BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

JANE0904

Programming
Thursday, October 19, 2006

Next in the Mal/Freya series, after EBB & FLOW. Freya has some very bad dreams ... Please leave feedback to tell me whether you like this or not, as I most appreciate it!


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1216    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

Freya started down the stairs to the cargo bay when she heard her name being called.

“Freya?”

She looked up. “Hey, ‘Nara. You need something?”

“I can’t fix … could you come and help?”

“Sure.” Freya smiled and went back up the metal steps and along to shuttle one. She followed the Companion inside, somewhat surprised to see River sitting on the bed. “So, what do you need fixing?” she asked.

“You,” Inara said.

“What?” Freya was as surprised as she could be. “Me?”

“Mal asked me to speak to you.”

Freya shook her head forcefully, wagging her finger. “No, no. We are not having this conversation.” She turned to leave, and found River had moved silently between her and the door. “River, get out of my way.”

“Need to talk,” the young psychic said. “To tell.”

“River, I don’t want to hurt you,” Freya said, moving forward until there was barely an inch between them.

“You need to tell,” the girl insisted, her dark eyes seeming to reach deep into Freya’s psyche.

“Oh, qingwa cao de liumang,” Freya said angrily.

“Mal wants to know why you’re avoiding him,” Inara said to her back. “What he’s done.”

Freya turned. “Nothing!” she insisted. “He’s not done anything. It’s just … I've not been sleeping well, probably the after effects of that bug, and I thought a few nights in the guest quarters would do me good.”

“Lying,” River said, sitting back on the bed and drawing her bare feet up under her.

“Is that why she’s here?” Freya said sharply, glaring at the young girl.

“Freya, please,” Inara said. “Why don’t you sit down?”

Freya exhaled heavily through her nose, but sat on the sofa.

“Dreams,” River whispered.

Inara spoke quietly. “Is that it?”

Nee ta ma duh tyen-shia suo-yp duh num doh gai si,” Freya breathed.

“I take it she’s right?”

“Yes.” Freya sat back. “I've been dreaming. Every night.”

“We all dream, Frey.”

“Not like this. They’re so … real.”

“So … what are they about?”

“Sex,” River put in.

“Damn it, River!” Freya said, turning on the girl. “Will you –“

“Is she right?” Inara asked.

Freya paused a moment, then nodded. “Yes. But …”

“Not Mal,” River said. “Jayne.”

“Jayne?” Inara couldn’t help the look of astonishment crossing her face.

“‘Nara, I don’t want Jayne,” Freya insisted. “I'm in love with Mal, and I don’t want anyone else. But these dreams are so real. And it’s making me feel … wrong inside.”

“Are they always the same?” Inara was gentle, not pressing, but she knew with her training she might be able to help.

“No. Well, yes, they start the same. Jayne and me are coming back from a job on the mule – the old one.”

“Does that still work?” Inara put in, surprised.

“Yes, yes it does. Anyway, we get back to Serenity only there’s no-one here. She’s empty, a ghost ship. Only I'm not expecting anyone to be here. Then Jayne closes the cargo bay doors, and … it changes each time from this point.”

“Chains,” River said.

“Yes,” Freya agreed. “That was the first time. Next morning I couldn’t even look at Jayne’s workout bench.”

“Fettered. Open. Spread.” River picked at a thread on the counterpane. She seemed to be enjoying speaking in one word sentences today.

“You know, it can be hell being in the same room as a psychic who won’t shut up,” Freya threatened, but River just smiled at her.

“But why not tell Mal?” Inara asked.

“Mal woke me the first night, thought I was having a nightmare. Then the second, and third … how could I say I was dreaming that Jayne was … doing things to me? Humiliating me?”

“Do you initiate them? In the dreams?”

“I …” Freya thought for a moment. “No. No, he does. I'm not … I want him to, but I don’t start it. He doesn’t force himself onto me, if that’s what you’re thinking, I'm really enjoying what’s happening, at least while I'm asleep." She blushed a little, something Inara wasn't expecting. And I … there’s release.”

“You come?”

“Yes.” Freya shook her head. “Inara, how can I tell Mal that? It would hurt him.”

“They’re not real, Frey.”

“It doesn’t matter. That I would even consider Jayne in that way, even in my dreams …”

“Do you want to? With Jayne?” Inara asked, then had to suppress a smile at the look on Freya’s face.

“No rutting way!” Freya said. “He’s … well, not in a million years.”

“Jayne is my friend,” River said unexpectedly.

“Yeah, well, he’s my friend too. But I wouldn’t want him to …” Freya stopped as a wave of something flooded through her, making her hot and cold at the same time.

“Are you all right?” Inara asked, concerned by the sudden paleness of her friend’s face.

“I'm so tired, ‘Nara,” Freya admitted, not wanting to explain the overwhelming sexual urge that had just flashed through her. “Even using some of Simon’s hypos doesn’t help.”

“Then let me help you.”

“How? You can’t make the dreams go away.”

“Perhaps I can. I just wish I could see them.”

“I can,” River said.

“But that doesn’t help.”

“Then I will describe them.”

Inara paused to think, then looked back at Freya. “Do you see these dreams all the time?”

Freya nodded. “Every time I sleep. I can’t even nap. Even knocking myself out doesn’t help – they’re still there, waiting for me. I still dream.”

“Really?” Inara glanced at River.

“But I can’t tell …” Freya felt something at her neck, then realised the girl was standing next to her, and there was the hiss of a hypo. “Oh, River, how could you?” she asked, looking up at her. “What … what have … you …” Her eyes blurred and she slid forward, and would have fallen to the floor if River hadn’t caught her and eased her back onto the sofa.

“Is she asleep?” Inara asked.

River checked Freya’s pupils. “Yes.”

“How long will she be out?”

River considered. “I used enough to … at least eight hours. She’ll be rested, at least.”

“Do you think so?” Inara asked, watching Freya’s face. “I doubt that. Look.”

Already there was eye movement beneath her lids, and Freya was starting to twitch. “She’s dreaming already,” River said, surprised. “I would have thought –“

“What’s she dreaming about?” Inara interrupted.

“Jayne. Serenity. Empty. He’s closing the doors … Oh, Inara …” The girl turned an appalled face to the Companion.

“Can you help her? Tell her it’s not real?”

“I … I don’t know.” River went pale, then curled up on the bed, pulling a pillow towards her to grasp tightly. “It’s so strong … I can feel …” She began to pant.

Wu duh muh,” Inara said, hurrying to the girl. “Don’t, River. Break it. Break the connection.”

River was sweating, her dress already soaked around the waist and all the way up her back. “I don’t think …”

Inara slapped her, and she blinked. “River!”

The young psychic looked up, dazed but at least herself again. “I … oh, Inara. We have to wake her up.” Inara nodded and ran for the comlink.

She was spread out across one of the crates in the cargo bay, face down, and as he entered her she could feel the hair on his chest pressed into her back. She made a mewing sound as he began to stroke her, clutching at the metal slats beneath her, lifting her buttocks to his thrusts …

“It’s not real,” a voice said, so close that she looked up, expecting to see someone. To see River – but the bay was empty. Apart from …

“It’s not real,” Freya repeated, suddenly feeling the weight of the man behind her pressing her down.

“Of course it is,” Jayne said, breathing in her ear, his voice breaking as he moved inside her. “Just give in to it, darlin’.”

“It’s not real!” she shouted, trying to throw him off, using her hands to lever herself up. But he was too heavy, holding her down, not letting her move.

“Elena,” Jayne moaned.

“I’m not Elena!” She still fought. “And you’re not Jayne! He’d never do this.” She tried to kick him.

“No?”

“You did what?” Mal asked, so intensely angry that his voice was quiet.

“We thought we could help,” Inara said. “Whatever’s happening, Freya shouldn’t be having these dreams.”

“What did you use?” Simon asked, checking Freya’s vitals.

“Hydraxine. Ten cc’s,” River said, sitting cross-legged on the counter.

“It’s mild enough. Just to put her to sleep.” He turned to his case.

Mal watched at Simon injected a clear liquid into Freya’s neck, watching her closely. “What’s that?” he asked.

“It’ll counteract the Hydraxine,” Simon said, feeling her pulse. He shook his head.

“She’s still dreaming,” River said. “Still there. Here.” She looked confused. “I can just see …” Her eyes unfocussed, and she concentrated on only picking up the images, not the feelings. “She …” She shook her head, staring at Mal.

“I should throw you both out into space,” Mal said. “You didn’t know what you were doing, and now …” He shook his head, feeling the cold rage burning inside him. “Why ain't she waking up, doctor?”

“I don’t know,” Simon admitted. “She should be, but …” He looked at his sister. “Was that all you gave her?”

“All, Simon, I swear. But it’s the programming,” River added unexpectedly.

“Programming?”

Mal glared at her. “What the hell are you talking about, girl?”

“I can see the code. Just there.” She reached out a hand as if to touch something right in front of her. “It’s keeping her asleep. I didn’t see it before … too close.”

“Programming?” Simon glanced down at Freya, still trembling, the occasional shudder going through her frame. Her eyes were moving wildly under the lids. “Who by?”

“Alliance,” she whispered.

Tzao gao,” Mal said. “Wake her up, doc. We don’t know what we’re dealing with here.”

“Exactly,” Simon agreed. “And if I don’t know, I could do more harm than good.”

“She gonna wake up by herself?” Jayne asked from the doorway, and was surprised at the look that River flashed him – pure hatred. He took a step backward.

“Maybe,” Simon said. “I don’t know. I need to run some tests.”

“You do that, doc,” Mal said. “It don’t look like anyone’s going anywhere.”

“No! Get off me!” She pushed, and suddenly the weight was gone. She rolled onto her back, feeling blankets beneath her, the surroundings now her bunk, hers and Mal’s. She looked up. “And you’re not Eric Lon either.” The man who had hurt her, who had taken her back into the darkness, smiled at her. “Are you sure?”

“He’s dead.”

Lon shrugged. “Perhaps. But don’t you want to know what he did while you were with him? What he put into your mind once he’d burned those tattoos off your back? What he programmed you to be?”

She stood up, stepping towards him, her hands up, ready to take him down, but somehow he got his foot behind hers and she fell, hitting her head on the edge of the bunk. She stayed down, dazed. “It’s not real,” she murmured. “Not real,” she repeated as the scene shimmered and changed. Now she was lying face down on a slatted bench, and Eric Lon was standing above her.

“Elena, Elena.” Lon shook his head. “How can you say that?”

“Not Elena. I’m not Elena. Not real.”

“So this isn’t real either?” he asked.

It burned. Oh, it burned. All down her spine. She screamed, bucking against the restraints. “Not real!” she shouted, her teeth grinding together.

The pain died, replaced by the weight of someone on her back again. Pressure on her, in her, Jayne’s voice.

“Then pleasure, darlin’,” he said in her ear.

She shivered as passion flared in her, then more. “Not real!” she screamed.

The weight changed, the feel of hairless skin on her back, and the voice. “How can you tell, Freya?” Simon asked.

“This is a trick,” Freya said, fighting to get loose. Tears on her cheeks. “You’re not Simon.”

“No?” He thrust deeply into her and Freya fell to her knees, her hands going out to steady herself, grasping sand. She looked up.

“I can’t …” River said, hugging herself. “It keeps changing.”

Mal stared at the young girl then looked back at Freya.

“We didn’t know, Mal,” Inara insisted.

“That ain’t gonna help her,” Mal said shortly. He was holding his anger in check, but he was rapidly reaching the end of his short tether. “Doc?” he asked. “Your tests show anything?”

Simon shook his head, his face worried. “There’s no sign of any drugs. It has to be conditioning of some form.”

“From the Academy?” Mal asked sharply.

“Lon.” River’s voice rang out. “It’s him. He’s hurting her.”

“Lon’s dead,” Mal said. “I killed him myself.” His mind flashed to the memory of his bullet taking the man between the eyes, then he concentrated on the here and now.

“He’s there,” the young psychic insisted, pointing at Freya’s head. “In there.”

“Doc?” Mal asked.

“It’s possible.” Simon leaned back against the counter. “We don’t know what he did, beyond the acid. He could have … it’s possible.”

“And something triggered it?”

“A word. Or a particular phrase. Even a smell. No way of knowing.”

“Can you break it?”

“I don’t know, Mal,” he admitted. “Not until Freya wakes up.”

“Will she?”

“It depends on the depth of the conditioning, how deep it goes. I … I don’t know, Mal,” Simon said, most perturbed.

“Do you know where you are?” Lon asked.

“Serenity Valley,” Freya whispered, looking out at the expanse of bodies stretched out before her.

“It’s been a long time, Freya. Not many left alive anymore.” Lon went down on his haunches next to her. “Can you smell the decay?”

It hit her, a stench that made her gag. “I'm not here,” she insisted. “This is not real!”

“Of course not.” He touched her on the arm, then pointed. “So that isn’t real either.”

Freya looked. “No.” Despite her knowing this was illusion, she felt her heart contract.

Mal was sitting against a rock, his face grey and strained, his cheeks sunken. His browncoat was dusty, stained, and his sergeant’s braids hung broken.

She scuttled across the dirt, kneeling next to him. “Mal?”

His eyes flickered, and he looked at her, trying to focus. “Frey?”

She touched his face, feeling the rough stubble on his cheeks. “This isn’t real. Oh, Mal. You’re not here. You’re not here.”

“Hurts, Frey.” Mal pulled his coat open and she could see his shirt was bloody, wet red streaks in the grime. She moaned, pressing her hands against the wounds, trying to stem the flow, feeling the greasy liquid filling her palms.

“It’s not real, Mal. You’re not here. You’re home. Back home. Safe on … safe on…” She shook her head, trying to clear it, to remember, to hold onto something true.

“Home where, Elena?” Lon asked.

“Frey …” Mal shuddered, his blue eyes fixed on hers. Then nothing. No movement. Nothing.

“Mal?” She shook him. “Mal!”

“Are you so sure this isn’t real?” Lon asked, next to her ear, as she screamed.

“Cap?” Kaylee said, coming to stand next to him.

He turned from the doorway. “Hey, Kaylee. How’re you feeling?”

“Shiny.”

He managed a smile. “And how’s the little one?”

Kaylee patted her belly. “Growing well. Simon’s taking good care of me.” She glanced into the infirmary. “What about Freya?”

“Simon’s taking care of her too.”

“Is it true?” she asked. “What River’s been saying?”

“What’s she told you?” Mal asked gently.

“That’s she’s been programmed somehow?”

“Looks like it.”

“Then we can break it, can’t we? I mean, no programming is totally unbreakable, even Serenity’s.” She hugged herself. “She’ll be okay, won’t she?”

“Sure she will,” Mal said, with a reassurance he didn’t feel.

“Maybe …” Kaylee paused.

“What, mei-mei?”

“Wouldn’t an Alliance hospital be able to help? I mean, when Simon took River to that place on Ariel, used that gizmo to look into her brain –”

“I ain't taking her anywhere near the Alliance, Kaylee,” Mal said firmly. “Might be just what Lon expected us to do.”

“And she might be programmed to kill us all,” Kaylee pointed out, her chin coming up stubbornly. “Wouldn’t be hard, knowing what she does.” She looked into his face, now lined with worry. “Alliance … it might be best.”

Mal stared at her, then nodded slowly. “I know, little Kaylee. I just … it ain't …” He took a deep breath. “I’ll get Hank to check where the nearest cruiser is. Just so’s we know.”

Kaylee patted him on his arm. “That’s good.”

“You gonna treat your kid like this?” Mal asked.

“Prob’ly,” Kaylee agreed. “Seems to work with the rest of you.”

“This is still my boat, you know.”

“Wouldn’t have it any other way, captain,” Kaylee said, seriously.

Mal smiled at her and stepped into the infirmary to the comlink. He thumbed the button. “Hank?”

“Yep, Mal?”

“Get down to the infirmary. Need to discuss something.”

“On my way.”

Freya’s eyes snapped open. In a second she was up off the medbed, pushing Simon back so hard he fell against the counter, knocking his head.

Mal, turning from the comlink, tried to stop her, but she strong-armed him, following it with a punch to his jaw that laid him out across the table. She didn’t wait to see what damage she’d caused him, just strode out of the infirmary.

River, in the cargo bay, was more prepared, but this wasn't a Freya who was holding back. She ducked a kick aimed by the young psychic at disabling her, and launched one of her own, catching River on the side of the head, turning her around to stagger against one of the cages, trying to stop the black fog from closing in.

Hank was even less fortunate. Calling out to her, he came down the last few steps from the bridge with his hand out, pleading with her to stop, and she took hold of his wrist, twisting it sharply. The crack of broken bone whipped through the cargo bay, joined by his cry of pain as he fell to the floor, cradling his hand in shock.

“Hank!” Inara shouted, standing on the gangwalk. Freya ran up the stairs towards her and she got out of the way. This wasn't Freya, not the one she knew.

Freya stepped past her, not seeing her, and hurried to the bridge, immediately pressing buttons.

Mal and Simon were close behind, the latter clutching a pad to a bleeding head wound.

“Dammit, no!” Mal shouted, grabbing her from behind. “Doc! She’s trying to open the airlock!”

Freya struggled in his embrace, thrusting with her feet against the main console and pushing backwards, slamming Mal against the wall. His vision was filled with bright lights and his hold wavered, and she was back at the controls. Simon tried to grab her arm but she backfisted him in the face, breaking his nose and sending streams of blood down his chin.

“What’s going on?” Jayne asked, heading up the steps.

“Stop her!” Mal ordered, trying to stand up, and the big man went to take her by the arms, but she kicked back, catching him in the groin, making him double over in pain.

Mal had managed to get to his feet and was coming in again, when River stepped past him and slammed her elbow into Freya’s throat, causing the other woman to step back. She turned, about to do more damage, then tried to breathe.

“Infirmary,” River said as Freya pawed at her throat, her face congesting.

Simon nodded, ignoring his own pain and taking hold of Freya’s arms, half-lifting her. Jayne, his eyes still watering, took her legs. Together they carried her off the bridge.

As much as Mal wanted to follow, to make sure she was okay, he had to deal with the bigger issue first. “How close did she get? To opening the airlock doors?” he asked.

River glanced at the controls. “Just one more button,” she said, unconsciously rubbing her elbow.

“A mite drastic there, little albatross,” Mal said, disapproval in his tone.

“The only thing that would work,” River said smiling. “Simon will stop her choking. Restrain her.” She nodded. “I’ll make sure everything‘s fine, captain. You can go see to her.”

He nodded, then said, “Was she going to kill us?”

“Yes,” River said simply.

“The programming?”

“She would never do it otherwise.” The young girl looked at Mal, noting the worry lines around his mouth and at the corners of his eyes. “This isn’t her, Mal,” she added. “It was Lon.”

“I know, little albatross.” Mal headed off the bridge. “I know.”

Fifteen minutes later and River was back in the infirmary, having assured herself thirty-seven times that Freya hadn’t left any little surprises. She wasn’t surprised to see Mal standing there, watching Simon work on Hank’s wrist. The pilot was wincing, despite the painkillers.

“Simon?” she asked. “Are you all right?”

He nodded. “I'm fine, mei-mei.” His voice was thick as he had plugged his nostrils with cotton. “I’ll deal with it soon.”

“And Freya?” She looked down at the other woman, now lying still, her eyes closed.

Her brother nodded. “She’s going to be bruised for a while, and I’m not sure she’s going to be too happy with you, but physically she’ll be fine.”

“What about me?” Hank asked as Simon finished wrapping his wrist. “Am I gonna be able to play the piano when this heals?”

Simon looked at him. “Were you able to before?”

“Well, no, but I just thought …”

“Go back to your bunk, Hank,” Mal put in. “River here can fly for a while. Rest up.”

“Won’t say no,” Hank said. “Take good care of her, won’t you?” It wasn't clear whether he meant Serenity or Freya, until he glanced at the woman on the medbed.

“Always,” Simon said quietly.

Mal waited until his pilot had walked out of the infirmary, flexing his fingers gingerly. “What about mentally, doc?” he asked. “What would make Freya do that?”

“Jayne,” River said, getting up onto the counter, sitting cross-legged in her usual position.

“Jayne?” Mal stiffened, glancing back at the door.

“Only not Jayne. Lon.” River shook her head. “It’s confusing. Lon and not Lon. Because he’s dead. And Jayne’s alive but it isn’t him.”

“River, can you put this into captain dummy talk?” Mal asked, taking a deep breath.

“It looked like Jayne, but it wasn't. Doing things to her. Making her …” River looked up, realising what she was saying. “Pain and pleasure, Captain. Classic methods of brainwashing.” She looked almost appreciative. “Eric Lon knew what he was doing.”

“Doing what?” Mal asked. “Doing what to Freya?”

“Sex.” River shrugged sympathetically. “Taking Freya. Humiliating her. Then … Very skilful.”

Mal stared at the young girl. “You mean she’s been dreaming … why didn’t she tell me?”

“She thought it might hurt you.”

“Why Jayne?” Mal wanted to know. “Why him? Why not me?”

“Because that wouldn’t distress her, make her vulnerable to the conditioning.” Simon pointed to the brain scans he’d taken. “If she dreamed about you doing that to her, it wouldn’t … she’d just think they were unusual. I’m presuming you don’t humiliate her?”

Mal’s face was stony. “Take care, doctor.”

“A legitimate question,” River put in. “And he doesn’t, Simon.”

The young doctor nodded. “Then it had to be someone she’d never consider sleeping with.”

“But Lon didn’t know Jayne.”

“It wasn’t specific, Mal. I think the programming was just aimed at anyone like that. It could even have been me.” Simon glanced at his sister who nodded slowly. He coloured a little but went on, “She had to feel guilty for it to take effect.”

“And the sedative allowed it to come out fully?” Mal asked, having caught the implication but decided not to comment.

“She was fighting it. Waking from the dreams. But when she couldn’t …”

“I’m sorry, Mal,” River said quietly.

“It ain’t entirely your fault, little one,” Mal said. “Inara’s as much to blame, and so am I. I should’ve asked Freya directly, not gone to someone else to find out.” He looked down at Freya. “Is she gonna be okay?”

“It’s gone,” River said. “She’s just dreaming.” The girl smiled suddenly. “Of you.”

“There may be after effects,” Simon warned nonetheless. “Some post-traumatic stress. I’d hide her guns if I were you.”

“Doctor, that’s pretty much guaranteed to cause problems,” Mal pointed out.

“In which case I’ll make sure I have plenty of supplies on hand,” Simon said dryly. ---

“Hey.”

Freya looked up from where she was sitting at the table, absently stroking her lip. Jayne stood in the doorway, solid and real. “Hi.”

“You wanna be alone?” he asked. She shrugged and he stepped down into the dining area, coming to stand opposite her. He eyed the bowl of cereal in front of her. “You planning on eating that?”

She pushed it across the table and he sat down, spooning it into his mouth with evident enjoyment. He eyed her warily. “I did wonder if you were gonna shoot me,” he said, swallowing.

“Why?” Freya asked, surprised. “Your table manners ain’t that bad.”

“River’s been … she’d told us some.” He jerked his head over his shoulder. “And she wasn’t too circumspect on what she thinks I did. She won’t talk to me at all now.”

“Ah. Well. River has problems sometimes differentiating between dreams and reality.”

“Do you?”

“It’s … not easy,” she admitted. “Plus I’m kinda worried about what else might be in here.” She tapped her skull. “What other little surprises he might have left.”

“Do you think there are?” Jayne pushed the empty bowl away.

“I don’t know. I didn’t know this was there until … What if there’s more than just a command to go and open all the airlocks? Suppose I take it into my head to send Serenity into a nice solid moon?”

Jayne thought for a moment then leaned forward. “Tell you what. If’n it looks as if you’re gonna come over all homicidal, I’ll shoot ya. Okay?”

Freya laughed, despite herself. “Okay. And thanks.”

“Hey, what are friends for?” Jayne grinned and stood up, stretching. “Now, I’m gonna go get me some sleep. If that’s okay with you?”

Freya smiled. “Good idea.” She watched him leave, but couldn’t suppress the shudder that ran through her. After a couple of minutes she stood up, carefully pushing her chair under the table, and headed out of the dining area in the opposite direction.

“She’s going to the guest rooms,” Mal said from where he was standing in the corridor next to the bunks. “I thought …” He shook his head.

“Give her time, Mal,” Inara said. “She’s afraid.”

“Of what? That she’ll call Jayne’s name when I’m making love to her?” He stared at her.

“Perhaps just that. She doesn’t want to hurt you.”

“It was a dream, ‘Nara. Dreams ain't real. And you can’t be held responsible for what you do in dreams.”

“Why, what have you done in yours?” she asked.

“Never you mind. But I ain't gonna feel guilty about them.”

“It isn’t about guilt, Mal. She … what Lon did was a violation. He left something behind and it … it scares her.”

Mal nodded, stepping through into the dining area. “Mental rape, that’s what you mean.”

Inara followed. “Exactly that. And she’s afraid that when she goes to sleep it will still be there.”

“Will it?” Mal asked, sitting down at the table and grasping his hands tightly in front of him.

“I don’t know,” Inara admitted. “I don’t think so. River thinks it’s gone. But that doesn’t stop Freya being afraid.”

Mal took a deep breath. “Does she want Jayne?” he asked quietly.

“No!” Inara was shocked that he would even suggest it. “It wasn’t her choice, Mal. It was set up so it was someone she didn’t want … someone who she would react like that to. If it was you, do you think she’d have had such problems with it?”

“No,” he admitted warily.

“Then don’t say things like that. She loves you, Mal. And you’re the only man she wants.”

“Are we gonna get over this?” Mal asked, looking up into Inara’s face. “I want her back in my bed.”

Inara felt a stab of jealousy but pushed it away. “She will be. Give her a few days. Let her realise she won’t dream about it any more, and she’ll be back. Just give her time.”

“I just wish Lon were here right now,” Mal said darkly.

“We all do, Mal. There isn’t one on this boat that wouldn’t tear his heart out for what he did.” ---

Someone knocking on his bunk door roused Mal from a dreamless sleep. “Who…? What…?” He struggled to consciousness.

“Can I come down?” Freya asked, leaning into the ladder space.

“I do believe you sleep here,” Mal said, sitting up and pushing his hair flat – well, flatter.

Freya climbed down, her shirt hanging loose from her pants, her feet bare.

Mal put his legs over the edge of the bed, the bedclothes wrapped around his hips. “You okay?”

Freya looked at him. “No.” Her face screwed up in pain, and he was shocked to see tears running down her cheeks. He stood up immediately, the blanket falling to the ground, and crossed the room in one stride, holding her close. She melted against him.

“Shh, shh,” he said, rocking her gently.

“I’m sorry,” she moaned, crying against his naked chest. “I’m sorry.”

“What for?” he asked, holding her tightly.

“Everything.”

He smiled just a little. “Frey, honey, there’s nothing for you to be apologising for. It wasn’t your fault.”

“Please.”

He pushed her away just enough so he could see her face. “What?” He stroked the tears from her face.

“Please,” she just repeated, lifting her lips.

This time he let the smile show, and lowered his face to hers, kissing her gently. “Frey, I love you,” he murmured into her mouth. “I know you want me, and only me. You think I ain’t figured that out by now? You’ve been telling me for long enough.”

“Oh, Mal,” Freya groaned, pressing herself against his naked body, feeling it respond to her, and she let herself feel the need deep inside.

COMMENTS

Thursday, October 19, 2006 11:40 PM

AMDOBELL


This was brilliant! I just hope all that evil conditioning was forced out of her though I am wondering whether it could be removed that easily. I hope so because no one should have to go through something as terrible as that and as misguided as Inara and River's attempt was to help Freya it seems that by accidentally sparking off the chain of events that triggered her they may actually have helped get rid of Eric Lon's last evil influence. And was I the only one cheering with a smile on my face when Freya goes back to Mal? Very shiny, love these tales of Freya and Mal. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Friday, October 20, 2006 4:09 AM

TAMSIBLING


That was beautifully written - Eric Lon is a hun dan of the highest degree and I am thrilled that Mal ended him!

And I too, did a little dance of joy when Freya went back to Mal! I love them together!

Awesome, awesome, awesome ... more please!

Sunday, October 22, 2006 12:27 PM

BLUEEYEDBRIGADIER


Damn...this was a lucky break for the crew that River and Inara's well-meaning clusterf--k worked out in the end. Definitely was worried mightily as Freya was struggling through the dreams. Though I wanted to see what exactly finally allowed the trigger. Mal's "death" at Serenity Valley, perhaps?

Still...brilliant chapter once again, Jane0904!

BEB


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OTHER FANFICS BY AUTHOR

Secrets - Part XVII
“Bored now,” River said and span on her heel. Her body moved out of the way of the bullet even as she lifted her leg, her foot connecting solidly with Linc’s jaw. [Maya. Post-BDM. While Inara's illness is no longer a secret, Mal and his crew go out to find Molly.]

Secrets - Part XVI
“Then do it again.” Mal was aware he’d used his sergeant’s voice from the slightly wounded expression on his old friend’s face, and made himself take a step back. “It’s like you said, Monty – in the dark there’s no knowing where that girl’s got to. Like as not she took it into her mind to go visiting, got lost and mistook the time. She could be huddled up in someone’s barn right now, fast asleep.” [Maya. Post-BDM. Serenity heads back to Lazarus and Inara finds her sickness finally getting the better of her.]

Secrets - Part XV
Monty stroked his beard. “Maybe they’re afraid of us for when the war’s begun, of what we’d be capable of. Considering we held the Alliance nearly to a draw last time.” [Maya. Post-BDM. Mal and Monty talk, Serenity takes a trip, but there's trouble on the horizon.]


Secrets - Part XIV
Jayne looked almost abashed, his usual expression when anyone mentioned his home planet. “Even took some work on a fishing boat on Melbourne once.”
“That must’ve been hell. For a man who hates fish guts with a vengeance.”
“Didn’t help.”
[Maya. Post-BDM. Just a little fluff before getting back to the nitty gritty ...]


Secrets - Part XIII
"Perhaps you want to think on this. Lecomb sent a bounty hunter – several, in fact – to find some jewellery and kill a girl on the quiet, so nobody knows he lost them in the first place. Perhaps you should consider whether he might not employ someone else to kill you, just so you can’t tell anyone either.” [Maya. Post-BDM. Simon finishes the job, and Mal talks to Philo again.]

Secrets - Part XII
Her face looked back at her, make-up only a little smudged and appearing almost normal. Almost. Hard to see that she was dying. [Maya. Post-BDM. Everyone's waiting for Simon to work his magic, but Inara has secrets of her own.]

Secrets - Part XI
Freya gazed at him for a long moment, and he felt her stepping through his mind. It wasn’t to find anything, and he wasn’t even sure she knew she was doing it – it seemed more as if it was some kind of displacement activity while she thought. At last she said, “Corrupt it.” [Maya. Post-BDM. Simon explains what he's found, and Mal makes a plan.]



Secrets - Part X
He went to check the coffee pot, and decided that, while it might do for degreasing the welding that needed doing in the aft storage locker, as a beverage it left a lot to be desired, and poured it down the sink. “We might as well go sit with the rest, considering River couldn’t keep her mouth shut and everyone’s waiting for Simon to come up with something.”
[Maya. Post-BDM. Mal/Freya-centric chapter, and longer to make up for not posting in a while!]


Secrets - Part IX
“Everything a good forger needs to create some first rate IDs. Think he is? A good forger, I mean?” “Well, Monty has better contacts in the shady side of life than even me.” “No. Really?” Hank’s eyes were wide with feigned disbelief. [Maya. Post-BDM. Moving towards the nitty-gritty ...]

Secrets - Part VIII
Mal looked at the man, seeing years put on him that hadn’t been there that morning, the lines around his eyes and the sallowness of his complexion. “I can’t say I blame you, not for any of it. People do bad things when they’re in a corner, and although a Shepherd might say a sin of omission is still a sin, I’m not like to hold it against you.”
Maya. Post-BDM.



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