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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
“Who’s Winston Downey?” Mal asked, moving enough to look over her shoulder and reading the name of the owner.
[Maya. Post-BDM. And post-party. Find out who Winston Downey is, and why he might be helping the Fosters. Read, enjoy, and please review!]
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 730 RATING: 10 SERIES: FIREFLY
Everyone was tired, but nobody wanted to go to bed quite yet, not until they’d seen what Jayne had brought back.
“’N’ that was hard enough,” the big man opined. “Opening a safe and not taking the tom was like having Vera and never firing her.”
At the end of the kitchen table Sam stirred. “Tom?” he asked Inara quietly out of the side of his mouth.
“Jewellery,” she responded, keeping her voice equally soft. “It’s rhyming slang from Earth-that-was. Tomfoolery – jewellery. I think.”
“How did you know that?”
She smiled. “I have my secrets.”
“Oh, I know that.” He put his hand on hers, and was warmed to see her pink just a little.
“That can wait,” Mal was saying. He hadn’t sat down, not intending to make this a long discussion. “We know Kaylee’s little maguffin worked fine, so if we decide to we can get into it again.”
“’N’ I left the rope handy,” Jayne added, a little indistinctly as he was munching on a thick sandwich that looked like half a cow between two slabs of bread. “In case.”
Mal nodded but went on, “Although I’m inclined not to steal from folks I know.”
“Even the Fosters?” Kaylee asked. “They ain’t exactly the nicest of people.”
“Well, we’ll see.” He looked down at his wife, in her usual seat, studying the papers. “Frey? You got anything so far?”
“It is land deeds.” Freya flicked through them, her eyebrows raising. “In fact, several deeds. And to some pretty high end property at that.”
“Who’s Winston Downey?” Mal asked, moving enough to look over her shoulder and reading the name of the owner.
“That’s his real name.” She looked up. “You didn’t think he was actually christened Badger, did you”
“I didn’t think he was christened at all. I kinda thought he oozed into the ‘verse.”
“You know he has a mother.”
“So he says,” Mal muttered darkly. “And how do you know? About his name?”
“I picked it up.” She shuddered slightly. “It was in that flash about the deeds.”
“And you didn’t think to tell me?”
“I didn’t know what it meant until now.”
“Huh.” He shook his head. “I knew that weasel was up to something.”
“There’s a note with ‘em,” Jayne offered, wiping crumbs from his t-shirt.
Freya found it, a sheet of paper folded twice lengthways and slid into one of the deeds. She unfolded it. “Ah. That explains it.”
“What is it?” Kaylee asked, leaning forwards.
“It looks like Badger needed some cashey-money in a hurry,” Mal said, having scanned the hand-written document, still reading over his wife’s shoulder.
I, Winston Downey, also known as ‘Badger’ do promise and swear to repay the sum of …
“Here. You’re breathing down my neck,” Freya said, handing it to him.
“Thought you like that.”
“Oh, please.” This came from Jayne, accompanied by a roll of the eyes. “D’you have to? You’re puttin’ me off my food.”
Mal pointedly ignored him, instead saying, “Clive Foster obliged, but took these as security.”
“Can he do that?” Simon asked.
“Between private individuals, you can pretty much do anything, far as I can tell.”
“But Badger? I thought he was the local Napoleon of crime.”
“Even wannabe emperors can have cashflow problems sometimes,” Freya said, smiling at him. “We can’t all be criminal masterminds.”
He smiled back. “I suppose not.”
“Has Badger signed it?” Inara asked, trying to get comfortable but finding her back was aching.
“He has,” Freya confirmed.
“Then it’s a legally binding document – should we have taken it?”
Mal laughed, just a little. “’Nara, it’s what we do.”
“If it was you’d have had Jayne empty the safe.”
Caught in a contradiction Mal just shrugged, tossing the paper back onto the table. “Anyway, there’s a note in pencil at the bottom, saying that the debt was paid in full six months ago.”
“Really.” Inara sat back. “Then the Fosters are breaking the law in keeping the deeds.”
“Unless there was another loan against them,” Sam suggested.
“Well, I intend asking Badger that very question myself.” Mal stretched his shoulders. “Ain’t much we can do right now, so unless anyone has anything they feel the mortal need to add to this conversation …”
“I have,” River said unexpectedly.
“And what’s that?”
“The Last Will and Testament of Uther Triskelion.” Her formality capitalised the words.
She repeated it, then added, “I’ve downloaded it.”
For a moment Mal wondered if tiredness was making him hallucinate, but closing his eyes briefly didn’t make her disappear. “Why?”
“Because mu qin has an idea, and I was pre-empting her request.”
“And when did you get that?” Mal asked, crossing his arms. “Or is that a stupid question?”
“Unnecessary, yes … stupid …” She let the rest to their imagination.
He didn’t rise to the bait. “How? Everything’s closed this time of night.”
“That is a stupid question. I can go where I like, tip toe through any database or archive.” She smiled primly.
“Long as you didn’t leave any footprints.”
“I didn’t. Nobody knows I was there, I was very careful. Besides, it is a matter of public record, and if that record now holds a more complete copy than ever before, then that’s a good thing.”
Mal uncrossed his arms, but only to push his hands through his hair. “You know, it’s too late of an evening to be untangling a crazy lunatic assassin’s ramblings.”
“I am not rambling.”
He had to smile at the fact that she would protest when he suggested she was avoiding the point, but not that she was a crazy lunatic assassin. “No. No, you’re not, and I apologise for suggesting you are. It’s just I’m hankering for my bed.”
“And you drank too much.”
“Permaybehaps,” he admitted. ‘Specially when Simon found the good whisky.”
“I was just … being curious,” the doctor said.
“That too. And the armoire was very like one my mother had, and I wondered if it had all the little drawers inside like hers.”
“We used to hide messages to each other,” River said softly, smiling at her brother. “I remember.”
“And you used to send mine back with spelling corrections.”
She giggled, and the prim, occasionally haughty young mother disappeared, and she was once again the child who told stories of Independent dinosaurs.
“Can we get back to the matter in hand?” Mal put in before she could answer.
They both looked at him, and while everyone knew that they shared only one of their birth parents, the expressions on their faces were identical.
“Which is?” River asked.
“The Will? Something about public record?”
She idly picked up the knife she’d used to make Jayne’s sandwich, and everybody flinched. With a sigh she put it carefully back into exactly the same position, saying, “No sign posted.”
“Good,” Freya said softly. “But remember Mal’s blood pressure.”
“Which is getting higher by the minute. What about this Will?” Mal demanded, then looked at his wife. “You had some kind of epiphany?”
“I was just thinking that perhaps we should go over it,” Freya said soothingly. “The Fosters are taking some extraordinary risks to make out Hank is the heir – I just wondered if there was something in the Will that made it worthwhile.”
“Few million credits’d do that.” Jayne had finished his sandwich and was now sucking the flavour off his fingers.
“No. There’s more to it than that. I just can’t …” Her brow furrowed and she shook her head in frustration.
Mal put his hand on her shoulder, squeezing gently. “It’s okay.”
“It’s not.” Now the shake was more vehement. “What’s the point in being psychic if I can’t see a gorram thing?”
“Is it me?” Inara asked, fully aware of how pregnancy hormones affected the Readers. “If I left would you –”
“No.” This time it was River. “They’re in our systems, and would take too long to filter out.”
“Oh. I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be.” Freya had taken a breath and made herself calm down. “And River’s right – the hormones aren’t going to go that easy. In fact, I’m surprised we aren’t both coming down with swollen ankles and mood swings.”
“Who said you ain’t?” Mal asked, then took a step backwards to get out of the way of a sharply swung elbow. “Hey, there, darlin’, you do that and I’ll be sleeping on the couch outta choice.”
She glared at him, but the slight tension in the room dissolved.
“Anyway, I can take a look at the Will if you like,” Inara said, glancing at Sam who nodded. “I’m used to reading contracts – I’m sure a Will can’t be that much different.”
“I’ll help,” Simon offered. “Since nobody seems about to get shot or knifed, I seem to have some time on my hands.” He looked pointedly at his sister.
“No sign posted,” she murmured, leaning on Jayne.
“Shiny.” Mal inhaled deeply, then said, “Tomorrow, though. We got time.”
Mal took a final turn around the ship, ending up on the bridge and staring out towards the Triskelion mansion. He’d been joined by Maoli, stretched out along one of the consoles like a silver-grey shadow. Maybe she was missing Fiddler, off with Bethie and the other kids making life interesting for Dillon and Breed. Absently stroking her soft fur and eliciting a low rumble of pleasure, he pondered on the situation.
The Fosters were up to no good, that was clear, and he had the funny feeling Hank was in some danger, so maybe it wasn’t the best of times to take up Sir Warwick’s job offer.
The older man had assured him it wasn’t cows.
“Just some papers that I want to get to my son on Avalon.”
Mal must have looked surprised because Sir Warwick rumbled a laugh. “Yes. I was married. A long time ago, I admit, but I thought I was in love and asked her to marry me.”
“I get the feeling it wasn’t exactly successful.”
Sir Warwick sighed, then shook his head. “We were only together for four years before she decided I wasn’t the man she wanted, and presented me with divorce and child support papers. I didn’t even know she was pregnant.”
“Are you sure he’s …” Mal bit back on the words, aware that his tongue had been loosened by the alcohol flowing over it, but it was too late.
“Mine? Yes. I made sure before she saw a penny.” He almost smiled. “We haven’t had much to do with each other over the years, not even when I came into my own fortune, and generally communicate through a third party. But in this case he needs to sign the papers so he can inherit his mother’s estate. She died three months ago.”
“Don’t be. She brought Aiden up to believe I was a monster, and nothing I have been able to do has changed his opinion.”
“Can’t you do it all through the Cortex?”
Sir Warwick smoothed his sash. “That’s down to her father. We always got on, and he wrote it into his will that any money she inherited from him should be held in trust for Aiden, subject to my approval and sanction.”
“And you didn’t feel like getting your own back by holding out and not giving it?”
There was a smile beneath the moustache. “I wish I could say it didn’t occur to me, but I’d be lying.”
“But you’re being the bigger man and letting him have it.”
“It’s his, and no matter how much his mother ended up hating me, she was his mother. But by the terms of the old Will the papers have to be signed by Aiden in the presence of witnesses, and while I’m sure the Alliance would be more than happy to deliver them for me, I’d feel more comfortable if it was someone I knew.”
“Something else to do with a Will,” Mal remarked. “Don’t have anything to do with ‘em for years, then here’s two come along in as many days.”
“I can understand if you feel you can’t leave at the moment.” Sir Warwick smiled slightly. “I wouldn’t hold it against you.”
Mal thought for a moment. “Avalon’s close but it’s still pretty near a two day round trip right now, and as you said, we’ve got other things happening. Can I give you an answer tomorrow?”
“Of course. As long as I know before the week is out, otherwise I will have to make alternate arrangements.” He looked over Mal’s shoulder and laughed. “One way or the other it was worth coming anyway, since I see Clive is about to have apoplexy.”
Mal turned to see Simon lifting a bottle of something out of a fancy cupboard that caught the light and threw golden highlights onto his face. Clive Foster was standing a few feet away, his own complexion suggesting Sir Warwick wasn’t far off in his estimation.
“That the good stuff?”
“Lad, if it’s what I think it is, I imagine Clive’s wishing he’d locked it up long since.” The smile became far more evil. “Shall we join your good doctor in … uh … helping ourselves?”
It had been the good stuff, that was for sure, aged in oak barrels for thirty years if the label were to be believed. Even his taste buds, unrefined over the past too-many years of ng-ka-pei and Kaylee’s interengine brew, had thanked him kindly for the amber nectar caressing them.
Not that the memory made him any closer to a decision. At least Zoe was with Hank, and she could handle ten of pretty much anyone. Still …
“We could stay.”
He didn’t turn around. “Albatross.”
“You’re not surprised.”
“Sure sounds like it. If I didn’t know better I’d think you liked seeing if I was gonna clutch at my heart and faint dead away.”
“I would give you …” She paused. “I would call mu qin to give you the kiss of life.”
“Can’t say I wouldn’t prefer that.” He turned to look at her, standing in the doorway in the nightdress she affected for wandering Serenity at night, after Mal had come across her one time laying on her back under the kitchen table, staring up at the underside of the old wood, as naked as the day she came crying. Once he’d made sure she was okay and not actually dead (all without looking or touching more than necessary) he’d asked her why, and she’d told him, in a matter of fact and plain fashion, that she was seeing why Fiddler liked it so much. At that point Mal had decided he was probably having one of those dreams, but said that if this was real then she was to wear something on these nocturnal jaunts of hers. She’d groused but agreed.
“So would Jayne.” She passed him to sit in the co-pilot’s chair, pulling her knees to her chest and resting her heels on the seat.
“So you think I should take Sir Warwick’s job.”
“It will keep us flying. And Freya considers she is not wealthy.”
He sighed. “River …”
“It is at the front of her mind. I can’t help but see it.”
“You shouldn’t be looking.”
River shrugged delicately. “Perhaps. And I shall take it under advisement. But you can take the job. You could always leave the shuttle here, and Jayne and I can keep watch.”
He sat down in the pilot’s seat. “You seeing anything, xiao nu?”
As always she warmed to his words, conscious or not. “No. Not really. Mu qin is right – it’s like swimming through treacle. It … clings.”
He tried not to smile, mainly from the look on her face. He remembered when she had been a little less fastidious in her habits, going around for days with greasy, stringy hair and in the same clothes, until Simon had manhandled her into the shower and made her get clean.
She obviously picked that too out of his brain, because she stuck her tongue out at him.
“Less of that,” he warned. “Or the wind’ll change and you’ll stay like it.”
“Really? Can that happen?” She considered. “How? There’s no wind, and it would take the muscles being petrified, or at least –”
She smiled at him, then wrinkled her nose. “Anyway, unless it’s immediate family we are hobbled.”
“If that’s the case, can you seen anything to do with Hank’s future? Like him owning a fleet of Fireflies and making my life even more of a misery than it already is?”
“No.” She unfocused, something he was used to with Freya. “Only … there is pain, but … that could be a paper cut from all the credits he will have to carry with him.”
“Thought rich folks didn’t carry money, that they employed somebody else to do it for ‘em.”
“If you intend to apply for the post, let me know – Jayne and I can laugh together.” She stood up quickly and moved to the door. “Freya has finished meditating,” she said over her shoulder.
Mal was surprised. “I didn’t … why’d she have to do that?”
“Things on her mind. Not this, but future things that have to do with the past, and what may have already happened.”
“River, you know I ain’t in a frame of mind to go deciphering you at this time of night.”
“Then go to bed. I am, after all, just a hallucination.” With that and a twirl of her nightie, she was gone.
Chuckling to himself he turned Serenity down to night mode then strolled back to his own bunk.
Yes, there it was, the aroma of incense, but not as strong as he’d expected. A quick glance at the holder on the shelf as he stepped off the ladder confirmed barely an inch of ash on the stick it held, so Frey hadn’t meditated that long.
The long lump in the bed suggested she hadn’t waited for him.
“You asleep?” he asked softly.
“You likely to wake up so I can have my wicked way with you?”
“No. Just do it quietly so you don’t disturb me.”
He snorted. “Like that’d be any fun.”
She rolled over. “Do you mind if we don’t?”
“Sure. I think I can manage a night.” He began to strip, then sniffed his brand new shirt. “Conjure this’ll have to go through the laundry. Someone was smoking cigars, and I don’t think they were Achaeons.”
“Mmn.” She wasn’t looking at him, but had moved onto her back and was staring up into the bulkhead.
“Wanna try that with just a bit more conviction?”
“Only you were trying to meditate.” He nodded towards the incense stick. “And none too successfully, from the look of it.”
“It’s nothing. I was just … unsettled.”
He lifted the sheet and slid in next to her, and she slipped into her natural position of lying against him, their bodies touching all the way down, her head in his shoulder. “Anything you want to share?”
“It’s nothing,” she repeated.
“Well, when you do, I’m here. I ain’t going anywhere, Frey, you should know that by now. And I’ll listen to whatever you have to tell me.”
“I know.” She kissed him, just the lightest of touches on his lips. “And I love you all the more for it.”
“Really? Didn’t know that was possible.”
She laughed, the vibration transferring to him and making him smile.
It was gone three in the morning by the time the last of the guests rolled out of the mansion and into their various hovers and other vehicles. Dillon and Breed had left shortly after Serenity’s crew, Sir Warwick with them, but the rest had eaten and drunk until they could eat and drink no more.
Demelza had been the perfect hostess, and, while Clive couldn’t wait for everyone to be gone, she’d made sure to say goodbye to each and every person, pressing their hand between hers and making them promise to wave her about lunch or dinner plans.
They’d finally let Hank and Zoe go to bed, accompanying them up the stairs as if they thought they might make a break for freedom. Which there might well have been, considering Hank’s current state of mind.
“I’m going to take a shower,” Zoe announced, undoing her hair to let it flow over her shoulders. “Join me?”
“No, I don’t … not tonight.”
“Okay. I won’t be long.” She went into the bathroom and closed the door after her.
Hank took a deep breath and held it for as long as he could, finally letting it trickle from pursed lips.
“Don’t be so ridiculous,” he said to himself. “Nobody’s watching. You could have a shower with your lovely wife. Do more than just shower.” But he still didn’t follow her.
Instead he searched the room, opening the windows to let the cold, fresh air circulate and clear the fug created by the fire roaring in the hearth combined with the now rather too efficient heating. Nobody was hiding under the bed, or in the wardrobe, or even in the small toilet in the corner. Another door was locked, and he made a mental note to ask for the key.
By now there was a freezing draught down his back, and he closed the windows again, just as he heard a door open.
“That was quick,” he said, turning around. “Did you … oh.”
“Hello.” It was Cora, her red hair flaming around her, wearing only a thin satin nightgown that left little to the imagination.
“Uh … don’t you have the wrong room?”
“No.” She pushed the straps from her shoulders, and what imagination had drawn was now revealed in all its ivory glory.
to be continued
Monday, June 27, 2016 3:10 AM
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