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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Post-BDM: River continues to shut everyone out, while Kaylee tries to get to the bottom of it. And a member of Serenity's crew realizes just how hard 'saying goodbye' might be.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1923 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
A/N: Sorry for the "later-than-normal" post - wasn't feeling so hot last evening and needed to turn in early.
Let the countdown begin - we are heading to the end of this first tale, then there will be some shorter interim stories (tentatively titled: A NEW LIFE: Newlyweds and the other one, I can't tell you the title of, 'cause it'll ruin it!) And then we'll be on to the big damn sequel - titled: A NEW BEGINNING.
Much thanks to Leiasky as always. And keep leaving those reviews!
A NEW LIFE, ch. 26: Love Is Rare
Breakfast was a large affair at the Frye’s house, especially now with all the extra mouths to feed. Everyone helped of course, even the children, depending on their age. But things were subdued this morning. Mal and Inara were still sequestered in their room, and no one was about to interrupt them. River was still asleep, while Jayne had made it down for some grub, only to leave again, wandering the grounds. Cadie was out and Millie made a note to go and wake the girl before too long. Simon had simply left in a huff, muttering something about taking a walk, unwilling to meet any of the curious gazes that greeted him.
The rest ate in silence for the most part, until the plates had been cleared. Kaylee and her ma moved out of the room with Daniel, attending to wedding plans, while the men and the other women headed back to the home site to continue work. They had already gotten one house almost completely done, while the framework for the other had just been raised. It wouldn’t be long now before both homes were ready for inhabitants.
The children moved off to play, enjoying the fact that they were still not required to go to school. Eventually, it was just Zoe left in the kitchen, doing the dishes, when Ellie came back in to talk with her.
Turning she saw the girl’s troubled face and Zoe smiled at her, beckoning her forward and holding out a towel. “I heard you’re a good dryer.”
Smiling Ellie took the rag and waited quietly as Zoe handed her the first dish. After they had worked in silence for a few moments, Ellie finally asked, “What’s wrong with Miss River?”
Not at all surprised by the question, Zoe wasn’t exactly certain how to answer it. She had heard the kids whispering among themselves this morning that River was sick and had come in very late the night before. Of course, how they all knew that when they were supposed to be sleeping she didn’t understand.
Sighing, Zoe handed her another wet dish as she said, “It’s kind of complicated, sweetie. Do you know what that means?”
With a heavy sigh that conveyed much more sadness than it should, Ellie threw the rag down and stamped her foot. “Why’s everybody keep sayin’ that,” she yelled, her hands firmly planted on her hips.
At her outburst, Zoe turned to regard the girl, noticing for the first time she had tears in her eyes. Reaching out for her, Ellie backed out of her grasp and said, “I think I can handle complated,” she said, mangling the word, but forging ahead anyway. “I mean, I ain’t go no folks, I lost my house and now I’m livin’ somewhere totally new, ‘cause it ain’t safe to go home.” With blazing eyes, she looked up to Zoe and said, “I think that’s complated.”
With that, she turned and ran from the room and Zoe could hear the start of her sobs as she made it out the front door. Following her quickly, Zoe was not surprised to find her slumped on the top step of the porch, leaning heavily against the railing. Sitting next to her, she did not reach for her again, knowing now was not the time to push.
After the girl had calmed down somewhat, Zoe asked, “What’s really botherin’ you, baby?”
The little girl turned her big, brown eyes to Zoe and Zoe felt her heart break just a little. She had wanted to deny that she felt a connection to this child, wanted to dismiss her feelings as nothing more than a bit of regret, but she knew she couldn’t. If she did, she was just doing a disservice to herself and the child, and that wasn’t fair.
Turning her gaze back out over the landscape, Zoe watched as Ellie’s eyes focused on the home sites in the distance. “House is almost done,” she said quietly, sullenly.
Nodding once, Zoe confirmed, “It is.”
Looking back to her, Ellie’s tears started to fall again, as she said, “That means you’re gonna leave.”
Zoe felt her own eyes fill with tears, something she was not accustomed to. She was not a crier, never had been, never hoped to be, but seeing Ellie’s pained expression and hearing her wail, brought out a protectiveness and a pain in Zoe she had never expected. Trying to swallow past the lump that accompanied the tears, Zoe said, “We will.”
“I don’t want ya to go,” Ellie said finally, and in one swift motion, launched herself into Zoe’s lap, her arms flinging around her neck and holding tight.
Zoe held her back, rocking her gently and trying to calm her. She felt a few of those tears that had been coming start to fall and she wished she knew a way to take them away for both their sakes. Hugging the girl tighter, Zoe whispered, “I don’t wanna go either, baby.”
The next few weeks saw a flurry of activity that touched almost every member of the household. Both the Everetts’ and Thompson homes were finished, with just a few interior elements to be installed, like wiring and plumbing. This caused quite a bit of excitement for the children, who would now be able to have their own rooms.
Kaylee and Inara finalized many of the wedding plans, and set the date, with Simon’s input of course. Based on the availability of the church as well as the arrival of the dress, and some specially ordered food, that included fresh strawberries, the Frye-Tam wedding was now set for three weeks from the day. Kaylee had told Inara that if she and the captain would like to share in her and Simon’s special day, they were more than welcome, but Inara had demurely refused, stating that she doubted she would ever be able to get Mal to agree to recite his wedding vows in front of a preacher.
River was the only person who seemed unaffected by everything going on around her. Ever since her late night sojourn, she had been different, refusing to interact with the children, even Cadie. She had isolated herself in her room, sleeping for many hours of the day and only agreeing to see Simon so he could check her vitals and ensure she was all right. Of course, she wasn’t all right, but no amount of coaxing by anyone, including Jayne, could get her out of the room.
River’s seclusion was killing the big man, even though he didn’t want to admit it. It hurt him that River had pushed him away, refusing to speak with him, to even let him sit with her or hold her. He didn’t understand. He knew that something had snapped for her that day when she’d run off and he knew that if he could just get her to talk about he could help. But talking had never been one of Jayne’s strong suits, never mind trying to convince someone else to jabber.
As she continued to shut him out, Jayne got more and more angry, which wasn’t a surprise to anyone. The only person he still treated with any tenderness was Cadie. The girl still insisted on calling him dada, and now that she could no longer interact with River, clung to him more fiercely than before. Jayne had tried to bring her by to see River on a few occasions, but with tears in her eyes, she had always turned them both away. Again, Jayne felt powerless, and he hated it.
It was Kaylee who finally decided enough was enough. River was hurting people she cared out: Simon, Jayne, and she wasn’t about to sit idly by and watch her continue to put their hearts through the wringer. Besides, her wedding was in a little over two weeks and Kaylee wanted River to be a bridesmaid. They had already ordered her a dress of course, but still, it was only polite to ask.
With Daniel in her arms, Kaylee knocked lightly on the door to River’s room. When there was no answer, she said quietly, “River, sweetie? It’s me, Kaylee.”
Again no answer. Taking in a deep breath, Kaylee pushed the door open and entered the room. It was dim inside, the curtains drawn over the window and Kaylee took a moment to adjust her eyes to the dark.
Moving toward the edge of River’s bed, Kaylee sat gingerly and waited for the young woman to focus on her. When she finally lifted her gaze from her lap, Kaylee stifled a shocked gasp. River’s eyes were hollow and dull, the light that had once shined in them no longer evident. Her cheeks were sunken slightly and Kaylee knew she had been refusing to eat. Simon had threatened to start feeding her through a tube if she kept refusing food, but Kaylee knew he couldn’t bear to do it; it pained him too much.
Swallowing past her unease, Kaylee lifted Daniel a bit so River could get a good look at him. “I brought your nephew by to see you,” she said softly. “You wanna hold ‘im?”
River’s eyes widened a bit and then she nodded hesitantly. Kaylee moved forward and placed the little bundle in River’s arms and watched as the girl cradled him protectively, looking so natural, just as she had a few months ago when she’d first come to Beaumonde. With shining eyes, she looked back up to Kaylee and said in a dry voice, “He’s so beautiful.”
Kaylee beamed at her and agreed. “He is, ‘cause he looks like his daddy and his daddy’s sister.” River barely acknowledged the compliment, but instead, continued to gaze down in her nephew’s face. He was so little, so helpless, she wondered how people could continue to bring such tiny lives into the ‘verse when there was so much to be afraid of, so much heartache, so much terror.
Watching her for a moment more, Kaylee said softly, “You know, sweetie, everybody’s been missin’ ya.” No reaction. Trying a different tact, she added, “Jayne’s been missin’ ya somethin’ fierce. You are really torturin’ that man.” She smiled, trying to make a joke, but as soon as River raised her eyes to meet her gaze, she saw the tears there and knew it had been the wrong thing to say.
Scooting closer, Kaylee squeezed River’s hand and brushed some of her hair out of her face. “Oh sweetie, I’m just teasin’. Jayne’s a big boy.”
River could not trust her voice, so she instead kept her blurry gaze locked on her nephew’s face. She knew that Kaylee wanted to help, wanted to ease her pain, as well as the pain she was causing to both Simon and Jayne. But River had been trying, so hard, all week to control that heartache. She feared that if she spoke of it now, she would regress back to a time when all she’d been ruled by had been her emotions and she’d been unable to control anything.
Raising her eyes again to Kaylee’s face, she knew it was a futile attempt to deny her sister an explanation. Kaylee was a ball of concern and love and even worried, those emotions pulsed out from her and to others around her, just as they were to River now. River knew her continued isolation was selfish and she couldn’t rightly sit here and cling to such ego when Kaylee’s egoless face was gazing back at her.
“I’m trying to save him,” River bit out finally, determined not to dissolve into a fit of tears, but knowing it was a losing battle. “I’m trying to protect him.”
Confused, Kaylee had not expected that response. “Save him from what, honey?”
Looking to Kaylee with the widest eyes she had ever seen, River set her jaw and said simply, “Me.”
Appalled, Kaylee could think of nothing to say. She had gotten as many details from Simon as he would allow over the past week. She knew that Jayne and River had started something, some kind of relationship and she knew that Cadie, who apparently was a reader, had taken to both River and the mercenary, much to everyone’s surprise. She also knew that River’s love for the child was growing, on a daily basis, and that she had just recently realized how much she someday wanted to be a mother.
When River had sequestered herself in her room, Kaylee had assumed it had been in reaction to something idiotic Jayne had done or Simon for that matter. The two of them had certainly made enough of a ruckus after River’d been found. Kaylee suspected the tension between the two men she loved was causing River stress and she was simply trying to move past it. But as the first two days stretched into a whole week, Kaylee had known this wasn’t about River trying to hide from Jayne or Simon, she was trying to hide from herself.
“Oh honey,” Kaylee breathed, again reaching out a hand to rest against her cheek. She felt the first few tears fall into her palm, and moved forward more to wrap her arms around her sister, careful not to dislodge Daniel who had again fallen to sleep. “Why do you think Jayne needs protectin’ from little ol’ you?” Pulling back to look at her, she asked, “You love him, don’tcha?”
River nodded once, and then handed Daniel back to Kaylee. “I do,” she said softly, unable to meet the other woman’s gaze.
Kaylee watched as River wiped at her tears, more falling in their place. “Then why you gotta hide? I know he cares ‘bout you.” Kaylee didn’t understand. She had never known people, until she’d met Inara and the Captain and now Jayne and River who were so determined to be proud and miserable, instead of honest and happy. It baffled the mind.
“Because I can’t be what he needs,” River finally admitted, surprised she had gotten it out. Meeting Kaylee’s still surprised expression, she added, “I can’t be what Jayne wants.”
“And how do you know that,” Kaylee asked, not at all willing to listen to River make up excuses just to stay away from the man she loved. She was gonna need cold, hard facts. “You asked ‘im?”
Shaking her head, River waited for Kaylee to argue and it didn’t take long. “It ain’t fair for you to make that decision all on your lonesome,” Kaylee told her, admonishing her with a look. “If you ain’t asked Jayne if’n he needs more than you, than you got no right to push him away.”
River bit her lip to keep her tears in. She knew that Kaylee was right. It wasn’t fair to make a unilateral decision involving her relationship with Jayne. But she knew that if she asked him what he wanted, what he needed, he wouldn’t understand. He’d tell her that she was fine, that they were fine and then a year from now or maybe sooner, he’d regret his choice – River knew it. Not in a reader-type of way, but she knew it, all the same. And she could not handle that type of rejection – the pity and sadness that would permeate Jayne’s entire being. It would just be easier for them both if they stopped whatever they had started now.
Besides, although her test results had come back positive, meaning there was no reason to believe she couldn’t have a child of her own someday, she knew she shouldn’t. The psychosis she lived with on a daily basis was enough to send her into fits of crying or rage at any given moment and she couldn’t knowingly bring a baby into that kind of environment. And she couldn’t knowingly raise Jayne’s hopes of being father, only to dash them when the time came to be a mother and she would be unable to go through with it. She couldn’t take care of another life, it was ridiculous to even consider the notion. It was absurd for her to think she could ever have something so normal as love or children.
She cried harder now and Kaylee moved forward to again embrace her, but with an upraised hand, River pushed the girl away. “Just go, Kaylee, please,” she begged, her voice broken.
Fighting back her own tears, Kaylee wanted to refuse the girl, wanted to tell her she wasn’t moving from this spot until she stopped being so stubborn and noble and made things right with both her brother and Jayne. But Kaylee couldn’t do it; just as Simon could never refuse a request from his mei mei, she had also become powerless to deny her in the past years that they had known each other.
Nodding silently, Kaylee stood, and leaning down, placed a light kiss against her forehead. “You let me know if’n you need anythin’, dong ma?”
River nodded once, reaching down to place a kiss on Daniel’s head. “Love you,” she murmured to her nephew, before Kaylee exited the room with him.
Once again alone, River cried until her whole body shook.
That night, as Kaylee lay wrapped in Simon’s embrace, still a little sweaty and spent from their lovemaking, she knew it was time to fix what had broken so soundly within their family. She knew it was devious of her to take advantage of Simon's weak state of mind after sexing him so good and tired, but she knew it would be the only way to get him to listen to her about this heated subject.
Looking up to him, Kaylee smiled at the bemused grin plastered on his face. He was so easy to read, and even easier to please she thought to herself. Inching up a little, she pressed a kiss to the corner of his mouth, getting his attention.
When he turned that goofy grin to her, Kaylee felt her knees weaken and tried to stay focused on her goal – nothing would be accomplished if they got all worked up for another round of lovin’, although it sure would be fun.
Running his hand along her back, Simon kissed her again and murmured, “You are beautiful.”
She smiled at him, and then, placing a light hand against his chest, propped herself up on one elbow. “Simon, we gotta talk ‘bout River and Jayne.” His eyelids, heavy with sleep and satisfaction snapped fully open in an instant, his mind alert and not at all in the nice, happily sated place it had been a moment before.
Turning a confused look to her that was tinged with a bit of annoyance, he asked, “What about my sister and that man-ape?”
Frowning at him, Kaylee hit him lightly. “Now, that kind o’ talk ain’t gonna solve nothin’.” When Simon simply returned her frown, she pushed ahead. “Do you know why River’s been so miserable?”
Simon turned a bit so he could face her better, and by the dumbfounded look on his face, Kaylee knew he didn’t have a clue. Was he really this much of a boob, she asked herself. Ai ya, the man could be infuriating. “She just needs some time, Kaylee,” he answered vaguely, obviously repeating the line he used to reassure himself that River was all right.
“You know, for a doctor, you don’t always know what’s hurtin’ folks,” she told him, allowing her voice to adopt an edge. His eyebrows shot up at her scolding and he furrowed his brow. Not giving him a chance to form a retort, Kaylee went on. “She’s hurtin’ from a broken heart, Simon. She’s hurtin’ ‘cause she thinks pushin’ Jayne away is the only way to keep him safe.”
Simon sighed heavily and rubbed a hand over his tired eyes. He had tried not to dwell on his sister’s complicated mess of a relationship with the mercenary. Truthfully, Simon had been relieved this week that River had refused to see Jayne, hoping that maybe whatever attraction she’d felt had finally run its course and he was out of her system. But as he’d watched her mentally and physically deteriorate, he had known that wasn’t the case. For a reason Simon did not fully understand, River was isolating herself on purpose, cutting herself off from everyone and everything that had once brought her joy. And nothing he’d done so far had made a bit of difference. He’d been unable to break through that cocoon she was so tightly weaving around herself, only adding to his feelings of failure when it came to her care.
Kaylee watched Simon struggle to contain his anger and helplessness. She knew it pained him to watch River like this, just as it always had. And she knew that as his sister continued to waste away, he would grow more and more despondent as well, and Kaylee couldn’t handle that. She didn’t want that for Simon or her or their son. So they all needed to figure out a way to fix this. Speaking softly and bracing herself for his reaction, she said, “I think maybe you should talk with Jayne.”
The incredulity in Simon’s look as he again brought his eyes to her, made Kaylee’s breath catch in her throat. He honestly thought she had lost her mind. “What,” he breathed, his voice barely above a whisper.
Rising to a sitting position, Kaylee pulled the sheet around her naked form and said, “Look, Simon, I know the thought of them two together makes your skin crawl, but this ain’t got nothin’ to do with how you feel. The fact is, your sister is in love with Jayne and I’m pretty sure he loves her back.” Reaching out, she rested a light hand on his cheek, and said, “And as much as I know you don’t wanna admit it, Jayne’s love for her might be a bit more powerful than yours right now.”
Simon would not accept that, he couldn’t. Rolling away from Kaylee, he pulled his arms under his pillow and tried to bury his growing frustration.
He stayed like that unmoving, unwilling to give her argument merit. Finally, he heard her sigh lightly and felt her shift beside him. “’Night, Simon,” she said softly, rolling away from him. It pained her to anger him, pained her to have to say things that she knew he would not agree with, but she didn’t know what else to do for any of them. It pained her to see River in so much agony as well, and Kaylee knew that unless they did something, pretty soon there would be nothing left of River to reach.
Still mad, Simon thought of all the reasons he could not go to Jayne, all the reasons he shouldn’t. Forget that he thought the man-ape was the worst thing that could have ever happened to his sister, if he went to Jayne and actually asked him to help River, actually admitted that he, Simon, her brother, the doctor had truly failed, he didn’t think he’d be able to live with that.
But, could he live watching River slowly slip away from him? He knew the answer to that question – of course not. He would do anything for her, and if Kaylee was right and that meant going to Jayne, then he would do it. But he would not like it and he had a sinking suspicion he would one day regret it. Rolling back over to his other side, he saw the back of Kaylee’s head and he knew she wasn’t asleep yet. Reaching out, he placed an arm around her waist and pulled her warm body up against his. He felt her exhale slowly and snuggle back into him, instantly feeling more content in his arms.
Pressing a kiss behind her ear, he whispered, “I hate this idea.”
She nodded once, and murmured, “I know, bao bei, but it ain’t for you. It’s for River, just ‘member that.”
He nodded once, and then buried his face in her hair, inhaling her sweet scent before finally finding enough peace of mind to drift off to sleep.
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