BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

JANE0904

Monied Individual - Part XIII
Sunday, September 11, 2016

“It’s a family tradition, Mal.” Eugenia patted his hand. “No matter who marries into us, whatever their name, the moment they say ‘I do’ they become Rostovs. So you are Malcolm Rostov. It has a fine ring to it, don’t you think?” [Maya. Post-BDM. A chapter of Mal and Freya, and a small revelation from Eugenia Rostov. Read, enjoy, review!]


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 930    RATING: 0    SERIES: FIREFLY

After lunch Eugenia led the way into one of the other rooms, where the family obviously spent a lot of their time, at least from the comfortable furniture and the abandoned toy in one corner. Both still and moving captures sat on almost every flat surface, mostly of Ellen and her two daughters, but there were several of Alex, in the group or alone. In the latter he looked almost lost, while in the former his expression was of knowing yet disbelieving his good luck, and holding onto it with both hands.

Mal didn’t know where to put himself, at least until his mother-in-law (as he had to keep reminding himself) patted the sofa next to her.

“Sit. Here, with me. It’s been a long time.”

“That it has, Madam Rostov.”

“No. That’s not right. I shall call you ‘Mal’, and you must call me … if not ‘Mother’ then Eugenia. Or Jenny. I knew a young man once, before I was married, who used to call me that. You remind me of him. He was good looking, too.”

Freya’s mouth dropped slightly. Her mother was actually flirting, and with someone else’s husband, at that. Hers.

“Seems like the taste for roguish Firefly captains might run in the family blood.”

And Mal was flirting right back.

“He wasn’t a captain, though, just a gardener on our estate. He used to bring me flowers.”

He chuckled. “I’m not surprised.”

“Besides, don’t forget that you’re a Rostov, too.”

Mal shook his head. “No, ma’am. I’m a Reynolds, born and bred.”

Eugenia turned to twinkle at her daughter. “You didn’t tell him?”

“I … it … never came up,” Freya admitted weakly.

Mal raised an eyebrow. “Ai ren?”

“It’s a family tradition, Mal.” Eugenia patted his hand. “No matter who marries into us, whatever their name, the moment they say ‘I do’ they become Rostovs. So you are Malcolm Rostov. It has a fine ring to it, don’t you think?”

“So, am I Ethan Rostov, Grandma?” the heir to the Reynolds empire asked. “’Cause I like being who I am.”

Eugenia laughed. “Then you’re Ethan Reynolds. A good name.” She looked at Freya. “I’ve come to realise, very late in my life, that who we choose to be is at least as important as who we were born.”

There was a slightly embarrassed silence for a moment, then Ethan said, “Grandma?”

“Yes, Ethan?”

“Can I be both?”

“Of course you can.” She smiled. “You know, I think there are some jigsaws in the cupboard over there. Perhaps some board games. I don’t know where the girls keep their source boxes, but I’m sure they wouldn’t mind you playing with whatever you can find in there.”

Ethan and Jesse almost fell over each other in their haste.

It was some fifteen minutes later that the conversation took place, but was between the unlikely pairing of Eugenia and Mal. Freya was sitting on the rug in front of the fire, refereeing the game her children had dragged out, and having as much fun as them.

Eugenia turned to Mal. “Captain Reynolds.” She kept her voice low.

“Ma’am.”

“My son tells me Elena is trying to refuse her legacy. And yes, I know she’s Freya now, but to me she’ll always be that little girl who loved cookies and milk, and I think I’m old enough not to have to change too often.”

“She still does. The cookies and milk, I mean.”

“Then I’m encouraged to ask why she is refusing her inheritance. It is hers.”

Mal looked at this tall, still straight woman, her white hair immaculate, her face a soft patchwork of lines, and had no idea how to respond. The truth would hurt, but a lie wasn’t an option.

“Madam Rostov … Jenny … if you’re asking me to persuade her, I ain’t got the power. Frey’s her own, and has her reasons, and while I could talk until I’m blue in the face – which ain’t pretty, I can assure you – but it takes more than the words to change her mind. It takes Freya, and I don’t see any sign of it.”

“I see.” Eugenia clasped her hands and thought for a moment. “Then I suggest you don’t tell her about my Will.”

Another one. Mal wondered briefly whether it was his age, and there’d be more and more discussions of Last Will and Testaments to come. “Your Will?”

“Yes. I am a wealthy woman in my own right, Captain. And my Will stipulates my fortune is to be divided between my grandchildren. All my grandchildren.” She glanced across to where Ethan and Jesse were playing, with a great deal of giggling and flicking of counters into the air. Freya was laughing, catching the plastic disks before they fell into the flames. “Whatever Elena does or does not do, when I die your children will never need to worry about money again.”

For a moment he was speechless. Then he cleared his throat. “That’s … very generous.”

“It’s fair. Alex’s girls would never be destitute anyway, unless he cuts them out of his Will, which is hardly likely. But I want to make provision for Ethan and Jesse too, and any other siblings that might come along.” Her dark eyes fixed him. “Do you object?”

“If I did, would it make a difference?”

“No.”

He had to smile. While Freya couldn’t see it, or at least would never admit it, perhaps mother and daughter were more alike than they knew. “You do know she’s like to pick this outta my head, don’t you?”

“Really?” Eugenia managed a surprising amount of innocence.

“Ah. That’s why you told me. So’d she know but you didn’t have to tell her. Sneaky.”

“The Reynolds don’t have the monopoly on sneak.”

He nodded, a small chuckle rumbling in his throat. “I conjure she ain’t gonna be happy, but I’ll make another prediction. She won’t tell ‘em, either of them, until they’re of age, then leave it to them what they want to do.”

“And what do you see that being?”

“By then? All Ethan wants right now is to take my place as captain of Serenity. I doubt that’ll change.”

“And Jesse?”

“I don’t know,” Mal admitted. “JJ’s too sweet to be one of those spoiled rich kids I recall seeing a few times. I kinda hope she’d do something sensible with it.”

“I’m sure she will. She has you as a father and Elena … Freya as her mother. How could she be anything else?”

“Are you trying to flatter me, Jenny?”

She laughed. “Perhaps a little, Mal. And … JJ?”

“My pet name.” He looked rueful. “Least, it’s supposed to be between me and her, but I know Jayne calls her that, and I’ve heard it pass Hank’s lips a couple of times.”

“Your favourite?”

“No, now, I know I ain’t supposed to have those, and I don’t. But she’s my little girl, ‘til she grows up and brings home some feller I want to shoot on sight.”

“Yes. Daughters are … special, aren’t they? I think that was why Alex was so jealous of Elena. He thought, because she was a few minutes older, that we preferred her.”

“Funny, Frey says she was jealous of Alex ‘cause she thought you favoured him.”

“No, Captain Reynolds. That’s because we were blind, and didn’t understand what we had until we believed we’d lost it.”

There was such pain in her voice that he put his hand on hers, squeezing gently. “She ain’t lost. She’s sitting right there, with your grandkids.”

Eugenia smiled again. “Families. They are sent to try us, but we couldn’t do without them.”

“Got that right.”

---

The afternoon wore on, and it was almost with regret when Mal announced they had to be leaving, else they’d miss the finale of the Spring Lights.

“You gonna come with us?” he asked Eugenia. “You’re more’n welcome.”

Eugenia smiled, but shook her head. “I know they say that as you get older you need less sleep, but personally have never found that to be the case. I feel the need for a nap. Besides, I don’t want to outstay my welcome.”

“Can’t say that’d happen.”

“No?” Eugenia glanced at her daughter, helping Jesse into her coat. “I have a good idea how El … Freya feels. And although I can never know what she went through, I understand her … reticence.”

“She doesn’t blame you.”

“No. But perhaps I do. If she’d felt more … part of the family, she may never have wanted to leave home.”

“Jenny, if that hadn’t happened, she wouldn’t be my wife.”

The old woman’s eyes widened. “You really think like that.”

“I’d kill the men who did whatever they did to her, with a grin on my face and joy in my heart. If’n I could I’d wrap her in cottonwool so nothing else could ever hurt her. But I don’t know who they were, and she’d likely make me spend a month on the couch if I suggested the latter. Hell, she has in the past.”

“But not a month.”

“No. A few hours, anyway.”

Eugenia smiled. “I’m glad she still has the passion that was always within her. And I’m glad she has you.”

“Believe me, I’m the lucky one.”

She dropped her voice even more. “You made it sound as if she hasn’t told you what they did.”

“She ain’t, not so much.” Mal exhaled heavily. “She says a lot of it’s a blur, but … Jenny, I ain’t gonna push, and you mustn’t either. Whatever happened, she’s Freya now. And that’s more than I could ever have hoped for.”

“Yes. She is rather magnificent, isn’t she?”

Mal didn’t quite know how to respond, but was saved from having to think of a reply by his son.

“Grandma?” Ethan tugged on Eugenia’s dress. “Can I come and play sometimes? When I’m here?”

Eugenia felt her old cheeks warm, the heat radiating through her ancient bones. “I would like that. So very much.”

“Me too?” Jesse asked, bouncing on her toes.

“Of course. I’m going to be staying here for a while, at least until your Uncle Alex throws me out.”

“You can come and live with us.” Jesse nodded firmly, then looking at her father for agreement.

“I don’t think your Uncle will be tossing anyone out quite yet,” Freya put in quickly.

“I don’t know,” Eugenia teased. “I have a fancy for a roguish young man of my own, and I doubt Alex would approve.”

“Mother!”

---

Freya waited until they were back in the hover before speaking her mind. The children were in front, sitting with Higson, and she felt safer in complaining, “I think you enjoyed that more than I did.”

“Well, it’s been a while since I was in a big church like that, so it was an experience.”

“I meant you flirting with my mother.”

“She’s … fun. I didn’t expect that.”

“Fun.”

“Yep. Fun.”

“Do you know what she used to be like? If I made a mess, made a sound, she –”

“Then I’d say she’s changed.”

“People don’t. Not like that.”

“Frey, do you remember what Alex told you? The day your Pa passed? That when they thought you’d died in the fire at the Academy, how inconsolable she was? You don’t think that was a different woman?”

“Mal …”

“Then maybe what you remember is what she thought she was supposed to be, not who she was. You know all about that, Frey, don’t you? If you’d stayed, not gone to that place, you’d have been expected to be a Rostov, a member of the landed gentry, marrying someone as high-placed as you, as like as not. Or a Companion, and that would’ve been worse, being all things to all men.” He couldn’t suppress a shiver. “There ain’t much I’m grateful to that hellhole for, but stopping you being a whore is about the only one.”

“Mal.” She glanced at the children in the front of the hover.

“They can’t hear. The screen’s up and they’re having way too much fun pretendin’ to drive this thing.”

“And Inara’s not a whore.”

“Never said … well, yes, maybe I used to, but it wasn’t her so much as what she did. And experience since then of the Triumvirate ain’t changed my mind.”

“But you think my mother has.”

“From what she was like even the one time I met her? Yeah, I do.” He smiled. “’Sides, her and me had a good long talk, and I think I know her a bit better now.”

“I suppose I’m just not … I have this image in my mind, this memory, and I’m having a hard time letting go of it.”

“Then don’t. Let today be a new memory, a better memory, and enjoy it.”

“I love you.”

“Shiny.”

There was a moment’s silence, then Freya’s breath hitched. “Stop that.”

“Why?”

“Because the screen might be sound proof, but you can see right through it.”

“I’ll bet it can be adjusted.”

“Is that all you think about?”

“With you? Pretty much.”

“That’s nice. But you still have to stop.”

“How come?”

“Because we’re back at Dillon’s.”

The hover pulled up, and the screen lowered. “Shall I wait, madam?” the driver asked, looking surprisingly calm for a man who had been bombarded with questions for the best part of half an hour, although the twinkle in his eye suggested he might be aware of what could have happened in the back seat if the journey had been any longer.

“I’m not sure … if you don’t mind, for the moment at least.” She watched the children scramble out and run inside. “And I’m sorry for …”

Higson broke into a smile. “I have young’uns of my own, and believe me, yours are a treat compared to some of their friends. And I’ll be here for as long as you need me.”

“Thank you.” Freya followed Mal into the house.

“Were you flirting with him?” he asked, stopping just inside the door and pulling her close.

“No. I don’t know how, I keep telling you.”

“And I know you do. Ask Badger.” He grimaced as she trod on his foot.

“And, by the way, my mother’s right. You don’t have the monopoly on sneak.” She picked up the children’s coats from where they’d dropped them and hung them up in the cloakroom.

Mal pushed the door closed then helped her off with her own coat. “You know. About her Will.”

“You knew I would. And I’m not happy.”

“There ain’t much we can do about it.” He massaged her shoulders. “And I’ve a notion your Ma ain’t intending to die anytime soon, so who know what’ll happen in the meantime?”

“I … that money Alex … they could have it all now. I don’t want them to go without.”

“I know, but you think there’s any danger of that? Have they ever asked for something we don’t find a way of providing?”

“Yes, but they’re still young. What about when they’re teenagers? When they want the latest source box? They’ve seen Dillon’s house, all those Cortex games Breed has … you don’t think they’ll feel hard done by when we leave and can’t take it with us?”

“And this afternoon Ethan and Jesse were over the moon playing a game that didn’t have batteries and you had to move the counters all by yourself.” He turned her around to gaze into her brown eyes. “Frey, they ain’t like that. Not a one of ‘em. They know money is sometimes tight, so they don’t ask.”

“But I have the money. That inheritance … should I be being so … stubborn?”

“You’ve got a reason, and a gorram good one at that. Keeping ‘em safe is more important than a new source box. ‘Sides, how many more teddy bears does a little girl need?”

She had to smile at that. “You know Jesse’d live in the factory if she could.”

“And never want one sold.” He pulled her closer so her head rested in his shoulder. “Is that what’s been worrying you at night?”

She stiffened for a moment. “What?”

“You think I ain’t noticed? Am I that much of a blinkered hwoon dahn in your eyes?”

“Of course not!”

“Frey, my beautiful ai ren, if we didn’t have two credits to rub together to make a fire to keep warm, you know the kids would still adore you. And we’ve got a few more years to go afore they reach that awkward age.”

“You mean wanting to date?”

“Something like that. Course, some of us were later bloomers than others.”

“And some of us were technically illegal, too.”

He chuckled, and she could feel it through his chest.

“Ah,” he sighed. “Good times.”

Breed stuck his head around the door. “Are you two planning on staying in here all day?”

“If we were?” Mal countered. “And you might have been interrupting something.”

“Please, I’m not saying anything. In fact I’ve got my eyes closed.” He dramatically covered his face with his hand, his next words muffled as Freya laughed. “I just wondered if you wanted anything to eat before we set off for the Spring Lights?”

to be continued

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