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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
“I don’t know what you all have against me being rich. I’d share, you know that. But you seem determined to keep me poor!” He stormed out, the door crashing closed behind him.
[Maya. Post-BDM. The crew learn more about Hank's good fortune, and try to come to grips with the Triskelion family tree.]
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1167 RATING: 10 SERIES: FIREFLY
Septimus Pike had looked exactly as Freya had expected, as if he’d deliberately taken on the attributes of dry legality once he’d taken on the profession of solicitor. Probably somewhere in his sixties, he had the manner of a much older man, and the physical aspect. He was tall and thin, with a permanent stoop, and gave the impression that if he wasn’t actually dusty it was only because his housekeeper had neglected to apply it that morning. He wore a frock coat and –
(“Do we need to know this, ai ren?”
“Yes. I’m setting the scene.”)
– striped pants over highly polished shoes. His shirt was white and crisp, the collar starched so much that it kept his chin from resting on his chest. Only his black bow tie drooped, in keeping with his expression.
“Of course, from an evidentiary viewpoint we are bound by legal process, but as soon as due diligence has been met –“
Pike blinked like an owl at Freya. “Miss?”
“Mrs. Mrs Reynolds.”
“My name is Mrs Reynolds. As I explained when we came in. Only a few minutes ago.”
“Yes, of course. I was just –”
“I know what you were ‘just’. And long words aren’t going to intimidate me like you are attempting to do to my friend.” She glanced at Hank sitting next to her, whose face had the glazed expression of a rabbit caught in Jayne’s cross-hairs.
“I wasn’t attempting to –”
“No?” For once and possibly the only time in her life, Freya allowed herself to channel her mother waiting for an explanation as to why the vase wasn’t on the pedestal but in a hundred pieces on the floor. A thousand years of utter belief in Rostov superiority went into that one word.
Pike blanched noticeably, and pulled at his collar as if it were strangling him. “My apologies. Perhaps I was …”
“Perhaps you were. Now, what, exactly, are you saying? Preferably with as few due diligences and legal processes as possible.”
The solicitor swallowed, making his bow tie quiver. “Why, only that Mr Mills is the heir apparent and possible sole beneficiary to the Triskelion estate, and once evidentiary …” He paused, quite possibly at the look in Freya’s eyes. “Once … once we … have final proof it will be all his.”
“All of what? Exactly?”
“How much?” Back in Serenity’s kitchen they were all hanging on Freya’s every word, and Jayne had just interrupted.
“Jayne.” Mal glared at him.
The big man sat back again. “Just asking,” he groused.
“Go on, Frey.”
“Well, at that point Hank sort of lost interest in everything, but Mr Pike did give me a few more details.” Freya shrugged. “The Triskelions as such don’t exist anymore, and the estate has been in a state of limbo while they looked for a blood relative.”
“Blood?” Sam raised his eyebrows.
“Yes.” She smiled at him for picking up on the important word. “And that’s where it gets interesting. Apparently there are relatives by marriage, and normally that would be enough to inherit, but there’s a will written by a certain Uther Triskelion that stipulates they don’t get a penny. It’s all held in trust until a proven heir is found.”
“And how are they going to prove Hank’s eligibility?” Simon wanted to know. “Did he take a blood sample? And what would they have to test it against if there are no living relatives?”
Freya chuckled. “No, Mr Pike didn’t take any blood. If he had I think it would have been from Hank’s jugular. He did say, though, that there is an original DNA reading from old Uther held safely on the Triskelion server.”
“And you understood all this?” Zoe asked.
“Understood, yes. Agreed with it, no.” Her humour died, and she shook her head in frustration. “Something’s not quite right here, but I can’t put my finger on it.”
“I’m gonna be rich.” A smile bloomed on Hank’s open face. “Rich … I could buy anything …”
“Just be careful,” Inara suggested from the end of the table. “If Freya thinks something’s wrong, then –”
“How rich?” Jayne interrupted again, his hankering for gold almost as strong as the pull of his belly, and stronger than any fear that Mal might put him out the airlock.
Freya considered. “Well, if Septimus Pike is to be believed –”
“Which he is.” This from Hank, not one to give up on dreams of avarice himself.
“– then he’d give Croesus a run for his money.”
“Kree who?” Jayne’s brow creased.
“Earth-that-was,” Mal put in quickly before River could give the lecture piling up behind her teeth. As she glared at him he went on, “Man from the myths, I seem to recall.”
Freya put her hand on his, as always warmed by her husband’s eclectic knowledge. “Ms Gingrich?”
He nodded. “Monday afternoon, ‘specially if it was raining. Nothing like it for making you feel grateful for the school bell.”
“The king of Lydia,” Simon added, almost as well read as his sister. “Obscenely wealthy.”
“Wealthy …” Hank echoed.
“As much as I hate to burst this bubble,” Zoe put in, “but it’s still too early to be sure of anything.”
“But I could buy you whatever you wanted.” Hank turned to look into her face, his eyes shining. “All of it. More than one.”
“Being rich isn’t everything,” Sam warned, sitting as close to Inara as he could manage, his arm around her. “I know it’s an old adage but it can’t buy you love.”
“Coulda fooled me,” Jayne grunted with a smirk. Then his eyes widened and he glanced at River, whose fingertips were tapping on the table. Nobody was in any doubt she’d dropped some comment into his brain.
“I have everything I need.” Zoe’s gaze took in her son, her husband, her friends.
“But I could buy our own ship. I could buy Serenity.”
“She ain’t for sale,” Mal interjected firmly.
Hank ignored him. “Furs. Jewels. Servants. I could have a whole library –”
He had to stop as Zoe had put her finger across his lips. “Hush.” She then looked at Freya. “Isn’t there some saying or other about counting ducks in a storm?”
“Why do you think I should know?” Freya protested, but only mildly. “Anyway, I think you mean don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched, but I think I like yours better.”
“Whichever, I don’t intend spending money I don’t have.” Zoe looked at Mal. “Do you think Dillon might know something of the family?”
“Could be.” Mal glanced around his crew. “And as he and Breed are entertaining all of us tonight, I reckon we might be able to prevail on him to bend our ears somewhat.”
“How are we all going to get there?” Kaylee asked, buttoning David Gabriel into a little brown coat.
“We could walk,” Simon suggested, tucking his own scarf around his neck. “You, me, the snow …”
“The kids …”
Kaylee twinkled mischievously. “How about we stay, then? Look after the ship. You, me …”
She sighed dramatically. “Yeah, there is that. Don’t suppose we could bribe River’n’Jayne to take ‘em with them, so we could have some play time?”
“If that’s gonna happen, me and Frey have first dibs.” Mal leaned in the open doorway. “And as it happens we’re all going. Callum’s outside with a truck.”
“A truck?” Kaylee’s mechanic’s ears pricked up.
It wasn’t actually a truck. It was a brand new hover, black with silver highlights, and big enough for a fair game of hoop ball in the back if anyone had the urge. Luxurious seats in dark blue swam above a midnight carpet, and the scent of leather was intoxicating …
“S’like a bordello I used to frequent on Ariel.”
Mal glared at Jayne but was too late.
“Daddy, what’s a bordello?” Hope asked, looking up at Simon, her eyes shining as brightly as her short blonde curls.
Kaylee stepped in quickly before Jayne could explain or her husband draw blood. “Are you sure it’ll run with all of us on board?” she asked loudly, her experienced eye running over the hover’s sleek lines, and itching to get a look at the engine.
“I understand it has been especially reinforced for the occasion, Madam,” Callum deadpanned, although his lips did twitch when she laughed.
Still, Mal and Freya decided to walk in order to, as Mal put it, “Give it a fair chance of not breaking down.”
“I’m kinda surprised Simon let ‘Nara join us,” he added, watching the ground car move smoothly away, noting cynically that it definitely seemed to be lower to the slush than when it arrived.
“I think he gave in, rather than allowed.” Freya grinned. “Nothing short of chains, padlocks and a flamethrower would have kept her from being involved. And don’t think Simon didn’t suggest it.”
Mal punched his code into the keypad to lock up the ship. “What did she say?” he asked curiously.
“That her working life as a Companion was nothing to do with him, and she was coming.”
Mal chuckled, imagining Inara saying exactly that. “Wish I’d seen it.”
“I’m sure he’ll show you his scars if you ask nicely.”
“Now that’s just a rumour put about by pilots with more time on their hands than is seemly.” He pulled her close, wrapping his arms about her. “You know I ain’t got eyes for anyone else but you.”
“That’s nice.” She kissed him softly, and he responded in kind.
“You sure you wanna go?” he murmured into her mouth. “We could stay.”
She brushed her lips across his, then stepped back. “Come on. I for one want to hear what Dillon’s found out.”
“Besides, it’s started to snow again.” She looked at the flakes falling silently.
“All the more reason to …” He paused at her look. “Okay, okay. Let’s go. ‘Fore I end up looking like a snowman.”
Callum didn’t cook. He didn’t have to, as there was a small army in the kitchens to call on if needed. He was more like one of the old Earth-that-was butlers who ran the household with a rod of iron (as long as those butlers had a ‘history’ and were proficient with any number of weapons). So while he didn’t cook himself, he caused it in others, and the meal prepared and served to everyone was enough to satisfy even Jayne.
Not that Dillon gave in to the requests to tell all.
“Eat first,” he advised. “Info after.”
And Callum’s attention to detail hadn’t gone amiss. The crew of Serenity were used to the excellent quality and quantity of meals supplied by the Fryes, the Bodens and even Monty’s wife Inez, but this was something beyond even that. Each dish that was brought out was the highest example of the culinary art, delighting the eyes and titillating the taste buds.
“Still prefer your Ma’s pancakes,” Mal whispered to Kaylee as the final course, a delicately flavoured sorbet, was distributed.
“With special strawberry sauce?”
“That’s the one.”
Kaylee grinned at him. “Me too,” she agreed and picked up her spoon, even as Bethie held out her bowl for a second helping.
The conversation flowed around the table and, since Dillon decreed no business, confined itself to when Inara battened down the hatches against winter storms, and the parties the Reilly girls might be holding, which could end up being far more destructive, and touching finally on Serenity’s captain having been bullet hole-free for a worrying period of time. Mal allowed the gentle ribbing, even going so far as to appear to consider Jayne’s offer to shoot him somewhere non-essential, just so it broke the dry spell and wasn’t as bad as it could be.
“Your head, maybe,” Jayne suggested. “Since you don’t seem to be using it that much.”
“Thanks, but I think I’ll pass,” Mal responded dryly.
“I think perhaps you should, sir,” Zoe put in. “Jayne’s right, if going to see Badger is anything to go by.”
“Badger?” Dillon looked around the table. “You let him? And you call him his friends?”
Amid the general laughter Mal rolled his eyes, but tried not to smile.
After dinner Callum collected the children and took them to one of the bedrooms to either nap, play some of the many Cortex games Breed had collected, or to listen in remotely, depending on their age, inclination or capability.
The adults repaired to the large, comfortable sitting room, and arranged themselves across sofas and deep easy chairs.
“So.” Mal accepted a glass of whisky from Callum’s silver tray. “Uther Triskelion.”
Dillon sat back. “Well, once upon a time …”
“Is this real or a fairy story?”
“A little of both.” Dillon watched the firelight catch the facets on his glass. “But the family is well known, so some of it is based on fact.” He looked around again. “I knew the name, of course, but after Freya’s wave Breed and I spent an interesting afternoon doing a little more … in-depth research.”
Breed pressed a button on a small remote and a screen descended over the fireplace. Another touch and it flared into life, the glow settling into the image of a man glaring down at them.
“That’s him!” Hank pointed, tapped his nose, his temple, then his nose once more before pointing again.
“Honey, you look like you’re having a fit,” Zoe murmured.
“Sorry, but I recognise him.”
“How?” Breed asked good-naturedly. “He’s been dead for some time.”
Hank dropped his hand. “I know that. But there was this huge painting in that lawyer’s office. Lifesize. Maybe more. Gave me the creeps, the way his eyes followed me around the room.” He shuddered, then looked at Freya. “You saw it too,” he added, a note of slightly manic accusation in his voice.
“I did,” Freya agreed, sipping one of Callum’s excellent cocktails and wondering if she could get the recipe from him. “And while I didn’t quite feel him breathing down my neck, it was more lifelike than probably required.”
“Well, from what we found out, Hank’s impression might be the right one,” Dillon said. “By all accounts he was a hwoon dahn.”
Breed gestured with the remote. “Personally, I think, from what we found out, calling him a bastard is putting it mildly.”
“Which would be …” Mal prompted.
Dillon shook his head. “You first.”
“Frey told me some, of course, but now I’d like to hear it from the horse’s mouth.”
“Better’n the other end,” Jayne whispered to River, quite audible to the rest of the assembly.
Hank bristled. “You calling me a –”
“Dear.” Zoe put her hand on his arm.
“Sorry,” he said, smiling a little sheepishly at his wife. “Guess I’m still a little hyper.”
“I can always give you a shot to calm you down,” Simon offered.
“They’re very good,” Inara put in.
Hank laughed. “I might take you up on that.” He took a breath. “Although to tell the truth I didn’t really take most of it in. Maybe Frey …”
Freya sighed theatrically. “Fine.” She paused for dramatic effect. “You know, I never saw a man more suited to his profession …”
At the end Dillon and Breed exchanged glances. “So old Pike is still alive.”
“You know him?” Mal asked.
“Of him. He’s been known to represent some unscrupulous and nefarious types.”
Freya smiled. “Excuse me. Do I have to remind you what Breed and I were doing when I introduced you two? What you were doing?”
Dillon grinned. “No, you don’t.”
“How ‘bout telling the rest of us?” Mal sat forward.
“Another time,” Freya promised, patting his knee.
“You keep saying that …” he complained.
“What else will we have to talk about when we’re old and grey?”
“The way things are going that’ll probably be next Tuesday.”
“Speak for yourself.”
Kaylee laughed. “Dillon, you’d better be getting on with the story-telling, ‘fore the Cap has to sleep on the couch tonight.”
“Your wish, dear lady …” He took a breath. “And perhaps it was a poor choice of words. Unsavoury types might be better. Like your friend Badger.”
Mal looked around sharply. “Badger?”
“Yes,” Breed agreed. “Pike’s represented the little weasel on more than one occasion, getting him off fairly serious charges with just a fine.”
“I wouldn’t’a thought they’d run in the same circles.”
“Neither would I, normally, but perhaps it’s to do with the fact that they were both born in the same place.”
“Dyton Colony,” Simon breathed, remembering a time when Badger and River had come face to face, and she had mimicked his accent back at him. He glanced at his sister where she sat at Jayne’s feet like a cat, to see her eyes already on him.
“He’s older, of course, but perhaps like gravitates to like,” Dillon went on. “One way or the other, Pike has a … questionable reputation.”
“And yet he represents the Triskelions,” Freya said softly.
“What’s left of them. And their reputation isn’t so lily-white either.”
“We ain’t none of us squeaky-clean,” Mal said. “So maybe you’d better be a bit more specific.”
“Specifics might be a bit more difficult, mainly because people like Pike over the years have earned their fees, but generally the consensus is that Uther Triskelion took what was left of the family money and used it to make more, partly by marrying it. His wife, Georgia, gave birth to one son and promptly expired.” Dillon sipped his whisky. “Not that having a wife and son mellowed old Uther. Like I said, there’s no proof, but it’s said he wasn’t above intimidation, blackmail and murder to get what he wanted. And what he wanted was to own most of Persephone, and not let it go out of the family. At one point he pretty much had his wish.”
“Sounds like one of the old robber barons,” Hank put in. “You know, like from Earth-that-was, when they were building railroads.”
Mal looked at his first mate. “Zo, you gotta stop him reading those romances.”
“I haven’t been able to yet, sir.”
“Hey, it’s why you love me!” Hank protested.
“I’m pretty sure it isn’t.”
“No more candied fruits for you …”
Everyone smiled, but Mal said, “Better go on, Dillon, ‘fore I’m out one pilot.”
“Of course.” Dillon took another mouthful, enjoying being the centre of attention. “Well, Uther didn’t remarry, probably considering he’d done his duty and got himself an heir, so he had a whole firm of lawyers write his will, so air-tight as to be unbreakable. Only blood could inherit, and if anyone tried to contest it then it would all go to the Alliance.”
“Sounds familiar.” Mal glanced at Freya, who nodded slightly.
Maybe it’s where he got the idea from, she agreed, just a caress in his mind.
“So how come most of us have never heard of him?” Sam asked.
“I have,” Inara said, surprising them all.
“Really?” Mal put on an air of innocence. “Didn’t think you were old enough to have serviced him.”
Inara gave him one of her more supercilious looks, then smiled, her entire face softening. “As it happens, a Companion-in-training has to learn about all the major families of the Alliance. Not that the Triskelions were one of the greats, but with their fortune they did at least warrant a footnote.”
“Being paid first, if I recall correctly.”
“Nice folks,” Mal commented amid general laughter.
“Can I continue?” Dillon asked, one eyebrow raised.
Mal made a wide gesture. “Please. Don’t let me stop you.”
“Hmmn.” Dillon shook his head. “As I said, Uther stayed a widower, and when he eventually died his son Peder took over. He wasn’t quite as bad as his father, which wouldn’t be hard, but his grand schemes weren’t nearly as successful – he lost quite a lot of what Uther had acquired and the dreams of owning Persephone ended with him. Still, there was a lot to start with, and money begets money. He was in the Legislature for a few years, and his wife Marnie used to give balls in that damn great house Uther built. They had three children – Arthur, Jago and Elowen.”
“What’s with the names?” Hank asked, shaken out of his fortune-induced reverie.
“Cornish.” River spoke from her position next to Jayne.
“Sorry, but I still –”
“Earth-that-was. England. Cornwall. Cornish.” She glared at him as if he should understand.
“Oh. Right. I think my Gran mentioned once … right.” Hank smiled uncertainly.
“Which would be right,” Kaylee put in. “If’n you’re related then your folks would have to go back to Earth-that-was.”
“We all do, mei-mei.” Mal smiled at his mechanic. “It’s kind of a given, seeing as we all had to get here in those generation ships.”
“Like a fungus,” River added.
There was a moment’s silence then Mal looked at Dillon. “I conjure there’s more, and I’d kinda like to be hearing it before I get too decrepit to enjoy it.”
“River’s right, actually. Not about the … but the Triskelions have always been proud of their direct line back.” Dillon shrugged. “Anyway, Arthur and Jago, the two sons, were wild, and their mother indulged them. Rumour has it they spread themselves about the ‘verse on a regular basis, which is probably where this idea that Hank is a relative came from. Elowen, on the other hand, was a good girl and did what her father wanted, and married John Foster, the company accountant.”
Breed touched a button on the remote and the image of Uther was replaced by a family tree, and for a moment everyone studied it, trying to make sense of it.
“Who are Crispin and Clive Foster?” Simon asked. “And why aren’t they beneficiaries of the will?”
“Because they’re not blood.” Dillon stood up so he could point with his free hand. “John Foster is their father, all right, but Elowen isn’t their mother. They’re from his second marriage, to Cora.”
“I’m lost,” Hank admitted.
“With this family I’m not surprised.” Dillon turned to face them, warming his backside. “A little over fifty years ago Peder Triskelion took everyone out for dinner on the family yacht to celebrate his wife’s birthday. Something happened and it sank with all hands. Only John survived, found by rescuers clinging to a lifebelt. But the entire Triskelion bloodline had been wiped out.”
Sam sat forward. “He couldn’t tell anyone what happened?”
“From what official records I could find, he wasn’t able to tell them a thing. He claimed he didn’t remember anything from boarding the boat to waking in hospital and being told they’d all died.”
“Claimed.” Mal had jumped on the word.
“A lot of people didn’t believe him.”
“They think he engineered it?”
Dillon sat back down. “Well, speculation is free, and there was a lot spent.”
“It’s like a vid,” Kaylee admitted.
“Only a bit less plausible,” Freya put in.
Dillon shrugged. “I’m just telling you what I found out.” He signalled Callum to refill any glasses that needed it, including his own.
“So that left John Foster,” Simon said.
“Who took over as Trustee of the estate, lived in the house, had access to a large income and the monetary skills to make the most of the opportunity …”
“Convenient,” Mal commented dryly, accepting more of the good whiskey.
“You’re not the only one who thought so. Nobody felt they could complain, but they all thought he’d contrived the ‘accident’.”
They could almost see the air quotes above Dillon’s head.
“So you’re saying he did inherit,” Hank said slowly.
“No. Not quite. It’s not his, he can’t pass it to his children, at least not legitimately.”
“Wait a minute,” Sam interrupted. “Are you saying John Foster is still alive?”
“And kicking. Getting on, perhaps, but by all accounts still hale and hearty.”
“What about his second wife? Cora, was it?”
“She died thirty years ago.”
Mal made a sound through his nose. “Sounds like this lot doesn’t have that much luck with their spouses.”
“Clive’s the only one who’s managed to keep his, who goes by the wonderful name of Demelza.”
“I can’t keep it straight,” Hank complained.
“Don’t worry,” River put in. “I will remember.”
Dillon chuckled. “Someone should. Anyway, Clive and Crispin were well-looked after and their very expensive education was paid for, but they can’t touch the capital or divide the estate. That’s only for the bloodline.”
“Only there isn’t any,” Kaylee put in. “’Til they found Hank.”
“Equally conveniently.” Freya shook her head. “I don’t like it.”
“Neither do I,” Mal agreed. “I’ve a mind to take Serenity as far away from this whole mess as possible.”
“No!” Hank coloured as he realised he’d almost shouted. “Mal, you can’t. This is … this could be my birth right. You can’t just … I won’t let you.”
Zoe touched his hand, saying quickly before Mal could suggest a visit to the airlock, “Honey, if it’s safer –”
He shook her off and stood up. “I don’t know what you all have against me being rich. I’d share, you know that. But you seem determined to keep me poor!” He stormed out, the door crashing closed behind him.
Zoe didn’t move.
“Ain’t you gonna go after him?” Kaylee asked, her face worried and her sunny personality dimmed.
“No. No, I think he needs time to calm down.” Zoe crossed her legs. “I’d just make it worse.”
“He’ll be back,” River said. “Hopefully before he gets frostbite.”
“He gone outside, albatross?” Mal asked.
“He’s throwing snowballs.”
“Keep an eye on him, will you?”
River nodded, her gaze going back to the fire, the flames reflected in her dark eyes.
“I’m sorry if this is all my fault.” Dillon’s brows drew together. “I hadn’t intended to make trouble.”
“Why change the habit of a lifetime?” Freya said automatically, then added, “Sorry.”
“I wasn’t intending to take offence. Especially as you’re right.” He smiled, and the tension in the room lessened.
“And I think it’s less about what you said than the implications.” Zoe sat forward. “You know how he feels about his grandma.”
Dillon exchanged glances with Breed. “Not … really.”
“She brought him up, after his parents died. They were very close. Very.”
Sam got to it a fraction of a second before the rest. “You mean that, depending on the timeline and the fact that there are no legitimate heirs, either his grandmother or her mother had a dalliance with either Arthur or Jago.”
Jayne chuckled, low and dirty. “Always knew there was just enough of a bastard in ‘im almost likeable.” From the big man this was praise indeed.
“A baby and no wedding ring …” Inara mused. “On some Core planets that’s still looked down on.”
“Some of ‘em out on the Rim too.” Mal looked at Freya. “You getting anything, ai ren? I mean over and above Hank and Inara.”
“Excuse me?” the ex-Companion complained, but was waved to silence.
“No.” Freya exhaled loudly in frustration. “Everything is so … foggy.” She rolled her bottom lip between her teeth. “But my gut tells me we’re being manipulated.”
The action made Mal want to kiss her, but instead he said, “Like Badger having a job for us that just so happens to have been postponed. Him and Pike both being from the same planet. And all this at the same time Hank might be coming into a fortune.”
“Well, I’ll take your gut any day.”
“That’s nice.” She smiled for him alone, then went on, “Anyway, we’ll know a lot more after the party.”
Mal’s head jerked. “Party?” He glared at his wife. “What party?”
“Oh, didn’t I say?”
“No. I’m fair sure you didn’t.”
“Oh. Sorry.” She didn’t look all that apologetic. “Hank has been invited to meet the rest of the family. To get to know each other.”
Freya dropped her head slightly to hide the smile. “I … uh … might have persuaded Mr Pike to extend the invitation to the rest of us.”
Mal nodded in approval, at the same time as envisaging, quite accurately, his wife’s methods of persuasion. “Good. ‘Cause the way Hank is acting right now he could agree to anything if someone ain’t around to hold his hand.”
“I didn’t know you cared.” The pilot himself stood in the doorway, his untidy brown hair standing less indignation and more in embarrassment. “And I’m sorry. That was stupid of me.” He rubbed his hands up and down his arms.
Kaylee was on her feet immediately and pulling him towards the fire. “You’ll get pneumonia wandering about outside,” she scolded, making him sit close to the flames.
The pinkness on his skin could have been reflected light. “Yeah, well, I was never known for my intelligence.” He coughed. “So, we all going?”
“See how the other half lives?” Kaylee’s mind was suddenly filled with layer-cake dresses and fabulous balls, at least until the punching. “Of course.”
“That ain’t gonna happen,” Mal said firmly. “Someone’s gotta watch the kids. Unless you think I’m gonna take ‘em in with us. And I’m none too happy about the whole thing in the first place.”
Kaylee’s brightness dimmed. “Oh.”
“They could stay with us.”
Everyone looked at Breed, including Dillon, but Freya was the first to speak.
“Do you have any idea what you’re offering?” she asked. “What you’re letting yourself in for?”
“We’ve just spent quite a bit of time with them. How bad could it be?”
“That was on board Serenity. This is your home. They might run riot.”
Breed laughed. “I don’t think there’s anything here that wouldn’t be improved by a few children.”
Dillon sighed. “He’s broody. I knew it.”
“I’m just offering to look after them for one night, not adopt them all.” Breed looked into his lover’s face. “Would you mind that much?”
There was a long moment as the unheard, intimate conversation went on between the two men. “No.” Dillon gave in. “No, I suppose not.”
“Are we still talking about the one night, or the adopting?” Simon asked, intrigued.
“’Cause it sounds like you’re planning on runnin’ off with our collective brood,” Mal added. “I mean, some of ‘em I might understand, but Cal’s way too like his Pa in terms of noxious odours.”
“Hey!” the man in question growled.
“No, you are,” River agreed, leaning against him.
“S’only when the doc cooks those beans. Or Frey does that protein bake of hers. Or …” He stopped. “Yeah, maybe you’re right.”
“But the point is,” Breed interjected, a little louder than required, “we’d be happy to. Alex isn’t back yet, we have plenty of space, and it would only be for a night.”
“We’ll be good.” The little voice had them turning back to the doorway, where Bethie stood framed, the other children behind her. She rolled her foot and batted her eyelashes. “Promise.”
Freya laughed. “That’s laying it on a little too thick, young lady. Even for you.”
Bethie grinned. “Oops.”
“And are your fingers crossed?”
The little girl immediately brought her hands to the front. “No, Auntie Frey.” But the grin stayed.
“I’m sure Hildegarde will keep them in line, sir,” Callum said softly.
“Hilde-who?” Mal asked.
“Hildegarde. My daughter, sir.”
“You have a daughter?”
“Mal, shut up,” Freya said mildly. “She’s a lovely girl.”
“You know her?”
“And you didn’t consider it worthy of mentioning.”
“The subject never came up.”
“Hmmn. You do know we’ll be talking about this, don’t you?”
She just smiled sweetly at him.
“You know, I think adoption is an excellent idea,” Inara put in. “All the fun without having to go through the swollen ankles and backache.”
“And wantin’ to pee all the time,” Kaylee put in. “And the cravings.” She looked at Simon. “Though I seem to recall you were real good at satisfying them things.”
“Oh, please,” Mal muttered.
He coughed and avoided Freya’s eye.
She swallowed a smile and turned back to her friends. “You do realise they’ve been on their best behaviour?”
“I know we can cope,” Breed assured her.
“So?” Bethie took a step forward. “Can we? Uncle Mal?”
“Ain’t up to me, short stub. There’s others you need to say yes first.” He looked at Dillon. “You feel strong enough to take ‘em all on?”
Dillon exhaled theatrically. “I suppose we can manage. For one night.”
Any further comments were lost in the general whooping from the group of children.
As coats were being buttoned and scarves wrapped, Freya took Breed a step away. “You want children?”
He nodded, his sleek black hair shining in the low light. “We’ve been talking about it.”
“And what does Dillon say?”
“He …” Breed sighed. “We’ve been talking.”
“Let me guess. He doesn’t think you should be thinking about kids when the future is uncertain.”
“Pretty much.” He watched Ben being wrapped up warmly. “He thinks he’s too old, as well.”
“Him and Jayne are pretty much the same age,” Freya pointed out. “And look how good he is with Cal.”
The ex-mercenary had his son on his hip, chuckling him under the chin and making him laugh.
“Surprisingly.” The sigh this time was heavier. “I was just hoping having them around, on their own, might be fun.”
“And change his mind.”
“You never know.”
Freya laughed, a deep, slightly mischievous sound that made the others look around. “Oh, Breed. Be careful what you wish for.”
“Kids?” Mal shook his head. “Has Breed lost what little remained of his senses?”
“And what is wrong with children?” Sitting on their bed, perhaps a little the worse for wear due to imbibing Callum’s cocktails, Freya fixed him with a stern eye. “Remembering the couch is currently available in the common area.”
“Nothing, in particular. But it ain’t like they’re exactly a normal couple.”
“You mean because they’re sly?”
“Now you know I ain’t never had a problem with that.” He leaned on the ladder. “It’s just …” Trying to find the right words he couldn’t come up with them, so just said, “I guess I never thought either of ‘em would be paternally inclined.”
Freya relaxed, her metaphorical hackles settling back. “Well, no. Neither would I. But then you never thought you’d have children, you’ve said that before. And before we finally got together neither did I.”
“True.” Mal shrugged. “Takes all kinds, I guess. And there are surely a lot of kids out there who need a family. Just ‘cause we’ve been lucky don’t mean others are.”
“And we are.” Freya smiled softly and tugged at one of her boots.
“Hank, on the other hand, seems to be the luckiest man around at the moment.”
“We all know what you think about coincidences.”
Mal pushed his suspenders from his shoulders. “Don’t believe in ‘em.”
Freya smiled. “No? Wasn’t it a coincidence that I walked into that bar just as someone was about to shoot you in the back?”
“That wasn’t coincidence. That was fate.”
She stood up from the bunk, dropping her boots onto the floor. “Some might say it’s the same thing.”
“Some might.” He pulled her closer, hooking his thumbs into her pants pockets. “And I say it ain’t fate that Badger has a job for us that he won’t give any details on, at the same time Hank’s told he could be disgustingly rich, and there’s Septimus Pike, sitting right in the middle.”
“Like I said, I don’t believe in ‘em.” He looked down the slight height difference into her eyes, so gentle and loving.
“You realise you’re suggesting a conspiracy.” Her voice had softened too.
“So, I actually agree with you. But I’m also curious.”
He chuckled. “You with all your sayings, you know what that did.”
She moved closer so he could feel her warmth on his chest. “What, got you into my bed?”
“Among other things.”
“Could you be a bit more specific?”
“Oh, I think so …”
to be continued
Sunday, February 21, 2016 2:17 PM
Wednesday, March 9, 2016 11:30 PM
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