed it to her skin.
“Wait. What …” She looked at him accusingly. “I thought you were going to inject me?”
“Best offer I’ve had all day. But no. This –” He put the hypo on the nightstand. “– is for me, for when I get so angry at you I could spit. Simon’s a bit concerned about the effect you have on my blood pressure.”
Her glare switched immediately to concern and she glanced at where she knew the scar to be on his chest. “Really? Is it okay? Should you be –”
“Ai ren, I’m joking. It’s a top up in case that patch don’t work. It’s something the doc was working on so he suggested I try it on you.”
“So I’m a guinea-pig?”
She touched where it adhered to her neck. Already she could feel the edges of the headache softening as the analgesic entered her bloodstream, and her muscles began to unlock. “I think it’s working fine.”
“Good. Now come on.” He stood up and threw the covers back, finding that Freya might have kicked off her boots but otherwise she was still fully dressed.
“Next stage of the treatment.”
“Yes, Mal.” He shook his head. “Frey. You gonna argue every single thing?”
She exhaled mightily but allowed him to take her by the uninjured hand and help her to her feet. “Where are we going?”
It wasn’t, just a few steps down the hall to the large bathroom. Inside the water in the big round bath was steaming slightly, and while the windows were shuttered there were candles to throw a soft light across the walls. For once there was no perfume, just a comforting warmth.
“Oh.” Freya smiled gently. “This is perfect. But what about the cast on my … Mal, what are you doing?”
He’d locked the door and was already unbuttoning his shirt, his suspenders around his hips. “Joining you. I’ll keep it dry, and Simon says that patch is waterproof anyway.”
“I don’t feel romantic,” she pointed out.
Mal slipped his shirt from his shoulders and levered his boots off. “This ain’t about romance. This is about you feeling better.”
“Thank you.” She started to undo her own shirt but her fingers were clumsy with the headache.
He moved closer and pushed her hands down, doing what she couldn’t. “A’course, if you do feel better at any point, you just let me know. I’m sure I could rise to the occasion.”
“I’m sure you could.” This time her smile was loving.
He undressed her carefully, making her sit on the edge of the bath with her feet in the water while he finished divesting himself of his own clothes. The temperature wasn’t too hot, just pleasurable, and she could feel herself begin to drift. So much so that she didn’t notice him climbing into the bath until she felt his hands on her waist.
“Come on, Frey.”
She allowed him to guide her into the water, supporting her until she was laying against his chest, her wrist with its cast on his shoulder.
“This feels wonderful,” she murmured, her eyes beginning to close.
“Glad you think it’s a good idea. Seeing as you said no.”
“Maybe I … was … wrong …”
Mal felt her relax completely. “That’s it, my beautiful wife,” he said softly. “You sleep. I ain’t going anywhere.”
“’Nara.” Mal stepped into the bedroom and closed the door behind him.
“Mal.” She narrowed her eyes, pretending to study him. “No grapes?”
“No flowers, neither.”
“Well, this visit isn’t starting very well.”
He crossed his arms. “Who said I was visiting?”
“This is a sick room.”
“I seem to recall being told more times than I care to remember that being pregnant ain’t the same as being sick.”
“While that would be true in the normal course of events, I have been at death’s door, you know.”
“And Simon pulled you back, and bolted said door shut.”
“I thought so.” Mal moved to the dressing table to study the items on it. “So I kinda figure you’re just being lazy.”
Inara burst into laughter, and Mal grinned.
“It’s my doctor,” Inara said, wiping at her eyes. “He’s very insistent.”
“There are other words I’d use.”
“Did you enjoy your bath?”
Mal’s mouth dropped a little. “How did you know –”
“Don’t worry, Mal, I’m not becoming psychic. The collar of your shirt is damp, as is your hair. Besides, I heard Jayne and Hank arguing over the fact that the bathroom was occupied and they’d have to use the shower back on Serenity.”
“Just go and stand in the rain, they’ll get clean.” Mal looked down at the dressing table again. “In matter of fact, it’s the doc I wanted to speak to you about.”
“And I thought it was for my sparkling wit and razor repartee.”
“Maybe later.” He picked up a small dish. “Frey give you this?”
“Yes, she did. From both of you. I knew you didn’t have any input into it, it’s far too nice.”
“And you think Simon will want to stay until I give birth.”
Mal felt a little short-circuited. “You sure you ain’t growing psychic?”
“And that you’d be happier if I came with you on Serenity instead.”
“Okay, now I know it.”
“No, still not. River.”
Mal shook his head. “That girl does get about.”
“That too.” Inara fluffed the bed covers. “But she is concerned.”
“So what’s your answer?”
“Yes, you’ll come?”
“You don’t have to look so astonished. We don’t always have to argue about everything.”
“Experience says we do. ‘Sides, sometimes it’s fun.”
“I’m sorry to disappoint you, then.” She clasped her hands over her bump. “Sam agrees, by the way. He was here just before you arrived, and after a brief discussion he came around to River’s way of thinking.”
“Discussion, eh? He licking his wounds somewhere?”
“He’s gone into town to pick up a few things I need, and to tell Dr Farlow that I won’t be needing her services for a while.”
Mal sat down in the armchair and leaned forwards, elbows on his knees, fingers lightly intertwined. “I’d’a thought Sam would consider Lazarus a safer place than being out in the Black.”
“He does. But he understands that there are other considerations here.”
“Like me losing my medic?”
“That, and if the Alliance come there won’t be anywhere Simon can run to. Now, even more than before, we have to keep him away from them.” Inara shook her head. “He’s still angry about what happened, but that will pass.”
“Yeah.” Mal glanced down at his hands, then back at Inara. “It’s ‘cause he’s had time to think about it. Before, it was pretty much as soon as he’d made that last pen stroke when things were explained to him and action taken. This time, with you, he’s been able to brood on it.”
“Before? So he was right? It wasn’t just once?”
“He’s a bright boy, with time on his hands occasionally.” Mal sighed. “I figure it was bound to happen.”
“What, me getting sick?”
“That too. And don’t think I’ve forgiven you yet, either.”
She glared and wrinkled her nose at him, looking like an elf caught in a compromising position. “Anyway, he is curious as to what you do now.”
“Curious?” His lips curved. “That’s putting it mildly. And truth is, I ain’t rightly sure. He thinks this potion of his might cure other people, least be a stepping stone on the way. So I have to give him time to work it out. And Frey’s said even if we did make him forget again they couldn’t do it to everyone, there’d be too much of a gap this time. So I reckon we do like we’ve done all along, and just keep him out of harm’s way.”
“You really think living with you doesn’t actively put him in harm’s way?”
“Then out of the Alliance’s way. And I’d take it kindly if you didn’t infer him and me were sharing a bunk.”
“I have always assumed that if the pair of you were sly then you’d end up together.”
“Nah, Frey thinks it’d be me and Jayne. Which is way too disturbing a thought for this time of day.”
Inara laughed. “Perhaps you’re right.”
“So …” Mal got back to the business in hand. “If you’re coming, what about the girls?”
“I think they’ve had enough travelling for the moment. Anyway, Molly’s staying with her parents, so she can chaperone.”
“She ain’t that much older than Val or Phoebe.” He sighed again, making it so melodramatic that it had stage curtains and an encore. “I foresee wild parties and broken furniture.”
“Well, it’s my furniture, and I think the Bodens will keep things relatively peaceful.”
“They ain’t leaving you?”
“With the new Idents Monty brought I think it would take some kind of bomb to move them.”
“Dynamite,” Mal agreed. “Though with Phoebe off the leash that may just happen.” He smiled mischievously. “And you might wanna warn them about young Flynn Youngblood coming to call. Least from what River tells me.”
“You mean about Val and him having sex?”
He felt the faint warmth run up his chest. “’Nara, I know it used to be your profession, but do you have to be so gorram specific about it?”
“You’re as bad as Frey.”
“Nope. Just don’t care to linger too much on the thought of them getting hot and sweaty.”
“Then making love. Is that better?”
“Somewhat. But I still don’t particularly want to think about it, even though I think I should have words with that young lady.”
“She’s not a child, Mal.”
“I’m her legal guardian!”
“Not any more. Not since she turned eighteen.”
“That’s still young! And there are some planets don’t think you’ve reached your majority until you’re twenty-one. And on Corrida you can’t even cop a feel until you’re thirty!”
“Corrida is a backwards moon who export fertiliser made from seaweed and guano.”
“So you feel responsible for her, I understand that. But you can’t just shoot Flynn for … having feelings for her.”
“Because – and I hesitate to say this – you’re more civilised than that.”
“Can’t say I agree with you there. And I’m just pointing out what might happen if you ain’t here.”
“Don’t you want me to come?”
Mal chuckled. “See? I knew we could argue about it if we tried.” He stood up and clapped his hands together. “Okay, I’ll let the doc know and get Jayne clearing out your old quarters. We’ve been using that bunk for storage, and I’m fair sure Fiddler may’ve been in there.” He smiled. “Be a couple of days but I conjure we’ll be gone before the week’s out.”
to be concluded
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