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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Freya felt flustered, as if her world had been turned upside down, black was white, and Jayne was the President of the Alliance.
[Maya. Post-BDM. Mal and Freya go to church, Hank doesn't go ice-skating, and maybe it's hinting at the calm before the storm. An extra long chapter to make up for the delay - enjoy!]
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 523 RATING: 10 SERIES: FIREFLY
The morning was still comparatively young when there was an unexpected knocking on Serenity’s main hatch.
Mal heaved it open to be greeted by a middle-aged man in a long black overcoat. “Captain Reynolds?”
“Possibly. Who wants to know?”
The man smiled, and his face relaxed into a lot of horizontal lines. “My name is Higson. I work for Mr Rostov – he’s sent me to collect you and your wife and take you to church.”
“He has, has he?”
“Yes, sir. I’m at your disposal for the entire day. And he particularly wanted me to say that I was to make sure you didn’t chicken out. His words, I might add, sir.”
Mal’s lips twitched. “I’m fair sure they were.”
“Are you ready, sir? We don’t want to be late.”
“You might not, but I’m happy to come in at the end.”
Higson didn’t respond, just clasped his hands behind his back, although his lips did twitch. “Sir.”
“You wanna come in and wait?”
“No, sir. I’ll keep the hover warmed over.”
“Shiny. If we ain’t out in ten, knock again.”
Up in their bunk Freya was still only half-dressed, the contents of her somewhat sparse wardrobe spread across the bed. She was muttering under her breath, and from the odd word he caught as he descended the ladder Mal knew it was some of her more creative Chinese cursing.
“There’s a man with a hover outside,” he said conversationally as he reached the deck. “I think he thinks you should be ready by now.”
“I don’t know what to wear.” She sighed.
“I got that. ‘Though I kinda like what you’ve got on now.” The black lace bra and panties had been a gift from him for her last birthday.
She glared at him for a moment, the 2000 watts one that should have seen him burst into flames. “Be serious, Mal.”
“Serious? Okay.” He crossed the room and picked up the tan-coloured shirt she’d discarded. “This.”
“I said be serious.”
“I am. What’s wrong with it?”
“It’s not … it’s …”
“No, it ain’t. It’s extraordinary, ‘cause you wear it.”
“It’s not right for church.”
“You mean for your Ma.”
“If you know, why did you make me say it?” She went back to contemplating her clothes.
“Frey, ai ren, you’re you. You could wear ermine and pearls, and you’d still be you. Hell, I’ve seen you when someone else’s blood was an accessory, and it was still you. You think your Ma’s gonna care if you wear ordinary clothes?”
“I care!” She sat down suddenly in the chair. “Oh, Mal, this is a mistake.”
“It’s one day. Less than a day. A few hours. And it’ll make your Ma’s year.”
“I know, but –”
“No buts.” He went down onto his heels in front of her. “’Sides, the kids’ll be waiting for us to pick ‘em up from Dillon’s. You don’t want to miss out on seeing them, do you?”
“Of course not.”
“Then get dressed. If you won’t be warm enough in one of these dresses, wear pants and a shirt. It don’t matter overly.” He ran a fingertip across the top of one breast crowning from the bra cup. “Only do it soon, else I won’t be able to control myself seeing you in that underwear, and we’ll be really late.”
“I’m not sure this is a good idea.” Hank looked at the ice doubtfully. “You sure it’s thick enough?”
“I scanned it,” Luke said. “You saw me.”
“Yes, but –”
“And Mullins spent an hour brushing the snow off – he didn’t go through.”
The thin sun was struggling through the clouds, catching the snow crystals and bouncing into sharp points of light.
Demelza had turned up at Serenity shortly after Mal and Freya had been whisked away, and Simon at least had jumped at the chance to go ice skating.
Chairs had been brought from the house behind them and set up at the lake’s edge, while a small table with a portable hot ring stood ready to make drinks as required. A small platform jutted into the ice, where Simon was finishing strapping on a pair of borrowed skates.
“I’ll show you if you like,” the doctor said, stepping awkwardly onto the ice, grace taking over as he pushed into a long, sweeping semi-circle with apparently no effort.
Hank listened for a cracking sound, but there was none.
“You don’t have to,” Demelza said, taking his arm. “I don’t. You can sit with me and watch the others make fools of themselves.”
“I suppose … wuh duh muh, he’s not going to, is he?” Hank stared as Crispin, his bulk suddenly weightless, joined Simon in making perfect arcs.
“He was quite a skater in his youth,” Luke said. “Or so I’m told. Before gluttony took over as his major hobby.”
“Luke.” Demelza swatted him on the arm.
“Diyu, it has to be thick if it holds his weight.” Luke laughed.
Zoe stepped onto the ice, surprising Hank immensely by her feet not shooting out from under her.
“I didn’t know you skated,” he blurted out.
“I’m glad I can still surprise you, husband.” She smiled. “It’s been a while, but I think I still remember.”
“Well, I don’t.” Kaylee was holding onto the platform. “I’m not sure I want to do this.”
“Here. Hold onto me.” Zoe drifted to the young woman. “Lean forward just a little, and let me … that’s it.”
Kaylee’s delighted laughter rang out in the cold morning air, and Simon stopped to applaud, as did Sam and Inara as they walked slowly along the lake path towards the grotto.
“Doesn’t your other half skate?” Hank asked, looking over his shoulder to where Clive stood on the verandah.
“No. He never wanted to learn.” Demelza shrugged. “He’s never enjoyed anything physical.”
Hank shifted uncomfortably. “Demelza –”
“What about your captain and his wife?” Luke broke in. “Will they be joining us?”
Momentarily side-tracked, Hank smiled. “No. They’ve got another engagement. In fact, if this had been tomorrow none of ‘em would be here – they’ve got a job taking something to Avalon.”
“Oh?” Luke seemed surprised. “I thought you were all around for the duration. I mean, until the papers are signed and notarised.”
“A job’s a job. Nowadays it’s difficult to turn down work, in case there isn’t another offer.”
“Damn.” Luke patted his pockets. “I’ve lost my gloves. I’ll be right back.” He hurried towards the house.
“I thought I saw him with –” Hank began, but Demelza interrupted.
“Is it really that bad out there?” She led him to the chairs and made him sit.
“I think it’s worse than even Mal tells us.” Hank watched Zoe coax Kaylee into going backwards. “Late at night I check the Cortex sometimes, some of the black sites that’re here today, gone tomorrow. I know Mal does too, I see his Cortex logs.” He shook his head. “There was a guy called Mr Universe – I never met him personally, but the others knew him – he used to say the truth was in the Signal. It’s pretty well hidden, but he was right. And it scares me.”
“Scares you?” Demelza was about to make a joke, something about a big, strong man being afraid, but she realised he was serious. “Hank?”
“There’s going to be another war, Demelza. Maybe not this year, or next, or maybe not for a decade, but it will come. It can’t not.” He glanced about, as if to make sure nobody else was listening. “What we know … what I’ve read … there’s gonna come a point when good men can’t let it go on.”
“The Independents? Your captain was one, wasn’t he?”
“Him, Frey, Zoe … But it won’t matter the colour of coat you wear. This’ll be because there’s a difference between right and wrong, and there’s too many in power who want to blur that line, and decide it for everyone else.”
Demelza’s naturally pale face had turned white. “You’re joking, surely.”
“Wish I was. Oh, I know I tend to take life with a smile and a big pinch of salt, but Mal’s not wrong.”
“Are we safe here?” Demelza looked around at the startling beauty, the frozen trees and the silvery blue sky showing through the grey clouds. “I mean, before it was all out on the Rim. There were some terrorist acts, but Persephone was safe.”
Hank looked at her, and was ashamed of himself. Just because he was convinced, had the evidence of his own eyes of the lengths the Alliance was willing to go to maintain power, that was no reason to terrify anyone else. “It probably will be. And maybe I’m wrong. I often am. Ask Zoe.”
She didn’t believe him, it was clear, but allowed his words to stand. “Well, nobody’s perfect.”
“Spouses are supposed to be.”
“Um, Demelza, can I … about yesterday …”
She understood but shook her head firmly. “No, Hank. Nothing about yesterday.”
“No, look, I –”
He reached into his pocket. “Then at least take this.” He pressed the small pistol into her hand. “For emergencies. And it’s loaded, so I’d be obliged if you didn’t shoot me, I’ve had more than enough of that. Although I get the feeling you know how to use one.”
She was staring at it. “My father insisted – he always said there were untrustworthy people about.” Then she astonished him by tucking it into her coat. “Thank you.”
“You’re not going to toss it back into my face with some pithy comment?”
“No. I won’t be using it, either, but … knowing it’s there …”
He had to smile. “More than I anticipated.”
“Found them!” Luke strode up from behind. “I’d dropped them on the steps.” He pulled on his gloves. “Now, who’s going to join me?”
Hidden in the trees, as much a shadow as the shades themselves, Jayne watched and waited, River looking out from his eyes.
In a way, it was a good thing Freya had decided to go with her best shirt and pants, both in a dark maroon, since she was mobbed by all the children as soon as they arrived at Dillon’s. She sat down hard on the floor, but the jarring ache to her back and hip was ignored.
“Mama, Mama!” Jesse gushed, trying to burrow into her side. “Missed you!”
“I missed you too.” Freya laughed. “All of you.”
“Me too?” Ethan asked, piled on top of the others.
“And me?” Bethie wanted to know.
“All of you.”
“Hey, don’t I get any of that?” Mal asked, and had to brace himself as his son launched his little body at him.
“Hi.” Mal chuckled, and mussed the little boy’s hair. “You been a good boy?”
“Well, I guess that’s all I can honestly ask for.” He scooped his daughter up into his arms. “Hey, JJ.”
“Daddy.” She kissed him wetly on the cheek.
Breed poked his lover with his elbow. “Don’t you want any of this?”
“I never said no.” Dillon couldn’t help prevaricating. “Just … not yet.”
“We’re neither of us getting any younger.”
“Speak for yourself.”
All the children were talking at once, trying to tell Freya and Mal what they’d been doing, what they’d seen, and just how much food they’d managed to get through.
“You’d think it had been weeks, not just a couple of days,” Dillon said softly.
“Perhaps it was a time warp. But I suppose, when you’re only five or six, a couple of days is a long time.”
A small dog barking preceded the arrival of the small dog in question, and Fiddler bounced on the mound of children and Freya.
“Sorry, sir,” a young woman panted as she hurried in. “I tried to catch him before he got out, but he’s very quick.”
“No problem,” Dillon said. “I don’t think Freya minds too much.”
“Help!” Freya called.
“Sorry, I’ve gone deaf. What was that?”
Laughing, Dillon and Breed each took a hand and extricated Freya from the pile. “Better?”
“Thank you.” She brushed herself down. “I’m covered in dog hair,” she complained.
“Oh, I have just the thing for that.” The young woman opened a cupboard door and took out a small contraption. “Can’t have you going to church like that.”
Mal raised his eyebrow. “Does everyone know?”
Breed shrugged. “That someone’s got Freya to attend a religious ceremony without the use of a gun? Probably.” He grinned again. “Hilde, give that to me, I’ll do it. You catch Fiddler, or we’ll be in something of a vicious circle.” He started to brush Freya down.
“So you’re the famous Hilde.” Mal crossed his arms as best he could while still holding Jesse.
The young woman, not much more than a girl, bobbed a curtsey as she picked up the little dog. “That I am, sir.”
“And you’ve been looking after this lot?”
“It’s been a pleasure. They’re all wonderful.”
“I take it they’ve been on their best behaviour, then.”
“Of course,” Ben piped up. “And we really didn’t mean to break that window.”
Now Bethie’s look was promising retribution as soon as the adults’ backs were turned.
“It was nothing,” Dillon put in quickly. “Besides, I personally think it was Breed’s fault for getting out that new drone of his to try. I told him to keep it until our trip to the island.”
Breed nodded. “I agree – entirely my fault.”
“Yes, but Bethie was the one who was –”
“Anyway,” Dillon said loudly, interrupting Ben before blood was spilt, “hadn’t you better be getting going? I know I’m not exactly an ardent church-goer myself, but don’t they glare at you if you turn up late?”
“Probably.” Mal put Jesse down. “You two, get your coats.”
“Yes, Daddy.” Ethan grabbed his sister’s hand and they ran deeper into the house.
“Can I come?” Hope asked tentatively. “Uncle Breed showed us some pictures of the cathedral. It looks pretty.” Her fingers were flicking as they often did when she was imagining drawing.
“Not today,” Mal said, going down onto his heels to look her straight in her blue eyes. “But we’ll see you at the Spring Lights later. And your Ma and Pa’ll be there as well.”
Hope grinned and jiggled in her excitement.
“Ready!” Ethan announced, bundled up in his little fur coat, Jesse beside him in hers.
“Sasquatch,” Mal commented, then glared at his wife while rubbing his stomach where she’d elbowed him.
Luke accompanied them all back to Serenity, a mixture of red faces on some and full of sandwiches and hot chocolate for others.
Kaylee yawned widely, belatedly remembering to cover her mouth. “Ooh, sorry,” she managed to say. “Bad as Bethie.” Another yawn overtook the first. “You know, I’m gonna get some sleep. All that work last night, then my nap this morning getting interrupted … I think I’m gonna need all my energy for later.” She keyed the code on the lock and then looked at Luke. “See you soon.” She disappeared inside.
Simon paused. “Thanks.” He held out his hand. “I enjoyed that.”
“You’re more than welcome.” Luke smiled as they shook, then the doctor followed his wife.
“Will you come in for something warm?” Inara asked. “Since no-one else is being polite.”
Luke laughed. “No, I’d best be getting back. Packing to do. You know.”
“Nobody’s going anywhere,” Hank insisted. “I’ve already told you.”
“Then I think Kaylee has the right idea,” Sam put in. “A nap before this evening’s festivities would probably do us all good.” He put his hand in the small of Inara’s back.
“Will you be there?” she asked. “At the Spring Lights?”
“I … don’t know. Maybe.”
“Then perhaps we’ll see you. Yes, yes, I’m going. There’s no need to push.”
“I distinctly felt it. There was a definite push involved.”
Their voices disappeared into Serenity.
“Don’t be long,” Zoe said. “I’ve been using muscles that have been inactive for a while – I might need a rubdown.” She brushed Hank’s cheek with her lips before striding inside.
“Is she leaving us alone for a reason?” Luke asked in surprise.
“Because if so, perhaps we could talk while you show me around. It’s been a long time since I’ve been on a Firefly, not since my dad had one. An 02 I think.”
“Oh, well, the 03 is quite different. She doesn’t shake like the older ones, least not ‘less the entry couplings need aligning. Her layout’s a bit different too, with the crew quarters up a level …”
The door closed behind them.
Nothing could persuade Freya to sit in what appeared to be the family pew near the altar, preferring to take a seat at the back, Jesse on her lap, Ethan on Mal’s.
Not that the kids were in any way fractious – they were fascinated by the building, the pomp and circumstance of it all.
She had no idea of when to stand, kneel or sing, but Mal did. She shouldn’t have been surprised – he’d told her his Ma had been a regular churchgoer, and he’d gone with her as soon as he could be relied on not to run up and down the aisle chasing sunbeams. He hadn’t made it to altar-boy, something to do with Dilly Fairbrass, but he had a faith that had sustained him until Serenity Valley. After that it wasn’t that he didn’t believe, it was just that he didn’t trust anymore. Still, she saw him finger the gold cross she’d given him a couple of times, and guessed she was thinking of his mother.
In front of them she could see Alex and Ellen, with two girls at their side, presumably her nieces. Eugenia Rostov sat on the aisle, following the service in a leather-bound prayer book. It jolted Freya to realise it was one she’d given her mother one Christmas, when they were still a family together.
“You okay?” Mal asked as the minister took his place in the pulpit, a distressingly large collection of notes in his hand, ready to sermonise everyone into submission.
Honestly, Mal. I just haven’t been to one of these things in a long time.
You mean a service?
Didn’t you used to go to the battlefield ones? I seem to recall seeing you at one given by old Brother Ignatius that time on Burdett.
Everyone goes to them, Mal. Just in case. And I didn’t join in the singing.
No, I noticed that too.
In a good, loud, clear and admirable voice.
You carry on believing that.
Ethan sighed and shook his head.
“It’s good to see so many of you here today,” the minister began, surveying his flock. “My sermon today is on the subject of the love of money over faith. Many a good family has been ruined by the greed and corruption that is rife among even the wealthy, exacerbated by the money lenders in the temple, and it is incumbent upon us all to show them the error of their ways, and not pass by on the other side.”
“Ain’t he mixing his parables?” Mal breathed.
Freya didn’t answer, just held on tighter to Jesse in case the little girl started to get as bored as she herself was starting to feel.
“I think this is my favourite room.” Luke ran his hands over Serenity’s heart, slowly spinning to supply light and heat. “Something about the colour, maybe.”
“I prefer the bridge. But then I would, seeing as I’m the pilot.”
Luke cocked his head. “Is someone calling?”
Hank went to the door, looked out and listened. “Can’t hear anything.”
“Must be my imagination. Or memories.” Luke laughed.
Hank joined in. “They’ll do it to you every time.”
Buttoning his coat Luke went out into the corridor. “I suppose I’d best be getting back. Although wasn’t there something you wanted to say to me?”
Hank led the way down the back stairs to the common area. “It’s just … Demelza …”
“What about her?”
“It’s … I …” Now it came to it Hank felt like he was breaking a confidence.
Hank took a deep breath. “Just … keep an eye on her.”
“I saw bruises on her neck and shoulders. Like someone had taken hold of her, real tight.”
Luke’s face tightened. “What did she say?”
“That it was none of my business.”
The other man’s hands balled into fists, and he thrust them into his pocket. “I see.”
“Look, I just thought … I gave her a gun,” he admitted quickly. “And I figured somebody else ought to know.”
“Yes. Thanks.” Luke hadn’t moved. “Did she say who?”
“Not outright. But I got the impression –”
“What? No. I was thinking more Clive. Being the husband.”
“Yes. Yes, of course.” Luke took a deep, ragged breath. “Thanks for telling me. And about the gun, too. I’ll make sure she keeps it someplace handy.”
“It’s only for protection,” Hank insisted wondering if he was going to see news of a murder broad-waved anytime soon.
At long last the sermon was over, the final hymn sung, and each member of the flock thanked as they filed out into the cold air.
“Can you take Mother with you?” Alex asked, pressing through the crowd to Freya’s side. “Lunch is all set up for you back home, and if you need anything all you have to do is ring for it.”
“Aren’t you staying?” Freya’s face was the perfect picture of surprise.
“No.” Alex patted her arm. “You’ll be fine.”
“I’m taking Ellen and the girls to the Spring Fair. It’s the last day, and I did promise.”
Freya took a deep breath. “Then you have to keep it. But … I don’t know her.”
“Then treat her like you do me.”
“That’s different. I’ve got to know you over the past few years – one meeting in thirty isn’t enough to make a relationship on.”
“Yet you slept with Mal on your first date.”
Her mouth dropped open, and her indignation caught on her teeth. “I … that’s private! And how did … did he tell you?”
“Wait until I get him alone.”
“He’ll probably enjoy it.” He put his hand in the small of her back and pushed. “Go on. She won’t bite.”
He disappeared before she could grab or hit, and Freya was left alone amongst the throng. Above the massed heads she could see Mal’s brown thatch, and she went to call him. Then stopped.
“Don’t be such a baby,” she chided herself under her breath. “You are a wife, mother and decorated veteran of an interplanetary war. She’s just your Mother, for Pete’s sake.” She inhaled as far as her lungs would go, holding it until her vision darkened a little at the edges.
Frey? Mal’s mental voice caressed her. You okay?
She exhaled noisily. Is it that obvious?
Ethan mighta mentioned it.
Freya had to laugh, then turned it into a cough as an elderly woman with lilac-coloured hair in front of her turned to glare. “Sorry,” she said quickly. “Frog in the throat.”
The glare didn’t diminish, but the woman turned back to her companion, muttering something about the young people of today not knowing anything about respect.
I’m okay. Just … apparently we’re going to have lunch with my mother on our own.
Alex not coming?
No. Hwoon dahn.
Is that any way to speak about your bro?
I would have called him worse than that but he ran away.
Mal laughed, probably out loud too. You can do this, ai ren.
I know. It’s just …
Your Ma. I know.
You do realise the first thing she’s bound to do is call me by ‘Elena’.
It’s a nice name.
It’s not me. Not anymore.
She ain’t likely to change now, Frey.
No. Freya sighed deeply. Better meet us by the hover.
Will do. And I think Ethan’s gonna forgive us for not using words this time.
Freya smiled slightly, then pushed her way through the thinning crowd towards where her mother was waiting. “Mother.”
This time the surprise was palpable. “Not Elena?”
Eugenia Rostov let her lips curve. “I am trying, you know. It means a lot to you, so … forgive me if I forget.”
“Of course.” Freya felt flustered, as if her world had been turned upside down, black was white, and Jayne was the President of the Alliance. “Um, did Alex mention he was … uh …”
“Not going to join us? He did.” For a moment the old Madam Rostov looked out, but she vanished like dew at dawn. “He loves his children, and I’m not going to grudge him spending some time with them. He’s missed so much of their lives already, with his gallivanting around the Rim.”
“He has business to take care of,” Freya said carefully.
“He has people to do that.”
Oh, well, in for a penny … “He saved my life.”
Eugenia was brought up short. “Really?”
“More than once.”
Freya watched her mother closely. “I take it he didn’t mention it.”
“No. He gave the impression he was …”
“Just along for the ride?”
There was a dignified snort. “I shall be having words with that young man about keeping me in the dark.”
“He probably didn’t want you to worry.”
“Of course I worry! You’re my children!”
Freya glanced around, at the number of people who seemed to have stopped to take an interest. “We’re gathering a little crowd, Mother.”
“And that should concern me?” She drew herself up, her white hair vibrating. “I am a Rostov.”
“Well, it concerns me. It doesn’t take much for the Alliance to get involved, and that wouldn’t be safe. For anyone.”
Eugenia understood. “Of course. My apologies, Freya.”
“Come on. I’m hungry.”
“Cookies and milk?”
Freya laughed. “Oh, I hope Alex has laid on a better spread than that.”
As they walked towards where the hover was parked, Eugenia asked, surprisingly diffidently for a Rostov, “And your children?”
“They’re here. In fact, there they are.” She pointed to where Jesse and Ethan stood by Mal.
“Oh, my.” Eugenia had to fight to catch her breath. “She’s the image of you.”
“And Ethan looks like Mal.”
“Yes, yes he does, doesn’t he?”
Ethan grabbed Jesse’s fingers and advanced. “Hello, Grandma.”
Eugenia had to smile, then surprised everyone by going down onto her heels. “How do you do?” she asked, holding out her hand.
Jesse didn’t wait, surging forward to wrap her arms around her grandmother’s neck. “Grandma.”
Freya went to grab her, but Mal shook his head slightly.
“Hello,” Jesse said softly.
“Hello.” Eugenia hugged her tightly, then pulled Ethan into her embrace.
Frey, you might wanna take a breath. Or maybe I shoulda brought one of Simon’s smoothers. You look like you’re gonna faint.
She looked at Mal, her eyes wide. My Mother.
Yeah. He was trying not to laugh. Seems like maybe she has changed.
[to be continued]
Saturday, August 27, 2016 10:52 PM
Friday, March 17, 2017 10:19 PM
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