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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Post-BDM: Keller tries to salvage his reputation while River manages to convince the crew that Simon is alive. Simon/Kaylee, Mal/Inara, River/Jayne (early)
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 2079 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
A/N: All right now, ya'll are getting spoiled, so be sure to keep leaving those comments or these chapters might just have to start coming slow as molasses!
Thanks to all who have read so far and commented.
And thanks again to Leiasky for some great comic relief and even better beta-ing!
A NEW LIFE, ch. 7: Secrets to Keep
Part of Keller’s many duties in ensuring that Simon was successfully reintegrated into his life was to track his social progress. Most of the time this was a fairly easy task as his friend did not go out often without him. However, his quick exit from the dinner party had left a hole in his report and he needed to fill it, or risk the wrath of the blue-handed men.
He had realized pretty quickly that going to Simon would only prove to be a lesson in stupidity. There was no way his still uptight friend would willingly share the events of the previous week with him; Simon was not the type to kiss and tell.
So, he’d changed tactics. Heading for the hospital’s third floor Keller wondered, and not for the first time why the Alliance hadn’t been able to loosen his friend up a bit when they’d done the mind warp. But then, Keller remembered that Simon’s dad, the inimitable Gabriel Tam had been pulling the strings; that was why. Keller was convinced the elder Tam had never had a day of fun in his life.
The doors to the lift opened and Keller stepped out, hurrying on his mission. Coming around the corner and into Alicia’s office, he was glad to see she was free. Entering the room without knocking, Keller slumped into the chair across her desk and said with mock seriousness, “Doctor, I seem to be having a case of crazies.”
Looking up at him with an annoyed, but slightly bemused expression, Alicia went back to work and said dryly, “I’m not surprised.”
“Ha, ha,” he said, leaning forward and placing his hand over the charts she was working on, making it impossible for her to continue. Sighing heavily, she fixed him with a patient look and asked, “Is there something I can do for you Keller?”
Grinning wickedly, she knew she should never have asked the question. Raising his eyebrows suggestively, he answered, “We missed you and Simon last night. I thought you guys were going to come and meet us.”
Blushing at his observation, Alicia could read her friend’s implication loud and clear. Clearing her throat, she returned to her work, pushing his hand out of the way and trying to ignore the redness that seeped up her neck. “We just had a change of plans, very last minute.”
Keller suppressed a smug look of victory as he knew he had her. “So, where’d you guys go,” he asked, trying to sound as nonchalant as possible.
Alicia wondered fleetingly if it might be possible to actually sink into the floor, because it sure would come in handy. Not bothering meet his sly grin, she answered quietly, “Back to my place.”
“Uh-huh,” Keller taunted, loving the way her cheeks flushed a deeper crimson. His grin even wider, he asked, “And?”
Her eyes wide, Alicia looked up at him, her mouth hanging open, unable to form words. Finally, recovering her voice, Alicia slammed shut the chart she’d been working on and stormed across the room to file it, turning her back to him. “And nothing,” she told him furiously, trying to control her anger. Whether or not she was angry because he had asked or because there was truly nothing to share, she couldn’t tell. “We just talked, Keller. You know, talking? When people share words and feelings with each other.” She turned back to face him, her arms crossed over her chest and an annoyed glare in her eyes.
“Oh, right, talking,” he chided, still probing for more. “So, that’s it, you just … talked all night?”
“Why are you even asking me,” she questioned resuming her seat at her desk. Keller had seen the flash in her eyes and he knew something else had happened. “Shouldn’t you be talking with Simon about this? Isn’t that what guys do?”
She sounded completely exasperated and Keller didn’t miss the twinkle in her eyes that told him they had managed to do a bit more than talk. All right Simon.
“Yes, that is what we guys do,” he answered her, again taking all of this in within seconds and sitting on the edge of her desk. “But Simon likes to stonewall me, and truth is, he’s really good at it.”
“Look, Keller, nothing’s really happened,” she finally answered, sitting back in her chair and giving him her best innocent look. “If you want more details, you’re going to have to ask Simon.”
Sighing, Keller was disappointed, but not all that surprised at her reticence to confide in him. He had not always been the best friend to Alicia or Simon for that matter, and no amount of prying was going to change that simple fact.
“All right, you win,” Keller told her, getting up from her desk and heading for the door. Turning as he reached for the knob, he asked her one more question. “You guys are okay though, right?”
Alicia knew she had the goofiest grin on her face as she remembered the kiss she and Simon had shared and the few dates they had during the week. Blushing still, she averted her eyes and answered quietly, “Yeah, we’re good.”
“That’s what I like to hear,” he responded, almost to himself as he headed from the room and back to his own office. He would file a report, convinced that everything was fine; Simon was just slow with girls. Why couldn’t they have fixed that too?
Kaylee was in the kitchen washing dishes when her baby kicked again. Taking a deep breath at the pain, she braced herself against the sink. This little one was insistent on making its mama feel its presence. Smiling slightly down at her belly and rubbing her hand over it, Kaylee didn’t really mind. It just helped to remind her that she was alive and that she still had a little piece of Simon with her.
Kaylee turned at the little voice and her smile grew even wider. “Washin’ dishes.”
The blonde-haired girl with the large brown eyes was one of the friendliest children Kaylee had ever met and had easily won her heart as soon as she had arrived at Millie’s just over a month ago. Ellie May was constantly shadowing Kaylee’s every movement, offering to help her with the laundry, make her bed, even cook dinner. And she was more excited than just about anyone that Kaylee was going to have a baby. The five-year-old could often be seen staring at Kaylee’s growing belly and asking questions about everything from childbirth to diaper changing. The distraction of her had helped Kaylee as she adjusted this first month to her new surroundings and she knew that Ellie’s easy acceptance of her had brought the other children around as well.
Holding out a dish towel to her, Kaylee asked, “You wanna dry?”
Nodding eagerly, Ellie skipped over to her and dragging up a step stool to the counter, stood next to Kaylee ready to take the clean dishes and wipe them shiny. As they worked in a comfortable silence, Kaylee let her mind drift back to Serenity and the family she had left. She and Simon had often been left with kitchen duty, so they had spent many a night washing and drying and talking. She missed those talks.
“Why’re you sad, Miss Kaylee?” Ellie’s tiny voice again penetrated the sad fog that drifted over her thoughts.
Blinking slightly at the intrusion and realizing that she did have tears in her eyes, Kaylee put on one of her giant smiles and said, “Don’t be silly, baby. I’m fine.”
“Nu-huh,” Ellie said, continuing to dutifully dry each dish handed to her as they talked. “You ain’t. You cry a lot and you never talk about your baby. You’re sad. Why?”
Sighing Kaylee realized the girl had a point and she would not be satisfied until Kaylee gave her an explanation. “Well, it’s kinda complicated, Ellie,” she started, giving the girl a sidelong glance. “Do you know what complicated means?”
“It’s what grown-ups say when they don’t think kids’ll understand,” Ellie answered, not even flinching at her assessment.
Hiding a smile, Kaylee continued, “I guess that’s ‘bout right.” Taking the last dish from the sink she handed it to the girl and let the water drain. As she watched it disappear, Kaylee turned around and leaned tiredly against the counter. Although she was at about 26 weeks, it was getting harder and harder for her to stay on her feet.
“Is it the daddy,” Ellie asked quietly as she placed her last dry dish on the sideboard and hopped off the stool. She turned her large eyes up to Kaylee expectantly.
Reaching out a hand to her cheek, Kaylee smiled through more tears as she said, “Yes, baby it is.”
“Was he mean,” Ellie asked, her eyes immediately narrowing. Having been raised in an orphanage, Ellie knew something about mean daddies. “Ben’s daddy was real mean, that’s why he’s here. We don’t like ‘im.”
Kaylee had to smile at the thought of Simon being mean. It just wasn’t in his nature, never had been. Taking the girl’s hand, Kaylee led them over to the table and helped her take a seat before dropping into one herself. “No, Ellie, my baby’s daddy wasn’t mean.” Cradling her stomach, she dropped her eyes to the bulge and thought about how much she should tell the little one. “He just ain’t ‘round no more and that makes me sad.”
Raising her eyes back to the girl, she saw genuine concern on her features. Knowing she was about to tear up again, Kaylee turned her head away from her. After a minute, she felt a gentle, tiny hand reach out and pat the one she still held against her belly. “It’s okay, Miss Kaylee,” Ellie whispered. “You don’t gotta be sad.”
Kaylee wanted to smile at the girl and thank her for her words, but she couldn’t. Her grief over Simon was still with her, and the closer she got to giving birth, the heavier that shroud became. Not turning back to face her as she knew there were real tears in her eyes, Kaylee took her other hand and laid it atop Ellie’s. The two women sat there like that for some time.
That evening, as Mal and his crew sat around the Everetts dining table, having enjoyed a fine meal that did not consist of molded protein, he felt Kaylee’s absence even more acutely. It just didn’t seem right for all of them to be there, happy as clams, while his lil’ Kaylee was suffering. Even though Marie had told him she did not want to see them, Mal had stayed close to the house all day, hoping to catch a glimpse of her, but so far nothing.
As Zoe regaled the Everetts with a tale of daring do that they had barely managed to survive, Mal noticed River’s wide brown eyes fixed on him. Containing a light he hadn’t seen for quite some time he was about to inquire after her, when Marie’s voice broke his reverie.
“Malcolm, there’s a question, I gotta ask ya,” the older woman said, cradling a mug of coffee. Looking to him, her eyes bespoke of a sadness Mal did not like seeing on her face.
Clearing his throat and leaning forward, Mal felt Inara tense next to him as he asked, “Well, Marie, what is it?”
Casting a quick glance to her husband, and taking in each of her guests around the table, she steadily returned Mal’s gaze. “How did Simon die?”
Both Inara and River inhaled sharply at the mention of the doctor’s name, while Zoe cast her eyes to the table. Jayne reached out a hand and squeezed River’s shoulder, but she shrugged off the touch, her eyes still focused on Mal intently.
Mal had to admit the question came as a shock to him as well. He had never mentioned Simon's name to the Everett's which meant Kaylee had opened up and talked about him. Secretly, he was glad. Glad that lil’ Kaylee had managed to talk about the doc and some of the pain she was obviously feeling. That had to mean she was getting better, didn’t it?
Not at all certain where or how to begin, Mal fumbled for a moment as he questioned, “Why you wanna know?”
Giving him a look with no malice, but a warning all the same, the older woman, and his friend, answered. “’Cause, I done told you that girl’s in a lot of pain and I think I best have all the facts if’n I’m gonna help her.”
Mal nodded once and looked to Inara for something, anything. She simply smiled at him through tears that pooled in the bottom of her incredibly large eyes and nodded once. Deciding that was good enough, Mal turned back to all of them and let his gaze rest on River for a moment more. “You sure you wanna be here for this lil’ albatross?”
She did not speak, only nodded stiffly once.
Marie glanced toward River, remembering what Kaylee had said about Simon having boarded Serenity with a sibling. If Mal's ‘lil’ Albatross’ was that sibling, it would explain why the girl's eyes were as wide as milk-saucers and why the tears pooled at the bottom of her eyes did nothing to temper the anger that burned brightly in them.
With an even bigger sigh, Mal rubbed a hand over his face and began. “We were doing a job on Boros. Nothing too taxin’, but definitely nothin’ too legal, neither.” The couple shared a knowing smile, all too aware of the marginality with which Mal and his crew conducted their business. “It shoulda been simple, I even took lil’ Kaylee with me to make sure we’d bypass all the security systems without trippin’ nothin’. Nobody’s better with machines than that girl,” he affirmed, giving Walt a nod and getting an equal gesture of approval in return.
“But somebody, God knows who, tipped off the locals. By the time we got back to the boat, they already had Simon.” Mal paused uncertain if he should or could continue. The look on lil’ Kaylee’s face when they’d entered the hold at the sight of Simon all trussed up and hurt – it drove a dagger into his heart just to remember.
“There was no chance to get him back?” Walt asked the question now, leaning forward, intrigued. “No chance for a trade?”
Mal shook his head, wishing to merciful Buddha he could have done something that day, anything. “Nah, they wasn’t interested in no trade. The only way they was lettin’ us off planet was to take the goods and our doc.” Mal stopped again and felt Inara tighten her grip on his arm. She hadn’t been there then, hadn’t been a witness to this part of the story, but she had asked, months ago for an explanation and Mal had told her, each painful detail.
He gazed back to River and was not surprised at the fire he sawing burning in her eyes. He was fairly certain that had the girl the power, he would burst into flames under her watchful gaze. She had not been present for this either, had been with Inara off the boat to attend to some last minute details when Simon had been taken. Mal had been glad at the time, worried that the sight of the siblings together would have tipped off the feds that they were wanted fugitives. But the more he thought on it, the more he wished she had been there, because he knew she would have done everything in her power to keep her brother on board. Maybe she could have succeeded where Mal failed.
“We was a mountin’ a rescue,” Zoe interjected, noticing Mal falter. “We had it planned, wasn’t the smartest idea we’d ever had, but we was goin’ in, when …”
“When we got notice from the local ‘thorities, that three prisoners had been killed the night before. One of them was the doc, Simon.” Mal finished, his voice heavy with pent-up emotion. It was because of his inability to protect his crew that Kaylee was gone now, suffering at the loss of the doc whom she loved something fierce and the reason River was glaring at him with an accusatory stare.
Marie and Walt exchanged a look as the story concluded, each one letting out a sigh at the horror of the story. Nothing was said for several moments as the crew thought of the part they had played in Simon’s demise. Their inaction that day had been their undoing and Mal wished to high heaven he had the chance to do it over again.
"He protected me. He gave up everything for me. And I wasn't even there when he got taken away." All eyes flew to River as the pain in her voice broke through to them.
Marie watched carefully as her suspicion was confirmed before her eyes, her heart breaking for the pain the girl must be feeling.
"Weren't nothing you could have done, River," Zoe said sadly. "He wouldn't be the only one who died that day if -"
Rising suddenly, River glared at them as hot, angry tears fell down her face. Shaking with barely contained rage and sadness, she said fiercely, “He’s not dead.” Her eyes burned with an intensity Mal recognized as determination.
“River,” Mal warned, trying to get her to calm down.
Her look growing even more deadly, she ground out slowly. “He’s. Not. Dead.”
With that she turned and ran from the room, bursting through the front door and out into the night. Mal made a move to follow her, but Inara’s hand on his arm steadied him. She saw as Jayne looked off after the young woman and watched as his eyes betrayed his emotion. “I’ll go,” he grunted and was off after her in moments.
Marie was still staring after River and when she brought her eyes back to Mal, she asked, “Is it possible? Could he be alive? She seemed pretty certain.”
Shaking his head slowly, Mal steeled himself for the coming conversation. Why did he have to keep reliving all the worst moments of his life? “No, Rie, it ain’t true. Simon’s dead. That girl,” he said, motioning toward where River had disappeared, “is his sister.”
River didn’t know how long or how far she ran, but by the time she stopped, she was standing on the edge of a small pond. The nights on Beaumonde were clouded by smog and pollution and River longed to see the stars. They always managed to calm her, managed to remind her that there was so much more ‘verse out there to see.
Sinking to her knees on the spongy ground, she knew she was crying and she again wished she could stop. How could the captain just dismiss her intuition like that? She had tried to tell him ten different ways, that Simon was alive. He was on Osiris, back at their family home and River knew she needed to get to him. His presence was slipping in and out with more frequency now and she knew that the longer he went without contact from her the more apt he was to forget her again.
How could he forget her? The thought brought fresh tears to her eyes and she buried her face in her hands as the sobs began. She was his sister, neither of them had ever been closer to anyone. Of course, his relationship with Kaylee even put their bond to shame, but still – Simon did not or could not remember her and she somehow knew that he also could not remember the young girl who had walked off Serenity all those months ago because she couldn’t live there without him.
Gasping for breath between sobs, River tried to calm herself enough to reach out to him again. It was hard, he was so far away and their mental bond had been broken and hastily repaired, causing leaks and inconsistencies in the contact. Concentrating hard on his familiar sense, she waited for him to recognize her contact. But he didn’t and with a suddenness she had not expected he was gone again, vanished from her consciousness and try as she might, she could not get him back. He was so confused and different, somehow. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to remember her it was that he couldn’t. But why?
River crawled over a few feet to the base of a large tree and leaned against the rough bark realizing she’d have tiny cuts on her skin in the morning, but not caring. It was getting harder and harder for her to feel anything. The longer she tried to balance out both Simon’s emotions and her own, the more difficult it became for her to separate the two. Even sleep did not recharge her and she often awoke painfully aware of Simon’s desperation to learn the truth. It was a desire they shared.
Gazing out at the water that was dimly lit by a few very strong stars, River did not hear Jayne come by looking for her. An expert tracker, he had been able to follow her from the house and he found her now, sitting under the tree, shivering slightly in the cold night air.
Approaching her cautiously, he knelt beside her and placed a light hand on her shoulder, “River, darlin’, you all right?”
She did not turn to look at him, she didn’t have the energy. “Tired,” she managed to get out weakly. Blinking again as tears fell, she repeated, “I’m so tired.”
Jayne did not question her further. Taking her small form into his arms, he felt her head rock against his chest, as she wrapped her arms around his neck. Burying her face into the crook of his neck, Jayne could feel her sigh. “He’s alive, Jayne,” she managed to whisper before her exhaustion claimed her.
Pressing a kiss to her temple, Jayne held her close as he made his way back to the Everetts. “I know, darlin’. I know.”
Jayne was sitting with River as she slept when Mal came and got him from the room. Reluctant to leave her side, Inara switched places with him as the two men entered the hall.
Keeping his voice low, Mal threw a significant glance to the closed door and then back to Jayne before asking, “What exactly is goin’ on?”
“You saw how upset she was when she ran off,” he answered, knowing that was not what Mal meant, but deciding to play dumb anyway. It had worked before. “I went to find ‘er. What, you didn’t want her back?”
“That ain’t it and you know it,” Mal told him, stepping into his face. Jayne saw a protectiveness burning in his eyes and knew that the captain cared for River just as much as the doc had … or did if he was really alive. And Jayne knew how he’d feel if a man like him was interested in a romantic relationship with his sister. He’d be a little disturbed as well. “I mean, what is goin’ on with the two a you?”
Jayne considered trying to play dumb again and knew it wouldn’t fly, not twice in one night. Deciding that honesty might actually be his only option, he shrugged slightly and said, “Look, Mal, I don’t rightly know. All I know is I care for that girl, more’n I thought possible. I wanna help ‘er.”
Mal’s eyes widened with recognition and he actually stumbled backwards from the shock. Shaking his head, he murmured, “Oh no, no, no, no, we are not having this conversation.”
Puzzled Jayne commented, “You asked.”
“You think this is funny, Jayne,” Mal asked him, his anger flaring as he again got in the larger man’s face. “That girl has been through hell an’ back and now you’re takin’ advantage of ‘er. Even I thought you were better’n that.”
Growing irritated by his implication, Jayne allowed his jaw to set as he thrust a finger toward the door and said tightly, “Look, Mal, I ain’t done nuttin’ wrong. I ain’t takin’ ‘vantage, I’m just tryin’ to help her is all. You all been a little busy over the past few months and I knew that girl was hurtin’. Didn’t seem right for her to have ta suffer through all ‘at alone.”
Mal had not thought it possible, but he was actually more surprised than he had been only moments before. Was this really Jayne Cobb standing in front of him? Was Jayne really telling him that he cared for another human person and not just any human person, but River?
“Look, Mal, ‘gardless of how I feel, River’s hurtin’ somethin’ fierce,” he told the captain, getting the man’s attention. “She’s convinced the doc’s alive.”
Shaking his head, sadly, Mal said, “I know, Jayne, but that just ain’t possible. We all saw the bulletin before we lit outta there. Those cops killed ‘im.”
Gazing back to the door, Jayne thought on the determination and certainty he had seen on River’s face all those nights ago when she had first told him Simon was still alive. Looking back to Mal, he said, “Bulletin’s can be forged, Mal. I don’t think the girl can be wrong, not ‘bout this.”
Mal considered his words for a moment and was about to reason with him again when a scream sounded from River’s room. Bursting through the door, Jayne was around the bed in an instant. Inara had tried to calm the girl, but River jerked against her hands, and Jayne took her by the shoulders, shaking her awake.
“River, girl, come on, wake up. It’s just a dream is all.” Jayne watched in a panic as River writhed a few more moments. Then, her eyes snapped opened, unfocused as she whimpered slightly at the memory of what she’d just seen. Finally focusing on the man before her, River brought a shaky hand to his face, and then whispered, “Mal?”
Jayne’s feelings hurt more than he’d even want to admit, he backed away a bit as Mal approached the bed. “I’m here, lil’ one,” he reassured her, placing a gentle hand on her shoulder. “What is it?”
Still staying firmly in Jayne’s embrace, which did a little to massage his bruised ego, she turned to face the captain and Mal recognized her clear gaze and the resolve that resided there. She’d made a decision about something and he was more than a little worried of what it would mean for all of them.
“I know you don’t want to believe me,” she started, her voice growing steadier as she spoke. “I know you think I’m wrong, that Simon isn’t alive, but I know he is, Mal. I know it,” she repeated, whispering the words with a tenacity that made him sit up and listen. “And he needs me. Or I’ll, we’ll, lose him forever.”
Mal didn’t want to be responsible for destroying River’s hope, not again. But how long could this fantasy go on? Taking her hands in his, he reached up and wiped a stray tear from her cheek as he said, “Darlin’, I know you want to believe that, but it’s just not possible. Your brother ain’t comin’ back.”
River looked into his eyes for a minute more and saw her own resolve and stubbornness reflected back at her. He wasn’t convinced and nothing she said was going to sway his opinion. Rising slowly, Jayne, Mal and Inara watched in awe as she straightened up and turned a clear look of defiance to them. Again focusing on the captain, she told him firmly, “I don’t have time to debate this with you, Simon doesn’t have time. If you’re not going to believe me, than I’ve got to go.”
With that she strode from the room, Inara quickly on her heels. Jayne caught up with Mal just as the two made to exit the room. Anger burning in his gaze, Jayne bit out, “Christ Mal, you’ve trusted her on other stuff ‘fore. Why can’t you believe her now?”
Mal kept walking as he answered. “’Cause she’s never asked for somethin’ this big before. This ain’t a simple job and it ain’t gonna be even remotely easy.” With that, Mal quickened his pace, reaching the Everetts’ front room where Inara, Zoe and Marie had managed to detain River.
“When’ve any our jobs been simple,” Jayne muttered under his breath, but followed them all into the room, taking up an impenetrable position in front of the door to prevent River from even thinking of leaving. Of course, she could drop him to the ground with one good kick, but he could still pretend to be menacing.
River sighed heavily and finally let her gaze rest again on Mal as he approached her. “River, where exactly do you think you’re goin’?”
“Osiris,” she told him evenly, waiting for him to object again.
Rubbing a hand over his eyes, Mal murmured, “Yeah, that’s what I’d thought you’d say.” Looking back to her he saw that her commitment to her plan nor her words had wavered and he was beginning to wonder if maybe the girl did know something the rest of them didn’t. It wouldn’t be the first time.
“River, if Simon’s alive, why hasn’t he tried to reach out to us?” Inara interjected now, coming to stand at Mal’s side, concern all over her face. “Or Kaylee? Why would he stay away?”
River closed her eyes for a moment and tried to think of the best way to explain her brother’s absence. Uncertain herself, all she could tell them was, “He doesn’t know who he is. He’s forgotten, can’t remember. That’s why he needs me.” She opened her eyes again, and looked back to Mal. With grim determination she asserted, “I have to help him. Like he helped me.”
Mal had been waiting for something that would break his resolve; he knew she’d manage to say something and she just had. Glancing over her shoulder to where Jayne stood at the door, Mal asked him, “Happy now?”
Jayne shrugged, but smirked his content. “I told you she weren’t wrong.”
The captain thought about retorting in kind, but realized they didn’t have that kind of time. Not if the situation was as dire as River attested it to be. “All right, lil’ albatross,” Mal said finally, looking back to her, his eyes holding a mixture of defeat and excitement. “What’s your plan?”
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