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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Simon gets told an old story, while Mal and crew take a stroll through the country. It sounds so lovely, so why is Zoe worried?
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 893 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
Chapter I: Makings of a Long Walk.
*Characters and world belong to Mr. Whedon, mistakes and folly my own.
“All right. Look. Simon,” Elias started, still eying the gun aimed squarely at his chest, “there’s a man called Acton, important guy in the area, and he’s headed down here in all righteous fury, thinking you’re involved in the abduction of his daughter-in-law.”
“That’s ridiculous. I’ve only been on world for five days. And been working—”
“Doesn’t matter. He knows she wasn’t kidnapped. He’s just using it as an excuse.” Elias blew out a breath, though Simon was concentrating too much on keeping the gun steady to judge whether it was in annoyance or weariness. And when he gestured to the bed with his head, keeping his arms up, and asking “Can I sit down?” Simon stayed still. “Look, this is gonna be a long story, and I’m a bit nervous with the firearm pointed at me, so if I’ve got a sing you the whole sad saga of this township, I’d rather do it sitting. If you don’t mind.” Simon considered; fear kicked in his stomach again as he recalled at how causally Elias had mentioned River and her medicines. How he had named key components of her smoothers. Last time he held a man at gunpoint—his thoughts stuttered to a stop at that phrase. That he was now living a life where such a thing was possible. That he had held a man at gun point. Done so more than once. Elias was still standing, hands up, his white lab coat open, with another medacad tee-shirt: “Second Season Rotation: Good Hands for Night Shifts” he thought it read. He had been in post-op, his second seasonal...
Simon nodded, lower the gun slightly and moved around the room so Elias could sit, and he could lean against the wall, face-to-face. Elias took in the still present weapon and Simon’s tense face. He kept telling without prompting.
“His daughter-in-law hopped off-world, on your ship, I have good reason to believe. Good wave actually, from one mean-looking beauty. Zo? Zoe? was it?” Simon did not respond. “Ok, fine.” Elias said under his breath. He went back to the story. “Acton’s mad as all hell that she’d leave, one; two, leave without permission, and three, take her son with him.”
“Why did she leave?”
“Ledah—that’s the girl, well, she’s been looking for a medical miracle almost as long as she’s had Daniel, her son.”
“Ok, here’s the whole story. But I promise you, Acton and several, and by several, I mean a dozen, armed guards are headed this way. They’ve got to get through some rocky parts of road, seeing how their coming from up along the hillsides, and they know too well what taking those turns quicksilver does, but, point is, they’ll get here. Fast. And when they do, you and the girl need to be not here. Preferably me, neither. So if I swear I’m not doing anything but trying to save your skin and mine, prob’ly from an unhealthy series of contusions and abrasions, perforations, even, will you move it into the clinic, pull the meds you need and find River! I’ll get both your stuff together.” Simon, desperate, tried to figure out what Mal would do, faced with the same situation, and was saved that seeming leap of imagination by River, appearing in the door.
“We’re ‘go’, right? Now?” she asked. Her bag was already packed; she had even figured out how to strap it around her back and waist. Thoroughly competent, he thought. She looked like she was ready to trek through the woods. Even her paisley printed pants looked more like something official, with her boots buckled over them. Like camouflage gear, he realized. Tucked into army boots, like everyone else on the ship.
“Simon? She was staring at the gun. “Simon?”
“Ah, yeah, River. We’re going. Right now. I just need to—” he fumbled with the weapon, tried to stick it in back of his pants, hoping his belt would keep it in place. “Elias is going to pack my things, why don’t you come with me, we’ve got to get some—”
“Nope, done. Look at that,” Elias dropped Simon’s shoes on top of the cleanly folded shirts, pressed everything down with one forearm, and zipped the case. “Here,” he said, swinging it up and over, knocking Simon in the stomach with it. “I’m just gonna get my toothbrush. You get whatever it is you need. We’re going out the backdoor.” Scorn edged his words, and he stalked off. Simon put the bag down, stayed bent over double. He felt like throwing up. His arms shook at the shoulders, and he had to struggle to take the deep breaths he wanted.
“Simon?” River asked.
“No, I’m fine,” he said, half coughing, half gagging. “We should just—I’m fine.” Cough. Cough. Shake. Stop it, he thought. We have to... what, exactly? Leave, he knew, but not why. Or, for that matter, where or how. He took a deep breath. Coughed. “It’s just, all at once.” River moved up to him, carefully. Scanning him, as she approached. She put her hand on his back tentatively, and he straightened, still coughing. “No, I’m fine. We have to, we have to get some supplies, like Elias—” He pulled on the dark sweater left on the bed. Unsure if it was for warmth or his own form of camouflage. How apt, he reflected, bitterness soaking through him. River plays soldier; I play thief.
“That’s what he seems to mean. I don’t know why, and I’d like to hear from—”
“No. Not safe.” She tugged at his sweater.
“What, River, wait—” She pulled the gun from his belt, held it up in one motion.
Stared at it. “River, we already...” She slit her eyes at him, brought the gun down. And clicked on the safety with her thumb.
“Not safe,” she repeated. And bending down from the waist, put the gun to the floor. Stood up, deliberately, and kicked it so it went spinning flat against the hardwood, straight under the bed.
“Let’s go, you guys,” Elias said from the door. River shifted her bag, rolled her eyes at Simon, and walked over to Elias Simon rocked, debating with himself.
“No touching,” River said, solemnly, as she passed Elias in the hall. She could have been speaking to him as much as to Simon, and both doctors looked at each other. Elias spluttered.
“I don’t know what she’s talking about, man. I didn’t—”
“It’s fine,” Simon said. Tiring of the work. “Let’s go.” He followed Elias out of the clinic, stopping only to pull some bottles from the cabinet. He tossed them to Elias, who dumped them into a small field kit with needles, gauze and sterilizers already neatly packed. River was drawing on the backs of empty in-patient forms. If Elias read the med labels, Simon neither noticed or cared.
“What about the patients?” Simon asked. He had been moving fast; there had been a good rhythm between the two as they put a medkit together, but now he stopped, and was unsure. And angry. At Elias, he decided.
“I waved Julie. Asked her to come in mashong and watch things. She’ll be here in under ten, I’m guessing—”
“Guessing? You can’t—”
“I already dosed them. There’s no one critical, thanks to you; they’re all basically on bed-rest. Or painkillers. And Julie will be here post-haste, I don’t know how much time’s gone by between when I sent her the wave—which I know she got—and now. And so while that ten minutes of no-doc time will mean nothing to them, it might mean a whole lot to you and the girl and me, if Acton gets here first.” Elias was shouting by the end, and Simon just herded River, who had been drawing on the back of a blank chart, out the door.
“We can’t leave some information? For my crew, when they get back?” He tried, as a last effort.
“Not unless you want Acton reading it. They’re going to trash this place, looking for information.
“Information on what? And how do you know—”
“They’ve done it before. Let’s go.”
“But your patients?” Elias had finished answering question, however. He handed Simon the red kit, and closed the door. Pulled it shut, making sure to hear the lock click. He took the sheet of paper out of River’s hand, jammed it on a nail sticking out of the door. The three headed for the northern woods, an intentionally childish drawing of a boat and fishing rod and whale tossing against the door and the wind.
“Shepherd?” Zoe’s voice had more of a question to it than usual. Book squinted into the cargo hold, as he approached Serenity. He could see no buyers, and the crates he had helped stack near the door had vanished, too. Which meant it had been a very good morning or a very bad one. “Captain with you?” she called out.
“No,” he said, now a question in his voice. “Been at the clinic, all morn. Looks good, basic, but clean. Got nothing to help, long-term, but can hopefully ease some of the boy’s coughing. Ledah’s there now, with Danny.”
“That’s good,” Zoe nodded.
“So the Captain?”
“No word.” She scanned the spaceport again, before following Book into the hold.
“Was there any trouble?”
“Smooth as blue sky sailing,” Wash answered, clattering down the stairs. “No word from the comm., honey.” Waiting a beat, he tried for lightness. “Could be Jayne’s gone and found himself some favorite bar. Buying everyone rounds.” Book tried to decide what was more unlikely, the Captain willfully ignoring his crew or Jayne freely buying others drinks. Zoe snapped together a plan.
“Preacher, you want come with me, check it out?”
“Be a pleasure.”
“Wash, you got coordinates on their shuttle?”
“I’ll bounce them to you.” And the three broke into actions uncomfortably familiar; running blind into uncounted troubles.
Mal was grim, marching along to the quick pace of Mariah’s armed guards. Kaylee was full wide-eyed staring at Jayne, but she did not seem to read anything from his frowns and under-breath muttering. Every now and then she looked at Mariah, watching them, calm and rifle ready. At least she lets us walk near enough to talk, Mal thought, but he could not be sure how long that would continue. Yet Jayne was making nothing of their chance planning time. Did not seem inclined to fill them in, either, having ignored several of Kaylee’s whispered questions about whos, whens and hows. Mal fell into step next to him, Kaylee just behind.
“Jayne. What the hell—”
“Murder? Ellie murdered? Can’t be. Must’a heard wrong.”
“Sounded to me like that’s what she were sayin’.”
“Heard it too, same as Kaylee, Jayne. You got a piece of explanation might fit this little nightmare of a march?”
“Don’t make no—why’d anyone want to kill Ellie? Never said a cross word to no one.”
“Thinkin’ I’d do such a thing? What’s got into—Mariah,” he called out, suddenly, loudly. He scanned the group, found the woman and kept shouting at her. Which seemed like a great plan, to Mal, if the end-goal was to get shot. Never a good thing, folks knowing Jayne, he thought. Bitterly.
“What the hell you thinking, accusing me of... Ellie’s the only one round here would ever smile at me.”
“Ain’t no one gonna smile at you now, that’s for damn sure.”
“You really believed I did something like that, you wouldn’t be escorting me to town, you’d be hanging me from the nearest tree.”
“Thought crossed my mind.”
“Jayne,” Mal hissed this time. Jayne ignored him.
“So? Why we still walkin’? Awful hot day for a country stroll.” Mariah stopped, pivoted to face Jayne. Kaylee instinctively stepped back behind Mal.
“There some folks in town deserve to see you brought to justice. You best pray that’s what they want, though. Reckon some’ll be thinking a hanging’s too good for you and your lot. Like to start boiling tar, once they hear you’re in town. Or looking for kerosene.” Kaylee started to take short jerky breaths.
“Cap’n. She don’t mean that, do she? We ain’t done nothin’ wrong, for once. Not a thing wrong...”
“Hush, Kaylee. You ain’t lying, and she’ll figure that out soon enough. Seems something’s all turned around here.”
“You think Zoe—”
“Don’t think about that. Don’t think and don’t say. You stick to the truth. The job, the goods, how we’re chun jie, ok? They ask you anything, you stick to that.”
“Sure. Right. I can do that, Cap’n.” She concentrated on breathing normally for a moment. “Cap’n? I’m glad Simon ain’t here with us, right now.” Her voice was low and serious. He let go of trying to talk sense out of Jayne, and concentrated on Kaylee, for a moment.
“Yeah, mei-mei, he’s much better off ‘nocculating all the critters down in Westfield, getting paid with shortcakes and strawberries.”
“Tsk, Cap’t. Simon wouldn’t do that.”
“Would do what?”
“Take money. From those people. He’s just helping them out.”
“I didn’t say money, I said foodstuffs. The sweet kinds. And I surely hope he’s taking ‘em. Seeing there the reason he asked to stay behind.”
“Least-wise, that’s what he told me, when he asked, saying he was hoping he might pull together something like party fare, seeing how your birthday’s coming up and all.”
“No.” Kaylee’s disbelief was wholehearted. The color coming over her face dispelled the guilt Mal felt, wrecking Simon’s surprise. “Why’d he do that?” she pressed, delight edging out wonder in her voice.
“Well, lord knows, I don’t get the boy. Might have something to do with the cake you made him. Think he mentioned something about ‘up to part where he and everyone left in the ‘verse he cared for almost died’ his last birthday’d been the best he’d ever had.”
“That’s... really Cap’n?”
“Suppose he could’a lied to me...”
“Simon don’t lie.”
“Well then.” Kaylee walked on in silence. Mal scanned the hill they were walking down. Jayne was still out of it; he needed some other trick to pull the merc out of his puzzled slump.
“You think... Simon knows how much I like ice-cream?”
“Think there’s a good chance he’ll guess.”
Mal’s chance to pull his crew together ended at that. They had stopped at the gate of what looked like a well-built jail. One of the better ones Mal had seen this side of the Core. Maybe the best.
“Nice set of walls,” Mal said, looking over at the silent, staring Jayne.
“Quite a change, ain’t it Cobb? Your cut and run got us something out of the ‘liance, that much’s true. It’s a wonder what a girl’s blood will buy. ‘Specially when she’s daughter to the sheriff, sister to the mayor’s wife.” Mal cursed under his breath as they pushed him, alone, into a dark heavy-walled cell. The door shut, and the outside hallway’s noise became a muffled rumble. He didn’t have a chance to say anything else to Kaylee. “Ai ya, Kaylee,” he said in his head. Lady sheriff would start with Kaylee, if she were smart, he thought, and the lady ain’t misstepped yet. Could be Kaylee’d convince her they weren’t here to cause trouble. Girl couldn’t lie her way outta anything; and he told her to stick with the truth. Possible she could keep quiet about the others. And truth was on their side for once. That is, if Jayne’s history didn’t have them hangin’ before a word could be spoke. A long-ago learned understanding dulled his hope for an easy get-away. Truth is a poor recompense when blood has been split, he knew too well.
Mariah saw the three locked up and paperwork done. Rosealee had not returned from her scouting, so Mariah left, asking for retina scans and any files they could pull about these three on her desk in an hour. Two guards anytime near Cobb, and the other man too, for good measure. And no talking to any of them, until she returned.
She slipped through the gates, set her horse trotting past the town. She stopped first at the temple, still as Jayne would remember it, dirt floor and open to the air. She set two sticks of incense burning, and then walked across the street, opened the low gate that led into the church’s cemetery, knelt down between two stones. She pulled a stray weed that was creeping up and around the lighter stone, resting her hand gently on the marble. “Hello Ellie. Always did have things clinging to ya, now, didn’t’ach. Made everything just want to stretch up and grow.” She stopped, turned to the gray headstone next to it. She set her fingers over the letters, tears falling as she brushed them.
“Oh Pa. Why ain’t you here? Why ain’t you here for this?”
chun ji: pure, clean and honest.
mei-mei: little sister
ai ya: oh damn
Sunday, September 17, 2006 7:14 AM
Tuesday, September 19, 2006 4:52 PM
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