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JANE0904

Monied Individual - Part VI
Sunday, May 1, 2016

“This is one of those dreams, ain’t it? Where Jayne ends up riding an elephant and singing in Latin.” He looked at his crew again, all of whom were, at least metaphorically, drawing back from him. “Okay, so you don’t have those. Maybe I am going crazy after all.” [Maya. Post-BDM. The Fosters are keeping a lot of things up their sleeves, and Mal is determined to find out what.]


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1089    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

They had all gathered in the kitchen, at least as many of his crew that were left. Zoe and Hank hadn’t come back, and Jayne was absent, having been told by River to go and keep watch. Apparently she’d promised something about a use with the red ribbon, but Mal had let that particular mental image slide right by him, unlike what the others were telling him.

“Is it possible?” Inara asked. “Perhaps their testing equipment is better.” She glanced at Simon. “Newer,” she added quickly.

Simon didn’t quite take offence. “A DNA sequence is just that – a sequence. There aren’t … nuances. It doesn’t matter how old the analyser. Or how new. Hank isn’t a Triskelion.”

“’Cept they said he was,” Kaylee put in unhappily, rubbing her hands over and over. “That’s what they said.”

The Fosters had all been waiting for them in the drawing room, the blazing fire making it hard to breathe. Even John Foster was here to witness, sitting in a wingback chair, his eyes bright with amusement.

“So …” Clive looked at his brother, who was slouched on the sofa, but was ignored.

“So?” Hank prompted. “You can tell me the bad news.”

Clive laughed. “It’s not bad. On the contrary, at least for you. Luke has completed the DNA analysis –”

“How come it’s taken so long?” Kaylee interrupted then went pink. “I mean, Simon coulda done it in a few minutes. Less.”

“We had to be sure, my dear.”

Kaylee blushed a bit harder.

“Sorry,” Luke put in, trying to make up for Clive’s somewhat patronising tone. “I don’t have access to a hospital as such, so it took me a while.”

“Right. Sorry.”

“And you didn’t trust our medic,” Zoe added.

“No.” Clive didn’t care that he sounded ungracious. “Be that as it may, I can now tell you that the results are quite clear. You are a Triskelion, by blood.”

“No, wait, that … I can’t …” Hank stammered before Zoe spoke over him.

“Are you positive about that?” she asked.

“We are.”

Zoe looked at each of them in turn: Clive was at ease, waiting for Hank to be grateful, while Crispin hadn’t taken much notice and just sat staring into the fire, probably hibernating before the next meal. John was tapping his chin with his forefinger but appeared to be smiling, while Luke had thrust his hands into his pockets, hanging back as if to keep out of the way, his face dipped in shadows. Only Demelza looked uncomfortable, a veil of worry settled on her.

“Then I’d like a copy of the results,” Kaylee said unexpectedly.

“My dear girl –”

“I ain’t your dear girl. And I want my husband to confirm your findings.”

Clive looked at his father, who nodded slightly. “Very well.” He flicked his fingers at Luke. “Do you have a copy?”

Luke pulled a memory tab from his pocket, handing it over to Kaylee. “I thought you might ask.”

“Thanks.” She gave him a quick smile as she slid it into the teddy-bear pocket of her coveralls.

“Of course, this all still has to be ratified,” Clive went on. “At least on paper. Lots of signatures and oaths in front of the Persephone Prefecture. It will take a little while to arrange, and what with it being the Spring Festival nobody official is going to be available quite yet, at least until next week.”

“That’s fine.” Hank felt relief wash through him, although whether at being told he was rich or knowing that he wasn’t yet going to have to put his name to a possibly illegal document was unsure. “Shiny.”

“So are we out on our ears?” John Foster asked, leaning forward. “Do we get to pack first?”

“No, look, I really don’t … I wouldn’t. Of course not.” Hank took a breath. “This is your home. It’d be like me being thrown off Serenity with only the clothes on my back. I wouldn’t. None of us would.” He paused. “Well, maybe Jayne might, but …”

“And who’s she?” Clive asked.

“No-one. Nothing.” Hank tried to take control of himself. “You don’t have to go anywhere. Like I said, this is your home. I’m not going to intrude.”

“But you’ll be moving in.” Crispin finally stirred. “Taking over.”

“No. My home’s on board.”

Clive moved forward and clasped the younger man by the shoulder. “But this is your home now.”

“They made him stay,” Kaylee now went on to the rest of them. “Him and Zoe. Took him up to the master bedroom right there and then.”

Mal held his annoyance in check. Now wasn’t the time to let it out. “And they’re still there?”

“Clive really wanted him to stay the night. Get a feel for the place, he said.” Kaylee glanced around the table. “Hank asked if one of us could get him and Zoe some stuff from their bunk. Clean underwear and the like, and take it to ‘em.”

“I can do that,” Freya offered.

“I don’t get this.” Mal shook his head, not bothering to think of his pilot’s unmentionables. “Are we saying now that the doc here is wrong, and Hank is a Triskelion?”

“No.” Simon shook his head firmly. “I told you - there’s no convergence.”

“Then why –”

“No convergence of the true data.”

“You wanna be a bit clearer on that, doc?”

Kaylee interrupted. “I brought this.” She held out a wafer. “After they said … what they said, I said we wanted a copy, so we could run the test ourselves.”

“Well done, xiao mei-mei,” Mal said. “And did you?”

Simon held up a hand-scanner. “They’re right – according to this data, Hank is the heir.”

“But you just said …” Mal closed his eyes for a moment. “This is one of those dreams, ain’t it? Where Jayne ends up riding an elephant and singing in Latin.” He looked at his crew again, all of whom were, at least metaphorically, drawing back from him. “Okay, so you don’t have those. Maybe I am going crazy after all.”

“Not crazy,” River contradicted. “And I fully understand the concept.”

Mal exhaled heavily. “So, doc, is he or isn’t he?”

“He isn’t.” Simon sounded very sure of himself. “And I can prove it because River hacked the Triskelion server. Which, of course, I can’t possibly condone.” He ignored River’s glare.

“So?” Mal wondered much longer he could hold onto his temper.

Breathe.

He glanced at Freya. They’re enough to make a sane man run amok.

I’d rather you didn’t. Her eyes twinkled. And Jayne on an elephant?

Oh, shut up.

Simon hadn’t heard the mental conversation, but knew there had been one. With a look that was very close to the one that Ethan had when he told his parents they had to use words, he went on, “So … the profile on the server for Uther Triskelion is not the same as the one on this tab.” He pressed a button on the scanner, and lights blossomed as lines chased each other across the tiny screen. “Someone has very cleverly doctored it to make it appear that Hank is a relation, several times removed.”

Mal leaned forward to see the screen, but as usual it meant little to him. “Altered old Uther’s DNA? Is that possible?”

“Oh, yes. And I think I know how.” Simon touched the scanner. “They’ve taken sequences from Hank’s profile and spliced them into Uther’s.”

“And you know that … how?”

“Because Hank’s DNA was minutely altered by his exposure to the RePax.”

There was a moment’s silence as everyone remembered that time, when Niska’s experiments with a reduced version of the original Pax had almost taken the pilot from them, and threatened Zoe and Freya’s lives.

“The man’s dead, Frey,” Mal whispered, seeing the look on his wife’s face. “I made sure of that.” Shot the hwoon dahn myself. Right between the eyes.

“I know, zhang fu,” she murmured back, giving him a brief smile. Thank you.

Mal nodded, then turned back to everyone else. “Hank’s DNA,” he prompted.

“Yes.” Simon understood, remembering his own terror when Niska had taken Kaylee, and his relief when Mal had told him of the death of the psychopathic butcher. “And some of those alterations are now in Uther’s profile.” He shook his head. “It wasn’t even particularly clean – I imagine they were in something of a rush.”

“Why didn’t they just change Hank’s?” Inara wanted to know. “Wouldn’t it have been easier?”

“Because of Simon,” Sam put in, squeezing her hand then looking back at the doctor. “I imagine they were intending to, originally, but finding that Serenity had a medic probably put a crimp in their plans. They couldn’t take the chance that you’d have Hank’s profile on file for any reason, and be able to tell the difference.”

“They didn’t consider someone might actually think of going to the source.” River sniffed, annoyed that no-one was giving her the praise she felt she was due.

“And it’s why it took longer,” Kaylee added. “I figure they’d’ve told everyone pretty much straight away otherwise.” Anger dulled her brightness for a moment. “Must’ve been that Luke,” she muttered, almost to herself. “And he seemed like such a nice feller.”

“He’s one of them, mei-mei,” Freya said gently. “No matter how pleasant.”

“So now what?” Simon asked. “We’re still no clearer as to why they want Hank to be the heir.”

“I’m gonna have to think on things for a while,” Mal admitted. “Not least of which is that Badger’s got a job for us, but I ain’t sure it’s exactly what we need at the moment. And I think permaybehaps I need to have a word with Hank.”

“And then there’s the party.”

Mal stared at Kaylee. “What party?”

---

It was cold, and they could almost hear the sap freezing in the trees.

“It wasn’t my idea, Mal,” Hank insisted, stamping his feet to try and get some warmth back into them.

Simon hadn’t wanted to come, hating the cold almost as much as getting rained on, but Mal had insisted. Freya had insisted as well, despite her husband’s suggestion that she stay home and get warm. He was still smarting at her response.

Instead he glanced up at the windows, his imagination populating them with ghosts, or at the very least the Fosters, wanting to know what they were discussing out on the drive. “You couldn’t say no?”

“I tried. Clive kept saying I was the master of the house now, and needed to get used to it.” Hank glanced at Zoe. “You don’t have to, though.”

“Where else would I be except by my husband?” She looked like a beautiful bronze statue, standing majestically against the white background.

Something heavy slid to the ground deep in the maze, the sound creeping out.

“Couldn’t we have done this inside?” Hank complained, slapping his arms around himself.

“Can you be sure they ain’t listening?” Mal countered. “You checked for bugs?”

“Um, well, no, but –”

“You might be cold, but at least our conversation’s private. ‘Sides,” Mal went on, “you’re not a prisoner. Walk out.”

“But what if he’s right?”

“He’s not.” Simon had his hands thrust deep into his coat pockets. “I told you, there’s no convergence.”

“Doc, imagine you’re talking to me,” Mal suggested.

“Pilot dummy-talk?”

“I’d be obliged.”

“Me too,” Hank put in.

Simon cleared his throat. “I’ve checked your DNA against the profile River got off the family server – even taking into account an unknown number of generations between you and Uther, you’re not related.”

The pilot seemed to shrink inside his jacket. “I’m not sure if I’m depressed or ecstatic.”

“They ain’t related at all?” Zoe asked.

“Not beyond the normal similarities we all share as humans. In fact, I found markers indicating Freya has more connections.”

“Please, no more money,” the woman in question muttered.

“What?”

“Nothing.”

Simon narrowed his eyes at her, but went on, “Anyway, a case could be made for her to have a claim on the estate.”

“Did you know about this?” Hank asked Freya, his discomfort at being so cold forgotten for a moment.

She shrugged. “There’s a vague recollection of a conversation between my grandmother and someone else, possibly my father, and him saying, basically, that he was glad they didn’t exist anymore as they weren’t our kind of people, despite being relatives very far removed. My grandmother said, I think, that they might be dead but that wasn’t removed enough.” She snorted. “I think that was the only time they ever agreed on anything.”

“Don’t you want to be disgustingly rich?” Hank asked. “One of us should be.”

“I don’t exist anymore, remember? Well, Elena Rostov doesn’t, and she’s the one with the claim.” Any humour slid out of her. “I’m not putting the children at risk by coming forward.”

Mal nodded. “Right, too.”

“Thank you.”

“And talking of kids, since this isn’t over with yet, maybe we should see if Dillon’ll keep ‘em another day or so.”

Simon stirred. “Mal, I don’t know that Kaylee will be very happy about that.”

He understood. “Frey can fly anyone wants to go visit in the shuttle. And if lil’ Kaylee wants to stay I’m sure that can be arranged.”

The young doctor sighed. “She’ll probably bite your hand off. After the party, anyway.”

“Yeah, about that.” Mal turned back to Hank. “Party?”

“Not my idea, Mal. Demelza sprung it on us just as Kaylee left. They’ve invited the great and the good of Persephone tonight. To celebrate.” He didn’t look particularly happy about it. “And you’re all to come, of course.”

“Did they say that?”

“Not … exactly. But you’re family. I told ‘em.”

“And you think this is a good thing.”

“I didn’t have much of a say in it. They want to show me off. You know – the new heir.”

“You ain’t.”

“I might be. And even if Simon’s right – sorry, doc, but you might not be, you’ve been wrong before –”

“I’m not.”

“You were wrong about Inara. You didn’t see it coming.”

In the silence that followed they could hear ice crystals shatter.

“Hank …” Freya said softly.

“Dear …” Zoe echoed.

The pilot closed his eyes. “I’m sorry. I didn’t … it’s just …”

“You’re right.” Simon stood straighter. “I didn’t see it coming. And I should have. I was her doctor, and I should have been able to prevent it.”

“You saved her life.” Mal understood guilt, and was seeing it in front of him. “That ain’t nothing.”

“It shouldn’t have been necessary.”

“And would you have been able to stop her wanting to get pregnant?” Freya asked. She stepped in front of him, making him look at her. “I doubt anyone in this ‘verse would have been able to do that. Not even you.”

“Are you sure about that?”

“I am. I know Inara. She once threw an entire dinner service at me.” Her hazel eyes seemed soft enough to melt into, like the warm toffee dessert that was a childhood favourite.

Simon had to chuckle, shaking his head at her and the memory from a lifetime ago. “You’re not going to let me hold onto it, are you? The culpability I’ve been keeping warm.”

“It ain’t warm, doc.” Mal put his hand on the younger man’s shoulder. “It’s cold, and it’s hard, and if you don’t let it go it can empty you out ‘til there’s nothing but the guilt left.” He squeezed. “You saved Inara. And her baby. And Sam, for that matter. Let it go.”

“And if I can’t?”

“Let Kaylee help you. A good woman’s pretty much the best prescription I can think of.”

This time Simon laughed. “I think you’re right.”

Mal let go and looked at his pilot. “And we’ll figure out why the Fosters want you to be seen to be heir to the fortune.”

“I suppose,” Hank grumbled.

“At least you’ll have something to wear.” Mal touched the carpet bag on the ground with his foot. “Can’t say what as I didn’t pack it, but I conjure Frey and Kaylee ain’t gonna make you look too ridiculous.”

“Thanks.” The sarcasm should have withered Serenity’s captain on the spot.

“Well, I’m heading back to the ship,” Freya said. “My toes have decided they don’t belong to me anymore.”

“Don’t warm them too quickly,” Simon warned, ever the doctor. “I’d better come back with you, make sure you don’t get chilblains.”

Zoe took a step forward. “Before you do, can I have a word? In private.”

The young doctor looked surprised, then nodded. “Of course.”

They walked away so the others couldn’t hear.

“I’m not going to wait,” Freya said. “And I’ll talk to Dillon.”

“Thanks, ai ren.” Mal kissed her softly then watched her stride off.

“Any idea what they’re talking about?” Hank asked, his eyes on his own wife.

“Nope. But I’ve got a couple of questions myself to ask you.”

The pilot looked surprised. “Me?”

“Mmn.”

“Uh … okay.”

Mal glanced up at the windows again. “Did they happen to take you on a tour of the house?”

“The … actually, Clive did. Why?”

“And did he happen to show you the safe?”

Hank’s jaw dropped slightly. “Are you planning on robbing me?”

“It ain’t yours.”

“It is at the moment.”

“Then ask Clive for the combination.”

There was a long pause, then Hank looked down at his boots, idly wondering whether his feet were still inside or if they’d turned to the blocks of ice they felt like. “I … tried. In passing. As a joke.” He looked up. “You’re a gorram bad influence on me, you know that.”

“Happy to help. And? Did he tell you?”

“No. He said not ‘til all the papers had been signed.” He looked up. “Why, Mal?”

“Then where is it?”

“Mal –”

“Hank. You ain’t a Triskelion. You know this. Your gran would’a told you, wouldn’t she? She’d never’ve kept it from her favourite grandson.”

“Her only grandson. But … I guess.”

“So you know you ain’t gonna be allowed to keep all this, either.”

Hank’s shoulders slumped. “Can’t I just enjoy it? While it lasts?”

“Sure. Just tell me what type of safe it is and where it’s hiding. Just in case.”

The other man sighed. “It’s in the study on the first floor at the back, overlooking the gardens and the lake. And it’s a Faber-Johnson.”

Mal considered. “That’s not so bad.”

“With the latest bioscan as an added, delightful feature.”

“Ah.”

“It’s a pity we don’t still have that little gizmo of Magpie’s, sir.” Zoe had walked up to them, her steps silent in the snow, Simon already heading back to Serenity as fast as he could. “For opening safes.”

Magpie, more formally Margaret Madeleine Maguire, owned an electronics repair shop in the seedier side of Persephone, where she sold everything an aspiring thief or burglar could possibly want, and generally for a hefty price tag. She also continually tried to seduce Mal every time she saw him, at least until the Claymore job, when she and Freya had come to something of an understanding.

“I know what it was, Zo. Wouldn’t have worked anyway. Magpie set it specifically for that Methuselah, even if its innards hadn’t got fried pulling the job.” Kaylee’d tried to fix it, but she hadn’t got the parts, and in the end she’d cannibalised it to repair a short in Serenity’s sensor array.

“She might have another one.”

“She might.”

“Do you want me to wave her, sir?”

“Not if you want a job in the morning.”

“I might not need one, sir. Seeing as I’m married to a very wealthy man.”

Mal glared at her.

---

Freya was in their bunk when Mal got back, having changed her clothes and pulled on the thick socks Jayne’s mother had knitted her. She wriggled her toes, and hummed with satisfaction.

“Comfy?” he asked as he climbed down the ladder.

“Better.”

“Surprised you can find both of ‘em.” He nodded at the socks. “Seeing as you cut the string off.”

As a joke he’d asked Jayne to get his mother to put the socks on a long string, like a pair of kid’s gloves, since she was always losing one of a pair: Freya had not been amused.

This time she just raised her eyebrow.

He chuckled, shucking his coat and unbuckling his gunbelt. “Did you speak to Dillon?”

“I did.”

“And?”

“He’s happy to keep the children as long as we need.”

“Sounds like he’d like ‘em forever.”

“He might be coming around to that conclusion.”

Mal paused in the act of levering off his wet boots. “He gonna give ‘em back?”

“There might be screaming, arguing, banging of heels on the ground … but I’m sure Breed will be able to talk him around.”

He grinned at the thought of Dillon having a tantrum. “Thought Breed’d be the one wanted to steal ‘em away from us.”

“I’ll be counting them as they come back.”

“Good to know. Long as they know it’s only gonna be a couple of days.”

“Well, Dillon’s got the whole week planned out so far.”

His right boot proving recalcitrant, he sat down in the chair at the desk to deal with it. “He does?”

“The Garibaldi Museum tomorrow – apparently there’s an exhibition of treasure from Earth-that-was.”

“Bethie insisted?”

Freya nodded. “Pirates.”

“Then what?”

“The Spring Lights on Sunday, followed by dinner at the Accordion, then –””

“Where?”

“It’s a restaurant. Very difficult to get seats unless you know the owner.”

“Who is …”

“Dillon.”

“So they’d be getting the same food as if they stayed home?”

“It’s the atmosphere, Mal. See and be seen.”

“Hmmn.” He tossed his boot to join the other in the corner of the room.

“Then, if they’re still around on Monday Dillon’s planning a jaunt to the Cerberus Islands where they have a bungalow.”

“Don’t tell me, it’s eighteen bedrooms and has a pool.” His tone was mocking.

“Only ten, but the pool is very nice.”

He leaned forward, his elbows on his knees. “Frey, we can’t afford all this.”

“He’s not going to make us pay for it. In fact, if you offered, he’d probably break your jaw.”

“They won’t wanna come back. Life’ll seem very boring with us after all this.”

“Ethan and Jesse wouldn’t ever want to be parted from you, you know that. And the other children feel the same, even Bethie. This is just … a holiday.”

“They don’t work – how can they want a holiday?”

“Don’t be snarky, just because you got cold.” To stop the words that were inevitably going to building up behind Mal’s teeth she went on quickly, “Did you have a nice chat with Hank?”

“Well, over and above him beggin’ me to come in guns blazing and get him outta that house, yeah, it was fine.”

“He doesn’t fancy the party?”

“He’s worried about what you might’ve packed.”

“Just clothes.”

“His wedding suit?”

“At least it wasn’t yours.”

“Wouldn’t fit him. I’m more … lean.” He sucked in his belly.

“I’ll admit it might be a bit long for him, but you know he’s been keeping himself fitter.”

His eyes narrowed. “You’ve been keeping that much of an eye on him?”

She scooted back on the bed until she was leaning against the bulkhead. “Yes, Mal. I have to keep my options open.”

“If I didn’t know all I have to do was twitch my little finger and you come running, I’d be feeling a mite jealous.”

“Twitch?”

“Twitch.”

She smiled. “And if I twitch?”

He leaned on the bed, his hands either side of her thighs and his face only a few inches from hers. “Speed o’ light has nothing on me.”

“That’s nice.” She moved forward to kiss him, then shivered. “You’re cold. I can feel it coming off you.”

“You can always warm me up.”

“We’ve got to get ready for the party.”

“It ain’t for another few hours.” He moved closer, nuzzling her neck.

“It’ll take me that amount of time to look pretty.”

“You’re beautiful.”

“I don’t want to be outshone.”

He pulled back enough to look into her eyes. “Since when did you worry about that? Or is this something to do with Inara?”

“No. I just want you to be proud of me.”

“I am.” He leaned forward again, this time working on her earlobe. “You could go in there stark naked and I’d be proud of you.”

“Certainly be a talking point, I’ll grant you that.” She put her hands on his shoulders and pushed him away a little. “And I mean it. You’re cold. Why don’t you have a shower and we can resume this conversation after?”

“I’d rather we took one together and talked.”

“I’ve just got changed,” she pointed out.

“S’okay. I won’t hold it against you.”

She grinned. “You’d gorram better.”

to be continued

COMMENTS

Tuesday, May 3, 2016 7:29 PM

KAS


To be continued....When?

Wednesday, May 4, 2016 9:03 PM

SARATAI


Good stuff! sweet ending with Mal and Freya. Logical to have Freya remotely related to them. Zoe asked Simon to do....what? My wager is on some sort of poison neutralizer in case they try to get rid of Hank once he signs the papers. Clearly the Triskelions are up to no good.Wonder what all the mystery is about the children...?

Monday, May 23, 2016 1:22 AM

BUCKSHOTPILOT


I really enjoy your great stories! I wish some of the others would write some again, Thanks again

Monday, May 23, 2016 1:23 AM

BUCKSHOTPILOT


I really enjoy your well written and creative stories. Thanks

Monday, May 23, 2016 1:25 AM

BUCKSHOTPILOT


I really enjoy your well written creative stories. Thanks

Monday, May 23, 2016 1:26 AM

BUCKSHOTPILOT


Thanks! I shure enjoy your well written creative tales!


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