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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Maya. Post-BDM. One of the crew is dead, and the fall-out begins. Please read at least part XIII to find out who! Longish chapter, so read and enjoy.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1882 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
“Anything in the logs?” Mal asked, stepping onto the bridge of the Delko.
“Not that I can see.” Hank shook his head in frustration. “If there is anything it’s probably in that maniac’s personal logs, but that’s pretty much encrypted. Kaylee’s gonna have a look when she’s finished, but … Mal, maybe there ain't nothing to find.”
“Someone sent those wang ba dahns to take Inara, ‘n’ if we don’t find out who, they’re gonna try again.”
“Even after what River did?”
“Only difference’ll be that they blow us out of the sky instead of asking politely for her first.”
“Talking of that …” Hank tapped a console array. “This ship’s loaded. If she’d wanted she could’ve taken out the liner, no problem. Hell, she’s got enough guns to take on half the Alliance.”
“Another reason for us to find out who hired them.”
“Then perhaps Simon could take a look at the encryption?” Hank suggested. “I mean, he’s pretty smart … or River, maybe.”
“She’s not woken up yet.”
“Does the doc know why?”
“Shock. Maybe.” Mal shrugged. “Where River’s concerned … her brain don’t exactly run on the same frequency as the rest of us.” He breathed out heavily. “See what you can do. And chase Halliday, see if he has any information we can use.”
“Will do.” Hank bit his lip. “Mal, there’s something …”
“To do with this?” Mal asked, turning back.
“No, but –“
“Will it keep?”
He nodded. “Sure. Sure.”
“I’ll be on the Marrakech.”
Hank watched his captain leave the Delko before turning back to the console. Sometimes he was sincerely glad he was just the pilot, and seeing Mal walking with the weight of the ‘verse on his shoulders made it one of those times.
Kaylee couldn’t stop crying as she drained the fuel from the marauder. They’d burned almost all of theirs to get to the Marrakech, and Mal had told her to salvage what she could use. It felt like she was picking the flesh off the dead.
“Honey, don’t,” Simon said, coming up behind her and putting his arms around her.
She turned in his embrace and buried her face in his chest. “Why’d that have to happen?” she moaned, sobs wracking her body.
“I don’t know.”
“I mean, him and River … they should be together now, happy after … not …”
“I don’t know why these things happen.” He held her tightly.
“Is she … is she okay?” She moved her head enough so she could look into his face.
“She’s still out. It’s as if her brain has closed down.”
“And you ain’t with her?” Kaylee was shocked.
“Zoe’s sitting in the infirmary. And you needed me.”
“Oh, Simon.” Her sorrow overflowed and she wrapped her arms around him, never wanting to let go.
“The Alliance are coming,” Branscombe said, standing close to Mal as they looked out at the raiders’ ship from the bridge. “They’re on their way already. And there’s not a chance in hell of us being able to hush this up.”
“But you don’t know who we are,” Serenity’s captain said pointedly.
“I’ll try and keep you out of it. I think most of the passengers are more concerned with getting home than making statements, but she … you killed them all.”
“Captain, I doubt they were going to leave witnesses,” Mal said slowly. “From what I can gather, their ship carried some mighty high ordnance artillery. Not standard on a Delko. I think you were meant to hand over Inara, then they were going to blow you out of the sky. They probably only wanted proof they had her.”
Branscome nodded. “I wondered that myself. When they didn’t care if we saw their faces. They must have known they were being recorded.” He smiled a little. “Which, I can assure you, has strangely wiped itself.”
“Most of the witnesses aren’t even going to be able to remember. The mind has a way of blotting out what they saw, what she did …” He shuddered at old memories, then glanced at Mal. “How did she … she’s only a girl. How could she do that?”
“River is … complicated.”
Branscombe almost laughed. “I think that must be the understatement of a lifetime.”
“Things have happened to her, trauma …” Mal shook his head. “Things I ain't gonna go into with you, but … she probably saved your life.”
“Oh, I’m not doubting that for an instant,” Branscombe said emphatically, then sighed. “Although I suppose … I've seen things before that … it’s a big ‘verse.”
“That it is.” They were silent for a moment then, “You fought in the war?” Mal asked.
“I did,” Branscombe admitted. “An Alliance cruiser.” He nodded. “You?”
The older man smiled a little. “Somehow I’m not all that surprised.” There was a longer pause while both men remembered. “Where will you go now?”
Mal stuck his thumbs in his gunbelt. “Greenleaf still. Inara has business there, and … well, best to keep things normal. We’ll be gone, though, by the time you dock.”
“Is she going to be okay?”
Mal understood he wasn’t talking about the ex-companion. “I don’t know.”
“She’s strong. Walking into that room, knowing what might happen …”
“It doesn’t stop the pain, though.”
“No.” Branscombe looked at the tall man in front of him, and realised he knew a lot about pain. “It doesn’t, does it?” He put out his hand. “Thank you.”
Mal shook it. “Just try and keep us out of it.”
“Oh, I'm planning on being the big hero,” Branscombe smiled.
“Could always do with a few more of them.”
Serenity released her clamps and moved away from the Marrakech, Hank blank-faced as he cut the engines in.
In her shuttle, Inara sat on the sofa, staring at the bare walls, her hand aching from where she had hit Mal, and her heart doing pretty much the same for having taken it out on him.
Jayne stood outside the infirmary, watching River lying so still on the medbed, Simon and Zoe in attendance.
In the lower crew quarters, Freya gazed at her son, watching him sleep, before turning and hobbling into the cargo bay, ignoring the burning in her knee.
Mal looked into the engine room. “That stuff ain’t gonna blow us up, is it?”
Kaylee shook her head, managing to find a small smile from somewhere. “No, Cap’n. If anything, it’s better’n Serenity usually gets.”
“Kaylee, if I could afford to get the best –“
“Ain’t saying that. Just that she’s running a mite sweeter’n before.”
“Well, just keep her that way. I’d rather we got to Greenleaf in one piece.” He turned to go but her voice called him back.
“Cap? What’re we gonna do with … with Jethro?”
He sighed and looked round at her. “Not rightly sure, mei-mei. Figure I really gotta ask River, but since she ain't woken up yet …” He shrugged. “I wondered about taking him back to Bathgate.”
“No,” Kaylee said, sniffing back her tears. “He wasn’t happy there. And they’d probably not take him, knowing what …”
“Then his home.”
“This was his home. Leastways for the past few months. Not the place he was born.”
“I did think … maybe Prometheus,” Mal suggested diffidently. “After Greenleaf it’s but a short hop.”
“I think River’d like that.”
“Yeah.” The young mechanic rubbed her nose, leaving a grease stain behind. “And I think Freya’ll approve too.”
“You don’t think she might … with Alice ‘n’ all …”
Kaylee shook her head firmly. “No. Keep her company.”
“I wish –“
She put her hand on his. “We all feel like that.”
“Yeah. Guess you’re right.” He put his head back and stared into Serenity’s engine. “How do I get through this?” he asked, very quietly, almost to himself. “More death.”
“Weren't your fault, Cap’n.” Kaylee squeezed. “No-one’s fault. These things just happen.”
“You always look to the bright side, xiao mei-mei, but this time there ain't one.”
“And nothing a one of us says is gonna make that much difference, is it?”
He looked down at her. “Not a bit.”
“Then we carry on. Like we always do. Like we always have.” She rubbed his arm, then realised she’d left more grease on his shirt. “Oh, sorry,” she said, reaching for a rag, but only coming up with one even dirtier than her hands.
“Uh, no, thanks,” Mal said, a smile twitching his lips a little. “Not sure Freya’d approve of me coming home perfumed like a catalyzer.”
“They don’t have no odour,” Kaylee said, wiping her hands.
“You don’t know Frey’s sense of smell.”
She smiled at him, immensely grateful that he was trying his best to make her happier. “You’d best get back to being captain,” she said, shooing him out of the engine room. “I got things to see to.”
“’N’ I gotta go talk to Inara.”
Kaylee’s face fell. “She didn’t mean it.”
“Yes she did. And I don’t have the words to make it right.” He turned from her and headed towards the shuttle.
Mal climbed the steps towards the catwalk, each and every one of them paining him. Why was it so difficult to keep his crew safe? Apart from the odd bullet or knife wound – an occupational hazard in their line of work – he’d kept them alive for the best part of four years, since Wash and Book were taken. Only now another one was gone. And in the last eighteen months Kaylee’d nearly died in childbirth, Simon and River almost driven out of their minds, Hank shot, Inara poisoned, and Freya … he swallowed. Now Jethro.
As he reached the walkway he sighed. When he’d said to Frey that there’d be nothing left if he gave up the guilt, he hadn’t been joking. And now he’d topped up that guilt even more. Somehow, the thought occurred to him, the next few minutes probably weren't going to help.
He stopped outside the shuttle, and leaned on the wall for a moment. He seriously wished –
Voices. Inside. Raised voices. And they were both ones he knew all too well.
”I told him not to!” Inara glared at the woman in front of her.
“You made it seem like an adventure!” Freya was angry, trying to rein it in. “What the diyu else did you think he’d do? If you’d sat down, explained, even said you wanted to do this for yourself, you know you could have made him see sense eventually. But no, you run away in the middle of the night, leaving that stupid message, and you really expect any of us to believe you didn’t know he was going to follow?”
“It wasn't the night.”
“Don’t damn well split hairs with me!”
“You’re just jealous.”
“Of course I am!” Freya’s voice rang from the shuttle’s roof. “You tweak your perfectly manicured finger and he comes running! Every single gorram time!”
“Then why did you do it?”
Inara stood solid, her hands on her hips. “I – did – nothing!”
“You knew what he’d do!” Freya was trembling with rage. “So don’t you go blaming Mal for what’s happened!”
He wanted to stop this, to go in and shout at the pair of them, to stop being such yuh bun duh children, but he couldn’t find the strength to do anything more than listen.
“Blaming …” Inara scoffed. “And if I did I wasn't the only one. I don’t see you telling him what you were planning to do before racing off into the jaws of hell, leaving him behind, knowing what was likely to happen.” She wanted to bite back the words as soon as she’d said them, but she didn’t get the chance.
Freya’s face went white with shock. “Chur ni duh!”
“Really?” Inara crossed the small distance between them and took hold of that face, staring into a pair of astonished brown eyes before kissing her. Lips to lips. Then stood back.
“What the –”
“Isn’t that what you wanted?” Inara taunted. “Protesting too much about Mal, I thought perhaps you were jealous for another reason.”
“You …” She swallowed. “You think I … that I want you to …” Freya couldn’t finish the sentence, appalled.
Inara stared at her, horrified at what she’d just done, then collapsed back onto the sofa, her head in her hands, tears rolling down her cheeks. “I'm sorry,” she whispered. “I'm so sorry.”
There was a tentative knocking. ”Can I come in?” Mal said from the doorway.
“Mal, go away,” Freya said, feel the knot of rage in her chest beginning to unravel at the sight of Inara in such obvious pain.
He stepped over the threshold and took in the scene. “Ain't gonna do that,” he said quietly. “As captain I figure I got the right to be where I want. And since Inara here cancelled her contract with me, this shuttle’s back to being mine.”
“Mal …” Freya turned her eyes on him. “Please. This isn’t …” She stumbled to a halt.
“Isn’t about me?” He half-smiled. “Sounds like it is.”
“I'm sorry, Mal,” Inara said, lifting her head, tears shining on her cheeks. “I didn’t mean to … it’s all my fault.”
“How do’ya figure that?” he asked, wanting to sit down next to her, take her hands in his and dry the tears, but he stayed standing. “You didn’t kill him.”
“Freya’s right. I shouldn’t have run. I should have spoken to you, told you what I wanted to do.”
“Yes, you should,” he agreed. “And I’m kinda curious to know why you didn’t.”
Freya watched them both, her eyes darting between them.
“I need …” She hiccupped slightly. “I need to find out who I am, Mal.”
“You’re Inara.” Mal glanced at Freya, noting the tightness of her jaw.
“That’s not enough.” She wiped her cheeks on the back of her hands, unconsciously rubbing sooty streaks of black from her lashes into her skin.
“Be enough for most folks.”
“I used to define who I was by being a Companion. More than half my life has been spent in the Guild. And I chose to give it up. But I had no idea what it meant.”
“And what’s that?”
“Losing my identity.”
“How do you figure that?”
“Oh, Mal. Don’t try and pretend you don’t know. That day at Serenity Valley, you lost your identity, who you really were, and it’s taken you years to find it again.”
“Thought I’d lost my soul.”
“Maybe that too. But I thought, if I could find my son, by myself, using my money, my … my skills, maybe I could be someone again.” She wiped at a fresh tear. “Only I didn’t want anyone to die!”
Mal finally sat down, close but not touching. “Seems to me this all began with Atherton Wing. Or maybe it was the day he was born. Hell, why not take it further and say it was the day his father was born. Or maybe it was the day we crawled out of the water and breathed air for the first time back on Earth-that-was.” He realised Freya was nodding, and, encouraged, he went on. “Could go back further, to when the ‘verse came into being in that mighty explosion, but I think you get my drift.” He shook his head slightly. “‘Nara, Book used to try and tell me all things were connected. That what we do has consequences. Well, I think I’ve come to believe that more in the last few months. And the only person who can take the blame for this … is me. I'm captain. Buck kinda stops here.”
“No buts. I got me a boat load of people feeling guilty. ‘N’ Kaylee’s right – there’s not a word that anyone can say’s gonna change that. But I ain't having you two fighting, and sure as hell not over me.”
“We weren't –“
“I heard, ‘Nara.” He sighed, looking up at Freya. “And you … you weren't wrong when you said the green-eyed monster’d make an appearance every now and again.”
“Don’t go trying to deny it.”
“Mal, you laugh at me and I’ll shoot you where you sit,” Freya said, her voice hard and low.
“I wouldn’t. Ain't in that kind of mood. But you have to see I’d’a followed any of my crew if they’d done something as fong luh as this. Any of them.”
“I mean, if you two are gonna come to blows, at least let me get the others. I can sell tickets.”
Freya glared at him, then seemed to slump a little between the crutches. “I’m … sorry.”
“Yeah, well, there’s a lot of that going around.” He felt the tension evaporate, even as he was aware he’d probably only put this off a while. “I can’t be having with all this right now. Nor at any other time. Got a little girl in the infirmary who’s gonna be bad enough when she wakes up, without you two at each other’s throats.” He looked at Inara. “Look, why don’t you make us some of that tea you keep going on about? I could do with something calming.”
She nodded. “Yes, of course. Captain Branscombe had my things brought over, and I'm sure I can find the teapot somewhere.” She stood up.
“Good.” He leaned back. “Now, you gonna sit down before you fall down?” he said to Freya.
Inara, about to walk past the other woman, glanced into her face, and saw a light sheen of sweat across her features. She looked down. “Oh, Mal, I don’t think she can.” She pointed.
Mal stared. The right knee of Freya’s pants was dark, too dark for the surrounding fabric, and it glistened wetly. “Gou niang yang duh,” he breathed, off the sofa in a moment and putting his arms around her, taking her weight. “What the hell happened?”
Freya let him help her to sit down, her leg straight out in front of her. “I fell.”
“In the shuttle. Someone shot at us and … I slipped.”
“Were you gonna tell me you were hurt?” Mal asked angrily, tearing the hole in her pants legs wider so he could see the bloodstained emergency pad.
“Mal, I don’t have that many pairs left,” she complained.
“I will buy you another pair,” Mal said, gritting his teeth at the blood running down her leg. “Two pairs. Ten. Hell, I’ll buy you the whole damn store.” He shook his head in frustration. “Woman, you are …” Even with his extensive and inventive knowledge of Chinese cursing, he couldn’t come up with the right words.
“Shall I get Simon?” Inara asked.
“No. Best I get her down to the infirmary.” He lifted her up and swung her into his arms.
“Mal, I can walk,” Freya protested.
“I know,” he said, looking into her eyes as she put her hands behind his neck. “Just let me do this for you, dong mah?”
She gazed into his blue orbs then nodded. “But if you fall down the stairs and break both our necks, I will not be pleased.”
He smiled a little through his concern. “I’ll try not to.” He carried her out of the shuttle.
Inara followed, a short distance behind, watching him talking softly to her as he negotiated the metal staircase. If she were honest, there was pain in her heart, seeing them together like this, but she knew it was right. Even more, she knew, with all of that heart, that no-one would ever come between them, not until the day they were laid to rest in the same grave. And she knew this time she’d do it right.
to be continued
Thursday, March 22, 2007 12:34 AM
Thursday, March 22, 2007 6:23 AM
Thursday, March 22, 2007 1:29 PM
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