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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - DRAMA
Continuation of the love story that is River and Jayne, with some tragedy and comedy thrown in.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1285 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
Chapter 3: Detour
Disclaimer: Joss is the king, and it’s good to be the king. And everything in the kingdom is his. Feel free to R/R. Thanks to Liu, Jorja, and others in the FFF.net chat who took time out to listen to my ideas regarding this and offer their criticism and suggestions/inspiration. As a warning, this is a filler chapter that I got stuck on, so my apologies in advance if it falls short of the previous two chapters.
“I wanna go home; cause when a lover aches, that’s when a lover breaks. I wanna go home.”- Smashing Pumpkins, Spaceboy
It was less a dream to River, and more like an actual experience. While out in the black, the entire crew had the benefit of some downtime. For River that meant sleeping in Jayne’s arms when the boredom got to be so overwhelming that no activity after lovemaking could possibly motivate them to get out of bed. Or stretching and spotting Jayne while he lifted weights, or memorizing Simon’s encyclopedia while flying Serenity. Or drawing and reading while flying the ship, or any number of things. It just so happens that on this particular afternoon, River was tangled in the sheets upon Jayne’s bed. Jayne kissed River’s forehead while she slept curled up over his chest. Her palm rested under her cheek, directly over the scar upon his chest where she had cut him on a day that seemed lifetimes away.
She was dreaming of something troubling, he could tell. He saw her brow furrow with some untold frustration, her lower lip stretch into a frown. His arms wrapped themselves about her bare waist, moved by some unknown drive to be tender toward her. He clung to her tightly, protectively. Inside her head were thoughts that had traveled thousands of miles just to be inside her. Jayne’s eyes shifted between River and the hatch opening to his bunk. River smelled smoke and burning and blood; all in her head. Jayne’s thoughts matched his alternating views; love that woman, lock that hatch. River whimpered in her sleep; she was feeling glass, rocks, flying and falling and hitting. Her brow lined with some inner turmoil; she heard screams. She recognized those voices. It had been so long since she had heard them. Jayne buried his head against hers and hoped that she wasn’t having a nightmare.
Meanwhile, the rest of the crew was gathering on the bridge.
“We haven’t been to the core in a spell, sir,” Zoë noted to Mal. “You sure it’s safe to bring our ship through space that is teeming with Alliance?”
“First of all…our ship?” Mal arched an eyebrow.
“Sorry, sir,” she corrected herself. “Are you sure, though?”
“You know I flirt with danger, Zoë,” Mal sat down and leaned against the chair, folding his hands behind his head.
“Or anything that moves,” Inara had been passing by and simply could not resist a chance to take the captain down a notch. The truth was, Mal had been reckless in some areas of late, and Inara was only too sure he was trying to prove to the whole ‘verse that he was still alive.
“Well, no need to get jealous, Inara, you can be next,” Mal picked his head up and smirked before turning a bewildered eye to Kaylee and Simon, who had both found their way to the bridge. He decidedly ignored Inara’s eyes as they flashed with anger. “Was there a party? A raging hootenanny that I was not aware was taking place on my bridge?”
“Nothin’ and nobody needed fixin’ that we could do whiles we were out here at this point, captain, we decided to come say hello. Didn’t know ‘Nara was here, too,” Kaylee smiled.
In Jayne’s bunk, River awoke with a start, the back of her head pushing up against Jayne’s chin as she started flailing her arms and babbling, knocking the blankets aside.
“Whoa, bao bei, calm down, just a…” Jayne looked at River as she turned her head to him, her eyes wide with fear and distress.
“Ashes to ashes,” River muttered. “Just…fall…down…”
Jayne’s calm was getting damaged, which was not something he liked. When River had been burdened with the voices and visions of Miranda and other things, he had at least been able to become annoyed with her. But back then he had seen her as a liability, as trouble. Now his love for her allowed him to act compassionately and he looked at her face, as the fear went spreading across her mind. He knew, something must be wrong.
“River? River, girl, look at me,” Jayne calmed her enough to hold her attention. “What is it?”
Jayne gritted his teeth as River looked up at him, despair painted across her eyes and mouth. He tried to be the strong manly type when she was distressed.
“There’s been an accident,” River said, her tone on the word ‘accident’ indicating that it was not that at all.
“And we heard all these voices,” Simon supplemented.
“And here I thought your dear sister was unique,” Mal lamented. Simon opened his mouth to argue and then there was a jumble of almost everybody talking at once. Zoë and Inara were trying to convince Mal that the Core was still dangerous even though the Tams were no longer wanted, and Kaylee was trying to calm Simon down. The conversation reached a crescendo, the air busy with tense conversation and forced apologies. Then everything went silent when Kaylee pointed to the cortex screen, which they had turned on almost constantly after they had left Miranda. Without the threat of hired hands using subliminal messages to lure River into violent spasms, they had found that being informed of what was going on across the ‘verse helped them to decide which course of action was the best to pursue.
Not that Mal ever really listened to the puppet theatre.
“Oh my God, what happened?” The faces on the bridge followed Kaylee’s extended finger to the screen and saw what looked like a war zone. Smoke, and rubble filled the screen. A reporter with a tight-set expression spoke, as images of blood-covered, shell-shocked people screaming and crying went up interlaced with footage of buildings imploding and collapsing. Mal’s eyes darkened as he saw a shot of a small child, no older than perhaps six or seven, bleeding from the head and crying. He turned up the volume.
“…appears to be the work of persons or groups that are opposed to the government, a phenomenon that has become increasingly visible since the incident regarding Miranda six months ago. Many more anti-Alliance groups have appeared to expose the most shocking atrocities of the government. Most notably, the recent coordinated efforts of several groups to disband private schools run by the Alliance after it was found that many students had been physically and psychologically assaulted in a covert training program designed to act as a private army of sorts-“
“Well I could have told them that,” Simon muttered.
“What’s goin’ on?” Jayne demanded of the rest of the crew as he carried River, whom he had thankfully thought to dress, onto the bridge. She was clearly still very upset and the closer he got her to the cortex screen the more agitated she seemed to become. The voice on the screen was now a middle-aged man who had taken over commentary.
“…once again, anti-Alliance extremist groups in the capital city of Osiris, bombing and destroying many of the buildings in the downtown financial and government districts. As names of the victims pour in, we will post them for the benefit of our viewers, so that they may comprehend the enormity of this tragic event.”
Simon reached to take River’s hand, his jaw dropping open in the most stunned manner it could. River slipped down from Jayne’s arms, which reassigned themselves to her waist, and she leaned forward, muttering to herself.
“Sir, there’s no way we’re going to the core now,” Zoë whispered to Mal, as he shook his head in affirmation. Osiris was too close to Greenleaf to risk that there wouldn’t be another attack. Even though Greenleaf was, at best, a border planet, it was still necessary to travel past Osiris to get there. This was what Zoë feared so much; sporadically they heard about a bombing here, a death threat against a major parliament representative there. The biggest fear was that they would be caught in the middle of it. Zoë had been career military before finding her way to Serenity with Malcolm; but she had no desire to bring the rest of the crew into a relentless civil war. If the Alliance didn’t learn to compromise this time around, that’s what it would be. And this time it would reach the core.
“Too hot, we could melt,” River muttered. “Oh, what a world.”
Simon pulled forward to the Cortex screen and saw the names listed. No order whatsoever to them, either. Just names the authorities could pull when they went to identify bodies. Thousands of names scrolled by on the screen. Simon covered his mouth with his hands as Kaylee’s eyes filled with tears. He was looking for two names in particular; Kaylee was just looking at the lack of empty space as name after name appeared.
“There’s so many names,” Kaylee exhaled, helplessly. Inara clutched at her shoulder in a comforting way and watched on in horror and disbelief at the number of people. Then it just settled in. Yes, this was the capital city on Osiris, one of the most densely populated Core planets. It would be close to thirty thousand dead, she estimated.
Simon felt a sudden, hard tug on his arm. River leapt forward and her hand landed, fingers splayed out on the Cortex screen. She sunk to the floor with a shriek; a string of Mandarin curses fell out of her mouth as the despairing look she had revealed to Jayne reappeared. Jayne saw a flash of what she was screaming over and gritted his teeth. He took two steps, reaching her side before Simon, who covered her one side while Jayne took the other. It must have been quite a sight to see the former enemies come together to protect the woman they both loved.
Mal felt his stomach tighten as he remembered that this was where the Tam siblings had come from. Then the names had started rolling, and River had thrown herself at the CorVue at the sight of her mother and father’s names. He couldn’t take his pilot in hysterics, and turned off the feed. For a few moments, as River sobbed for her dead parents, and the crew bent around her and Simon to comfort them both, Mal was speechless. He couldn’t find the words to say. He looked to Zoë, and then to Inara, with a pleading expression in his eyes.
“Come along, mei mei,” Inara delicately whispered to River. “I’ll make you some tea.”
River looked up at the companion, tears flooding her eyes, and weakly nodded. Simon and Kaylee stood on either side and followed Inara off the bridge as she led River slowly to her shuttle, which she had brought all of her things back onto after Miranda. Which left Jayne, Zoë and Mal to ponder the possibilities, the very future of their course of action.
“I dunno why…but I’ve got a sudden urge to see my ma,” Jayne muttered.
“Three Hills is only half a day away,” Zoë looked to Mal, understanding that Jayne would want to get River to a place that surrounded her with love. “We have a few contacts planetside that could translate to decent money.”
Mal nodded and bent over the navigation console, adjusting the flight path and sat back down, sighing heavily. The whole ‘verse seemed determined to fall in on itself. He bit his lip and silently cursed the go se that pushed him and his ship around on a daily basis.
Jayne and Zoë retreated from the bridge to join the others, leaving Mal to stare out into the black, trying to figure how he had managed to avoid going bibbledy on this ship. He focused on the point in the distance where Three Hills would eventually come into view and squinted.
Mal landed the ship with the help of River who was composed but obviously still quite upset at the death of her parents.
“River,” Mal began cautiously. “I’m honestly very sorry about your parents. What happened was awful…”
“Can’t be qualified personally,” River excused. “More strangers to me than anything else. Can’t mourn for people you hardly know, who would hardly mourn for you.”
Mal nodded sternly at River’s reasoning. How the girl managed to understand the hard truth of the matter without getting angry was beyond him. What parent just stops caring for a child? He shrugged and figured it must have been the way children were raised in the Core- pawns for prestige, no other answer would quite do.
In the cargo hold, Jayne was tugging at the string-bearing flaps of the knitted hat his mother had sent him all those months ago. He had written home about River last month. He figured his mother would understand; he never wrote home about anyone or anything too amazing. She would see that someone had finally meant that much to him and she would be happy.
Three Hills is a mostly flat planet, with the exception of the eroded mounds of rock and earth that anyone who had never left their home world would call mountains. For the most part the surface of the planet is covered with large dense evergreen forests bordered on all sides by grasslands that, away from the farms and mines of the civilized parts of the planet, grow to be almost as tall as Jayne. Nothing, however, is much taller than perhaps a hundred or so feet into the air. The oceans, of course, are not much deeper. The most common sights outside of the deep musky pinewoods of Three Hills are the prairies that feature the aforementioned abnormally tall grasses, with outcroppings of meadow burdened with wild poppies and other flowers, as well as squat bushes with berries or flowers that smell almost unbearable in the summer heat. Every so often a tendril-like offshoot of a river fifty miles away will snake along the border of the grasses.
They had landed on a corner of this grassy floor not more than half a mile from Jayne’s childhood homestead. Jayne inhaled deeply at the air when the bay doors opened up and set forward in his path toward the large farmhouse, River trailing in his wake. Kaylee smiled happily and followed River, grabbing a few wildflowers along the way and stuffing a choice few into Simon’s hands.
“We simply can’t arrive empty handed, it would be rude,” Kaylee rushed excitedly. Simon smiled softly at his girlfriend’s insistence upon acting appropriately with such strangers when only a little less than a year ago she had chastised him for being so uptight and proper.
Mal and Zoë rode shotgun in the mule while Inara sat in the back and they cruised comfortably behind the others discussing possible business ventures between the three of them. That is, until a gunshot rang out several yards ahead of them, coming from the direction of the farmhouse.
“Damn you, Mattie Cobb, put that rifle away!” a woman’s bloodcurdling motherly yell echoed to the crew of Serenity and perhaps the next three farms.
A few feet away from where Jayne had been standing (where he had since taken cover), Mattie Cobb popped up in all her sprightly glory. Eyes gleaming, she winked in Jayne’s general direction and then turned toward the house.
“But ma! I just caught some no-good ruffian coming round to eat all your food and make a mess of your house!” Mattie waved the rifle in the air. “Is this the thanks I get for defending my hearth and home?!”
“Kid, you better put that gorram gun away before I take it and sell it back to the people I stole it from,” Jayne muttered as he pulled his kid sister into a hug. “Besides, haven’t you heard what happened to that one ugly kid who shot his eye out?”
“That’s just a big old story, ain’t never happened anywhere in the ‘verse that you’ve ever been,” Mattie rolled her eyes and lowered her gun. At this point the good lady of the house was getting curious as to what her daughter had shot at and came out onto the porch. Well, you can guess what happened next. Lucy Cobb started crying and fussing and ran over to her oldest son as if he had risen from the dead.
“Oh, did you get taller? I swear you got taller. Are you eatin’ anything at all? My God, you’re just skin and bones…is this River? Good God, child, you’re gorgeous. Give me a hug, no, a real hug, you are family,” Mrs. Cobb shook her son and twirled River around. “…My baby, my oldest baby, come home at last to visit.”
Jayne sighed and nodded. Yes, it felt good to be home. Looking at River, he admitted that this was the first time everything he truly dearly cared about was all in the same place. He tightly wrapped his hand in hers as they beamed into each other’s faces.
“Well get in the house. Y’all better get washed up, the whole town is having a gorram party tonight now that Jayne Cobb’s home,” Lucy said, waving at Mal and Zoë who were disembarking from the mule. As Mal lent a hand to Inara to help her down from the mule, Lucy Cobb’s eyebrow arched. “That man has some very tight pants…”
“Aw, ma! I hafta work with Mal. Don’t go talkin’ ‘bout his gorram rear like that, it makes me sick,” Jayne turned a shade of yellowish green at his mother’s statement.
“If that’s a sickness, I reckon I want it real bad…” Mattie was only half-joking as she leaned back with a lusty expression and gazed at the captain’s behind.
“Matilda Leigh Cobb!” Lucy yelled.
“Get in the house!” Jayne hollered at the same time.
Next: More shooting. More adventure! More River and Jayne! And- we find out why Jayne sends money home.
Saturday, September 23, 2006 8:09 AM
Saturday, September 23, 2006 9:22 AM
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