BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

JANE0904

Monied Individual - Part XX
Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Mal took a deep breath, allowing it out slowly through his nostrils, and now his next words were the honest truth. “Ain’t surprised. No matter how good you are, and I’m not complaining, I’ve seen enough battle wounds, had to help out at the odd amputation on occasion. And I don’t have to be a doc myself to tell his leg ain’t quite the colour it should be, even taking into account his usual pasty complexion. What you did … didn’t work, did it?” [Maya. Post-BDM. Simon has no choice, and Luke comes around.]


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 432    RATING: 10    SERIES: FIREFLY

The next few days passed pleasurably enough, with the entire kit and caboodle of Serenity’s crew and extended family having decanted to the islands. The sun, sea and sand had the required effect, and everyone relaxed.

Even Jayne said he was finally warm.

Well, most people relaxed. Simon had allowed Hank to leave Katya’s infirmary, even to take up residence during the day on the beach, well-wrapped up and supported, but insisting on so many regular check-ups that the pilot began to complain of being a pin-cushion. River nodded sagely, even as she assisted with the blood tests.

Zoe collared Mal in the cargo bay the first day, coming up silently behind him where he stood at the top of the lowered ramp, watching Jayne, Dillon, Sam and Breed manhandle Hank outside on a kind of sedan chair, all of them complaining vociferously.

“Mal.”

He didn’t jump, but it was a close-run thing. “Zoe.” He glanced at his first mate. “Is it that bad?”

“Sir?”

“You called me Mal. Usually that’s only when I do something really stupid.”

Her lips twitched faintly. “Not yet.”

“Hmmn.”

“Kaylee says everything’s smooth.”

“Shiny.”

“For a given value of smooth.”

He turned to look directly at her. “Should I be worried?”

“No, sir. I think she’s going to use a day or so here so she can do an overhaul.”

“Didn’t she just do one?”

“That was before people set off bombs on board.”

“True.” He gestured towards the sunshine and the small group moving away from the ship. “You know, if Hank keeps ordering them about they’re like to drop him.”

“It’s all bluster.”

“Yeah, well, he does have a way of –”

“Simon explained.”

And there it was. “About the … Hank’s leg.”

“Yes.”

“How did he … take it?”

“Hank’s Hank.”

“Pretty much.”

“He might pretend he’s a big kid, but he understands. We both do.”

Mal nodded. “So now what?”

“We wait.”

Zoe was his oldest friend, the reason on more than one occasion that he was still standing there, and wasn’t pushing up daisies on some forsaken moon. All that time, that experience, and he recognised the emotion that was running just below the surface. “He’s alive, Zo.”

“Yes.”

Okay, so she wasn’t ready to talk about it yet. “Well, I’m gonna use this opportunity to take some time with my kids, maybe swim, that kind of thing. You?”

“Same, sir.”

He went to speak again, to offer her his shoulder if she needed it, but stopped. He knew she knew, and that was enough. “In that case you’d better get out there and stop Jayne mutinying.”

“Yes sir.”

Mal watched her stride down the ramp, and idly wondered why he felt there had been something else she hadn’t told him, or whether it was the justifiable worry over Hank.

---

On the fourth day, while everyone watched the two large men Dillon had employed (and Freya seemed to know) after the mutiny had been barely averted, Mal was already itching to be away from Persephone.

“It’s a mite too close to the Core for my liking,” he confided to Dillon while watching Freya and Breed, assisted by all the children, build a sand castle that warranted the description. “We’ve got enemies aplenty, and I don’t feel the need to advertise our whereabouts to everyone.”

Dillon nodded slowly. “I understand, and in all honesty you’ve stayed longer than I thought you would.”

“You trying to get rid of us?”

“And have Freya coming after me?” He laughed. “And you know I didn’t mean it like that. You’re welcome here whenever you want, even if it’s just for a day or two.”

Mal smiled. “That’s good to know. But I wouldn’t put you or Breed in danger.”

The atmosphere cooled a little. “You think we might be?”

“Maybe.” Mal looked out over the sea, at his family playing happily, at the surroundings that couldn’t possibly hide anything more serious than a stubbed toe or a splinter. “You know as well as I do things are unstable. That diamond, the list … and they ain’t likely to get better any time soon.”

Dillon dropped his voice, even though there was no-one but family around. “Did it save anyone? Getting it out?”

“Some. More than I thought but less than I hoped. A’course, some of ‘em were names I didn’t know, but of those I did … I’ve had word from a few sources, some good, some bad.”

“Which you haven’t passed on to the crew,” Dillon said with a flash of insight.

“Nope. All they need to know is that people were saved, not those that weren’t.”

“Anyone close to you?”

Mal half-smiled. “Not telling you either. They probably wouldn’t mean anything to you even if they were my kin.”

“Freya knows.”

“Well, she hasn’t asked.”

“She doesn’t have to.”

The smile grew. “That’s between me and my wife, don’t you think?”

“I’ve known her longer.”

“I know her better.”

Dillon threw up his hands in defeat. “Fine. You win.” Then he laughed. “And you won’t put us in any more danger than we already are. And if you do, I’m not exactly unused to battle, nor is Breed, and Callum could … well, you don’t really want to know what Callum could do.”

“Now you’ve got my curiosity up. Again.”

With a glance at Freya, who seemed to be engrossed in decorating one of the towers of the sandcastle with seashells, Dillon said quietly, “I have a bottle of whisky inside. Ten years old, aged in oak barrels and smoother than silk. How about we go and broach it, and I can tell you some stories?”

Mal smacked his hands together. “The whisky may be too good for me, but you’re on.”

Dillon grinned, and the two men went back inside, arms around each other’s shoulders, to share alcohol and stories.

---

That evening, as Mal changed for supper outside under the stars (and waited for the stinging in his arm to go down where Freya had hit him for listening to tales of her youth), a wave came in from Luke.

“Mr Triskelion.”

Luke smiled. “Captain.”

“How’s the shoulder?”

“It’s healing. Itches.”

“That’s a good thing.”

“My doctor wanted to know what I’d been doing.”

“What did you tell him?”

“That I’d been playing around and got in the way.”

“And he believed you?”

“No. But he’s … flexible.”

Mal knew exactly what that meant, but over an open wave he wasn’t about to enquire further. “So what can we do for you?”

“I’ve spoken to Septimus Pike, shown him all my evidence, and he’s in the process of filing my claim to the estate. We just need Hank to withdraw and we should be good to go.”

“What does he need to do?”

“Sign some paperwork that Pike has prepared.” Luke obviously caught the expression on Mal’s face. “Is there a problem with that?”

“Only that he’s still laid up.”

Luke’s own face showed he didn’t quite believe that was all the issue. “I see.”

“I don’t think our own medic is gonna allow him out on his own, let alone going to see Pike. You don’t know what Hank was like after the first time.”

Luke laughed. “Actually, I can guess, knowing Pike. Well, I suppose I can get the papers, get them to you …” He came to a decision. “Where are you? I’ll come to you.”

“You sure?”

“I think I owe you that, at least. Considering how much trouble I’ve put you to already.”

“There is that.” Mal nodded. “Shiny.” He gave the co-ordinates.

“I’ll be there first thing tomorrow.”

As Mal signed off he became aware of someone behind him. “You listening in, ai ren?”

Freya moved closer until they were almost touching. “Yes. And I’ll go with Luke to the solicitor’s. I have some things I want to say to him.”

Mal turned to face her. “Can I come listen?”

“No. I think you might be busy.”

“What? How?”

“Simon’s waiting for you in the cargo bay.”

---

“Mal.”

“I’m guessing it’s Hank,” Mal said, hitching his thumbs into his pants pockets.

“Yes. How did you …”

“You ain’t lost sight of him the last few days, and as much as I hate to admit noticing, you’re looking worried.”

“I’ve just spoken to Hank and Zoe, and … there’s no easy way to say this …”

“He’s gonna lose the leg.”

“Yes. From the knee down, at least.”

Mal took a deep breath, allowing it out slowly through his nostrils, and now his next words were the honest truth. “Ain’t surprised. No matter how good you are, and I’m not complaining, I’ve seen enough battle wounds, had to help out at the odd amputation on occasion. And I don’t have to be a doc myself to tell his leg ain’t quite the colour it should be, even taking into account his usual pasty complexion. What you did … didn’t work, did it?”

“No, it didn’t.” Simon sighed heavily. “It was a long shot at best, but the grafts are shutting down, no matter what I do. It’s only a matter of time, now.”

“We’re likely headed to Eavesdown in a couple of days. Can it wait that long?”

“I’d rather not. And tonight would be best.”

Mal nodded, hiding the chill that had gone through him, despite the heat drifting in from outside. “Who’d you need?”

“River. And you. As you said, you’ve had battlefield experience.”

“Serenity or Katya?”

“Katya. She’s better equipped.”

“Don’t let Kaylee hear you say that.”

Simon’s lips might have twitched. “I’ll try not to.”

“Well, you get everything ready and I’ll go tell Dillon to take the kids out for dinner somewhere, maybe give Alex a call, see if they can’t go spend the night with him and his Ma.”

“Bethie will still know.”

“And probably Ethan, but I’m hoping some distance might make it easier.”

---

Simon was right – Bethie knew, as did Ethan, and neither wanted to leave, but they grudgingly agreed to go with the others, especially after Inara and Sam said they’d accompany them.

“It’s only so that you can interrogate my mother,” Freya insisted. “Just because I spoke to yours.”

Inara just raised an elegant eyebrow and smiled enigmatically, following Dillon and Breed into the shuttle.

---

“Zoe?”

“Yes, Hank?”

“If I don’t wake up –”

“Shut up.”

---

“Is he out?”

“Yes.”

“Then we’ll begin.”

---

“They started?”

“That they have, lil’ Kaylee.”

“Jayne, I …”

“Yeah.”

---

In actual minutes and seconds, it really didn’t take that long, not in the grand scheme of things, but it seemed long enough when Mal stepped out of Katya’s infirmary.

“Cap’n?” Kaylee stood up quickly from the armchair where she had been sitting.

Mal took a deep breath to try and clear the smell of anaesthetic from his nostrils. “It’s over.”

“And Hank?”

“He’s going to be fine. Simon’s a good doctor.”

“Of course he is.”

Jayne roused himself from the depths of a huge couch. “Best be telling the others.”

“I’m fair sure Frey’s doing that right now from the bridge.”

“Can I …” Kaylee took a tentative step towards the infirmary.

“Not right this minute, mei-mei. Give Zoe and Hank some time.”

“Oh. Yes.” She nodded. “Yes.”

---

The next morning two shuttles arrived at the same time, one disgorging all the children led by Ben who ran into Katya to make sure his father was okay, the other more tentatively ejecting Luke, blinking in the strong sunlight.

Freya was waiting for him. “How are you feeling, Mr Triskelion?” she asked, her eyes twinkling.

He rubbed lightly at his shoulder. “In all honesty? Not sure I want to use that name, considering what’s happened to other holders.”

“Maybe it’s time to buck the trend.”

He chuckled. “You never know. But I think maybe I’ll stick with Brookner for the time being.”

“I imagine Demelza would prefer that. For when you get married.” Freya smiled slightly at the faint colour that touched Luke’s cheeks. “Anyway, Hank’s waiting. Just make it quick, he needs to rest.”

“Yes, Ma’am.”

“And none of that. You make me feel old.”

“I think it’d take a lot more than me to make that happen.”

She glared at him, then smiled and led the way inside the larger ship.

---

“Is he ready for visitors?” Freya asked.

Simon glanced back at his patient on the medbed. “Just about. Only for a few minutes, though.”

“Thanks, Simon.”

Freya stood to one side. “Go ahead,” she said to Luke.

The younger man stepped into the infirmary, nodded hello to Zoe standing by her husband, then any colour fled from his face as he saw the dip in the blanket beyond Hank’s right leg. “Dear Buddha. I …”

The pilot held up a hand. “Ain’t your fault. You didn’t shoot me. And the man who did is dead and gone.”

“But I didn’t stop it before it got that far.”

“Hell, Luke, someone was likely to shoot him,” Mal said from the doorway. “He’s just lucky John Foster wasn’t better at it.”

“Yes, but –”

“No.” Freya moved past him. “Enough. This crew is far too fast to take on responsibility for the ills of the ‘verse – don’t you go starting too.” She held out a hand. “The papers?”

“Oh. Right.” Luke fumbled at his coat, finally pulling out a folder from inside. “It … uh … needs two signatures.”

Hank rolled his eyes. “Don’t want much, do you?” Then he grinned, albeit somewhat shakily.

Freya held the papers, allowing the pilot to scrawl something approximating his name where indicated. Then she signed as witness. Putting them back into the folder she straightened and turned back to Luke. “Good. Now for Septimus Pike.”

“What?” Luke looked confused.

“I have some things I want to say to him.”

Luke glanced at Mal, who shrugged. He turned back to Hank. “Look, I … I want to share the money with you. Some of the money.” For all his protestations, Luke was a Triskelion by birth.

Hank brightened, then looked at Zoe. His face froze for a moment, then relaxed back into its normal, vaguely cheerful mode. “Nope. It’s yours. I think you earned it, all these years.”

“But you deserve some compensation …” Luke gestured towards Hank’s leg.

“I didn’t move fast enough, that’s all. And besides, if I hadn’t been so pig-headed in the first place …” Hank shook his head. “Luke, as much as I’d like to say yes, it’s blood money. More’n that, it’s tainted. Too many people have died for me to be easy about taking it.” He laughed. “It probably wouldn’t be good for me.”

“If you’re sure …”

“I am. But do something for me, will you?”

“Sure.”

“Do something good with all that cash. Make it right.”

Luke gave a half salute, ignoring the ache it set up in his shoulder. “Will do.”

“Time to go,” Freya said softly.

As they left, Mal following behind, Zoe took Hank’s hand. “You did good, husband.”

“Did I?” He shook his head. “It kinda goes against the grain to turn down free money. Ain’t we crooks?”

“Not so much. And as you said, it’s covered in blood.”

“I suppose. And it might tempt me to gamble.”

She squeezed his hand. “I wasn’t going to say anything.”

“I know. But you thought it, didn’t you?”

“Yes.”

“Me too.” He shifted slightly on the medbed, then groaned.

“Are you in pain?” Zoe looked around for Simon.

“No. Not … really. He’s given me the good drugs, you know, the ones he usually keeps for Mal. It’s more … my toes itch.”

“Simon told you about that.”

“I know. And when I look down it stops. But I can’t keep staring at something that isn’t there.”

“If it gets really bad I can try a couple of things.” Simon bustled back into the infirmary.

“You were listening?” Zoe was amused.

“Of course. Hank’s my patient. Again.”

“Hey, I didn’t plan this!” the pilot protested.

“No. But I’m your doctor, and I say you have to rest now.”

“Then can I go home?” The expression on Hank’s face was that of a hopeful puppy. “Katya’s nice ‘n’ all, but she’s not home. She’s not Serenity.”

Simon checked the monitors. “Well, you’re doing better than expected, so if you rest now, I think I could be persuaded to let you go back this evening.”

Hank immediately settled back and closed his eyes. “See, doc? Asleep already.”

Simon smiled and shook his head.

---

Nobody knew what was said to the solicitor, not even Luke, who’d been ushered out by Freya with an odd, determined look on her face. The papers had been handed over, minutely examined, then accepted with somewhat ill grace. Freya then asked for a few moments alone.

The conversation lasted less than five minutes, but as the door opened Luke saw Septimus Pike reach shakily into one of the deed boxes behind him and pull out a bottle of whiskey. Eschewing a glass, the older man poured the dark grain alcohol directly down his throat, his normally pale face as white as a sheet.

“Ready?” Freya asked brightly, pulling on her gloves as the door swung closed behind her.

“I … yes, I suppose … Freya …”

“Mmn?”

The intercom on the desk squealed, and his secretary said, “Yes, Mr Pike?”

“Cancel the rest of my appointments for today.” Pike’s voice cracked. “I’m … indisposed.” There was a sound like half a sob, and a gulp, then there was silence.

“Um, nothing,” Luke said quietly.

Epilogue to follow

COMMENTS

Monday, September 4, 2017 7:10 PM

SARATAI


Enjoyed this. Especially the fact that Mal finally got to hear about Freya and Dillon's adventures. He's been waiting long enough! Liked that Freya went after Septimus Pike. It's a good reminder of her "dark" side, and how she loves her family.


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