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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Takes place after the events of the series and before the BDM, and a few months after "Nothin' In The 'Verse Part I".
The return of a former passenger to Serenity causes conflict among the crew - and creates a problem for Mal that he is unprepared to deal with.-------CHAPTER 30: Book comes to the rescue, Alex tells a story, and the definition of "family" is explored.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1110 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
Disclaimers: Everything belongs to Joss, except for one character of my creation.
**Mousing over the Chinese should reveal the English translations on most browsers. If not, translations follow the story.
“Haven’t you ever heard of hormones?” Shepherd Book asked.
Mal frowned at him across the table. “Huh?”
“I can make a whore moan,” Jayne offered from his seat in the lounge.
“Shut up,” said Zoë and Kaylee, automatically and in unison.
Book went on. “When a woman is pregnant, her hormone levels swing dramatically, and sometimes make her do and say things she never would otherwise.”
“You mean like...crazy things?” Mal asked.
Wash grinned. “Like, crazier than what women usually do and say?”
Zoë narrowed her eyes at him. “Careful...” .
“Like...mean things?” Mal persisted, his morose expression giving way fleetingly to a more hopeful one.
Mal studied Book. “Y’know, for a man who’s never married or had children, you seem to know a lot about this.”
Book shrugged. “I’ve counseled my share of expectant mothers, Captain.”
Mal absently stirred his lukewarm coffee with a finger.
“So...what do I do? About these...hormones?”
“You need to go back in there and talk to her.”
“Okay...” Mal nodded slowly and thoughtfully. “So, I need to—uh—what?” He looked up sharply.
“Go back in and talk to her.”
Mal shook his head. “No. I can’t do that right now.”
“You have to, Captain.”
“No. No. I don’t.” Mal continued to shake his head vehemently. “You weren’t there. I ain’t havin’ a repeat of that anytime soon!”
“You go in there!”
“I plan to,” Book said.
“Well, good luck,” Mal snorted. He thought a moment. “’Course, you’ll be okay, ‘cause you’re not the one she’s...” he let his words trail off.
“She’s been through a lot,” Book said. “She’s well within her rights to be a little crazy, hormones notwithstanding.”
“She don’t need to take it out on me!”
“I heard your exchange, Captain,” Book said gently. “I think maybe she felt a little cornered.”
Mal frowned. “You heard us talking?”
Book nodded and the others swapped uncomfortable looks.
“I closed the door behind me. What, were you all standin’ outside with your ears against it?” He looked accusingly around the table. No one said a word. After a beat he answered himself.
“Of course you were. That’s what I’m payin’ you all for, to listen in on my personal business!”
“Sorry Cap’n.” Kaylee gave him the most contrite expression she could muster.
Mal addressed Book again. “She was lyin’ to me. What am I s’posed to do, step around that like it ain’t there?”
“Ask her what happened. Get her story.”
“She says she don’t remember.”
“She remembers some. And maybe talking about it will help her remember the rest.”
Mal looked unconvinced.
“Don’t confront her, Captain. Don’t accuse her. Just listen. Then you’ll know her thoughts. Don’t put her on the defensive.”
Mal hesitated and Book stood.
Come on,” he urged. “I’ll stay nearby, step in if you need me to.”
He started toward the infirmary, and Mal reluctantly rose to follow. He turned back as he reached the top of the steps.
“Everyone but me and the preacher—up here. I will shoot the feet out from under anyone who comes down those stairs!” He shot a steely warning look around the room and then descended.
Alex saw him through the infirmary window and struggled to sit up. He hesitated only a moment before entering. They regarded each other silently as Mal moved to sit, leaving the door open behind him. Book waited in the common area.
“Mal—I’m sorry,” Alex said quietly. She lowered her eyes.
“Why’re we fightin’, Alex?” Mal asked, pulling his chair close to the bed. “Why’re we yellin’ at each other?”
She looked up at him. “Because we’re scared.”
She dropped her gaze again and began twisting a corner of the blanket with a bandaged hand. “At least I am.”
He nodded and stared down at his own feet.
“I didn’t mean to make you feel...” He struggled to find the right words. “...I dunno...defensive...but—I knew, and—and you wouldn’t tell me the truth...I guess I got a little crazy.”
“Mal, I’m so sorry, I—“
“You said you didn’t want to burden me, Alex. I appreciate that, and I’m trying to understand it, but—“
“I don’t know if you can understand it.” She sighed deeply. “Mal, I went to work at that ri shao gou shi bing to try to help my family. I thought if I could make some good money I could help my mama, ‘cause things are gettin’ really hard for her, and my brother needs all this care...instead, well—here I am, coming home like this—“ She looked down at herself. “I’m more broke than ever, I’m in need of medical care my own self, and to top it all off, I’m pregnant. I’m bringing them three times the burden they had before I stepped in and tried to ‘help’.” She looked up at him, her color high and her eyes moist. “I mucked things up so badly...I didn’t tell you because I couldn’t bear the thought of involving even one more person in my mess.”
She hung her head forlornly as a tear slipped down her cheek.
“I have no idea what I’m gonna do,” she whispered. “Simon says he doesn’t know if my leg will ever work right again. What am I gonna do with a baby and a gimp leg? I can’t expect my mama to take care of me. I’m supposed to be taking care of her.” She wiped her eye on the sleeve of her hospital gown and let out a thin, mirthless laugh.
“And here’s the best part—I was told a long time ago I could never have children.” Mal looked at her quizzically, and she laughed again. “I didn’t realize that was something I could outgrow!” She shook her head ruefully. “ How w’rin bu lai, whai w’rin bu jwo... ”
“Don’t you go blamin’ yourself!” Mal said sharply. “The stuff what happened to you ain’t your fault!”
He saw her tense at his tone, and he quickly lowered his voice.
“You ain’t to blame for a prison riot,” he said quietly. “You did everything you could to get out of there in one piece.”
“I shouldn’t’a gone there in the first place.”
“You said it, you were tryin’ to help your family.” He gave her a smile. “Do you remember the first time we talked?”
She paused to think.
“I know it was in the lounge. In the middle of the night when neither of us could sleep.” She smiled a little at the recollection.
“You were tellin’ me about going to the prison,” he said, “how you were doin’ it for your mama and your brother.”
“Do you remember what I said?”
She thought a moment and shrugged. “Not the specifics.”
“I told you I admired you for doin’ it—even though I thought you were a little nuts. Do you remember when I told you nothin’ in the ‘verse could keep me from takin’ care of my family?”
She nodded. “Yeah. I remember.”
He reached for her hand and covered it with his. “I meant that,” he said. When she looked at him doubtfully he fixed her with a somber gaze.
“I meant it, Alex.”
She smiled sadly.
“Mal, I know what you meant...it wasn’t me and mine you were talking about.”
“What I meant is, my family.” He spoke slowly and deliberately. “Whatever, whoever that includes...that’s what I meant.”
“This...wasn’t even a factor when you said that.”
He gripped her bandaged hand so tightly she winced.
“My family, Alex.”
She was silent for a while.
“Mal,” she finally said, “I appreciate you wanting to—“
He interrupted her.
“It ain’t about you appreciatin’ anything!” he said. “It’s about me takin’ care of what’s mine.” Realizing he had raised his voice again, he dropped it a notch and said simply, “It’s just something I gotta do.”
“Mal, you got enough to take care of already.”
“Meaning...look around.” She swept her hand wide. “Your ship. Your crew. This is your home and family.”
He said nothing.
“So, what are your thoughts?” she asked.
He shrugged, a little sheepishly.
“I don’t know,” he admitted. “This is where it gets fuzzy. I...this is somethin’ completely new for me. I got no solid ideas yet.”
She snorted softly. “That makes two of us.”
They sat in silence after that, neither knowing where to go next. After a few long moments, Shepherd Book rapped softly and poked his head in.
“I hope I’m not interrupting.”
“No, Preacher, please...come in,” Mal said, grateful for the distraction.
Alex brightened when she saw Book. It was clear she liked and felt comfortable with him. He entered and stood at the foot of the table.
“How are you doing today?” he asked her, taking in her tear-streaked face.
“I’m gettin’ through it, Shepherd.” She managed a small, watery smile. “The captain and I were just talking some stuff out.”
“Can I be of any help?”
“Thank you, Shepherd; just keep us in your prayers, if you’d be so kind.” Alex’s hand went to her belly as she spoke, but she glanced up at Mal. “Even him.”
Mal made a face, but said nothing. Book pulled up a chair and sat beside him.
“So,” he said to Alex, “have you remembered any more about what happened to you?”
Alex shook her head. “No. I can remember bits and pieces about the riot, then...nothing ‘til I woke up here.”
“Can you tell us what you do remember?” he urged.
“I don’t know...I can try.”
“I think it may help you remember if you talk about what you do know. Start before the riot. Tell us about the prison up to that point. In fact, Alex, if it’s not too personal—start with how you found out about your pregnancy.”
“Well...okay,” she said, twisting the corner of the blanket again. “Um...well, I’d been at the prison about a month, I guess, when I first started noticing I felt...different. The first thing I noticed was...smells. This was a place where, let’s just say, personal hygiene wasn’t always the best. And it had never been a problem for me. I’ve been a nurse for years...not much gets to me any more. But, all of a sudden, I was noticing how everything smelled, and it was all making me feel sick. It got so even the smell of food could send me running for the nearest bathroom.
“I thought I’d picked up a virus—I was around sick prisoners every day. I was tired all the time, too, so I had one of the doctors look at me. He couldn’t find anything wrong.
“On the more personal side, I missed my monthly; but I didn’t think much about it. I figured it was stress, and from being sick with whatever mystery ailment I had. The thought of pregnancy never crossed my mind. When I was married, we tried to have a baby and couldn’t—we had tests run on us, and they said I was the one with the problem. They said I’d never get pregnant.”
She smiled ruefully and twisted the blanket harder.
“So, another month went by, and I was feeling worse instead of better. I either felt like I was starving, and couldn’t get enough to eat, or I was so sick I could hardly get out of bed. It got so I could barely make it through the work day without puking a bunch of times and being so tired I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I actually fell asleep on the job once.
“When I missed my second period, I knew something was really wrong. I’m a nurse; I know the signs. But I kept telling myself there was no way. And I didn’t have any way to check. This was a men’s prison; they didn’t just have pregnancy tests lying around. I couldn’t even order one with the supplies, because it would arouse suspicion.
“The thing is, in a place like that, you can’t show any sign of weakness. There’s a pack mentality there. Showing a weakness like being constantly sick—or being pregnant—could put you in real danger. It’s like being with...animals.
“So I hid it as best I could, hoping I really did just have a virus and it would run its course—but by the time I missed my third period I knew. Every instinct told me what was going on, against all odds. Even if I’d taken a test then it would’ve been a formality. I knew I had to get out of there.
“The only way off was a supply ship, and they only came once a month. So I made my plans. I set up the ride, and put in my notice to quit. Then the riot happened.”
Alex abruptly stopped speaking, looking pale and sweaty. She glanced around, then hastily pointed to the countertop near the observation window.
“The pan,” she said thickly, gesturing.
Mal and Book looked confused.
“Get me the pan!”
She pointed at a bedpan on the counter, then put a hand over her mouth and retched.
“Oh!” Mal exclaimed, as he and Book rose at the same time and nearly collided. Mal grabbed the pan and handed it to Alex, who put it under her face. Both men turned away politely as she vomited. When it was over, she looked up sheepishly.
“Sorry,” she said in a shaky voice. “But this is what I mean—it just happens, at the worst possible times.” She made an effort to hide the pan with the blanket, but Book stepped up and took it from her.
“Thank you, Shepherd,” she called after him as he exited the room. “And again...I’m sorry.”
“No need to apologize,” Mal assured her. He handed her a wet cloth, and she wiped her sweaty face.
“It happens most when I get stressed,” she said.
Mal took his seat again. “We can stop if this is too much.”
She shook her head. “I’m fine. Shepherd’s right; I think it helps to talk about it.” She looked up at him, her eyes watery and her cheeks red from the effort of vomiting, and gave him a tentative smile. He squeezed her hand.
Book reentered the room carrying a cup of cold water and handed it to her before taking his seat again. She took it and drank from it gratefully.
“So, what do you remember about the day you got out?” Book prompted her after she’d taken a short break.
“Not as much as I’d like.” She rested her head back on the pillow and pulled the blanket up under her chin. “We had a—a bunker, underground, that we were told to go into. All the staff had a code for it. And mine didn’t work. I couldn’t get in. I remember just standing outside, not knowing what to do next. That’s when I realized I had to ‘wave you.” She glanced up at Mal regretfully, and pulled the blanket tighter.
“I tried to use my portable, but it was dead. The only other terminal I could get to was in the infirmary. I managed to get there without being killed, but the power went out just as I was sending the ‘wave.”
“That explains why it cut off on our end.”
“That’s it,” she said. “That’s where it ends for me. I remember little snippets after that, mostly that I was outdoors somewhere, and I was really, really cold...” She shook her head. “Then—I was here.” She shrugged her shoulders and looked up at Mal and Book. “I woke up on the floor in here...like this.” She looked down at herself and studied her bandaged hands, turning them and examining them from all angles. “It’s maddening.”
Book nodded thoughtfully and Mal said nothing. After a moment of silence, Book asked, “So what can we do for you Alex? What do you need from us now?”
Alex focused on him and avoided meeting Mal’s eyes.
“I just need to get home.”
Book glanced at Mal, who remained silent.
“We can do that,” he said. He stood up and gave her shoulder a reassuring squeeze. “We’ll let you rest now.”
Mal rose from his seat as Book left, but lingered after Book was gone.
“We’ll do it your way, Alex,” he said softly to her. “Whatever you need. But I ain’t gonna disappear. Just know that.” He walked to the doorway, then turned back and gave her a small smile. “My family...you can’t get rid of me that easy.”
Alex smiled back in relief, looking as though a load had been lifted from her.
“I won’t even try. But, Mal,” she called after him as he started away.
He poked his head back in. She had grown serious again.
“Remember...the family you have here already? They need to come first.”
He nodded, his smile gone too.
ri shao gou shi bing = pile of sun-baked dog poo
How w’rin bu lai, whai w’rin bu jwo... = Things never go smooth (‘good luck
don’t come, bad luck don’t leave’)
Go to Chapter 31.
Back to Chapter 29.
Sunday, October 22, 2006 11:17 AM
Sunday, October 22, 2006 1:03 PM
Sunday, October 22, 2006 1:41 PM
Monday, October 23, 2006 3:20 AM
Monday, October 23, 2006 6:24 AM
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