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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Mal takes tea with Inara's mother while River asks Simon to do the impossible. Simon/Kaylee, Mal/Inara, River/Rafe
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1354 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
A/N: Sorry for the delay - real life reared its ugly head again!
Please keep commenting ... the story is winding down!
Zoe surveyed the room before her with an impassable expression. She’d already steeled herself during the twenty minute ride to the holding cell for the scene she’d be witness to. She knew it would not be pleasant, it would probably smell and the sight would more violently turn her stomach than the idea. She’d been right on all counts.
Jayne tensed beside her, his hand automatically reaching at his waist to clutch his non-existent sidearm. He had one on him, but it was hidden beneath the suit jacket Simon and Inara had insisted he wear to keep up appearances. Pressing his lips into a thin white line, he caught Zoe’s gaze from the corner of his eye and gave her an almost imperceptible nod.
“You Zelda?” A man’s gruff voice intruded on their silent conversation and Zoe turned towards the speaker. His age was impossible to ascertain, his skin lined with a myriad of wrinkles that had more than likely been caused by smoke, sunlight and exposure to a variety of other harsh elements, including violence. He was balding, what was left of his brownish hair cut close to his head and his eyes were beady, barely more than slits, making it futile to try and guess at a color.
Nodding, Zoe told him, “Yeah. I’ve been sent by my boss, Mister Wu. You got some folks for me to look at?”
The other man hobbled towards them, favoring his right leg. Both Zoe and Jayne made note of the weakness – it might come in handy later. With a tip of his chin, he motioned to two other men, both armed, standing on opposite sides of the room. They disappeared through a door at the back, returning a few moments later with about thirty slaves. The prisoners were ushered into this small holding area all looking frightened. Children, ranging in age from five to twelve clung to nearby adults, only peeking out to look at the strangers from behind someone else.
The man, Ralphie – he’d introduced himself while the slaves had been fetched, motioned Zoe and Jayne forward. “Well, go on then,” he intoned impatiently, hiking himself onto a tall stool by the entrance.
Zoe and Jayne moved forward, Zoe heading to one end of the line and Jayne the other. She’d already scanned their faces and thought she recognized at least a half a dozen from the captures Kaylee had let them borrow. Acting as nonchalant as possible, she sauntered down the line, pausing occasionally to run her discerning gaze up and down a particular person. Finally, she stopped in front of a younger man, probably a few years older than Simon. Crossing her arms over her chest, Zoe demanded gruffly, “What’s yer name, boy?”
Straightening, a flash of defiance and pride went through the man’s green eyes as he answered, “Martin Frye.”
Knowing she’d correctly identified at least one person, Zoe asked, “An’ how old are ya?”
“Twenty-nine.” Martin, Marty if Zoe remembered correctly, fixed his shoulders, snapping to attention almost like a soldier. Fighting the wry smile that threatened to cross her face, she nodded once and jerked her head back to the opposite wall. “Go stand o’er there.”
“No.” The pitiful cry came from Marty’s right side and Zoe turned her steely gaze to the woman. She was older and if the Amazon woman was forced to guess, Kaylee’s mother.
“What was that?” Zoe questioned taking a step forward and staring the woman down menacingly.
Inserting himself between Zoe and his mother, Marty’s eyes burned with anger. “Get away from her.”
Moving with a speed she had honed over the years, Zoe’s hand was up and around Marty’s neck in seconds. Squeezing only hard enough to get his attention, she pushed him back into the nearest wall and held him there, meeting his gaze. The others shrunk away in fear, Marty’s mother’s eyes filling with more tears as she clasped a hand over her mouth to hold in her sobs.
Bringing her face to within inches of his, Zoe whispered only loud enough for the man to hear, “You got a sister?”
Eyes widening, Marty nodded, trying to swallow and finding it nearly impossible with Zoe’s hand still pressuring his windpipe. Loosening her grip just a touch, Zoe added, “Kaylee sent us. Play it cool, dong ma?”
Nodding again, Marty let out a heavy sigh of relief as Zoe released him. “I said, git over there,” she shouted, giving him a healthy shove towards the opposite wall. Looking back to Mrs. Frye, Zoe pursed her lips in annoyance and told her, “You might as well go with ‘im.”
More than relieved, Ellie Frye hurried to her oldest son’s side. Marty immediately wrapped his arms around her, the older and smaller woman shaking in his grasp. Zoe turned quickly from the scene to continue her perusal. On the other end of the line Jayne had already pulled out four people, and was interrogating a fifth. Zoe quickened her pace, wondering when exactly Chen, Harris and Ralphie’s good nature might run out. It seemed they were being awfully accommodating, especially in light of Simon’s outburst at the meeting a few days ago.
Stepping further down the line, Zoe spotted three more of the Fryes and sent them across the room to stand with Marty and Kaylee’s mother. Meeting Jayne in the middle, she leaned her head towards him and whispered, “I only got five.”
“I only got six.” Jayne gazed over her shoulder, his blue eyes taking in the frightened family members. “Din’t they say they’re supposed to be more like twenty?”
Nodding once, Zoe turned back to Ralphie and told him, “We need more options.”
Frowning, the limping man rose from his seat and moved towards them. “The hell you do.” Gesturing to the twenty or so people standing behind them, he added, “They’s all in fine workin’ condition. Plenty o’ folk for you to choose from.”
“My employer has very high standards,” she insisted, stepping closer. “As do I. We’ll need to see more.”
Muttering under his breath, Ralphie swept his beady-eyed gaze from Zoe to Jayne and back again. He was liking these two less and less as the minutes ticked by. But having no authority to end the transaction and guessing what Harris would do if he did, the lackey simply nodded begrudgingly. Glancing to the two guards, he ordered, “Bring in some more.”
“Hey lady, how long ya gonna keep us here?”
Hiding her surprise behind a carefully constructed mask, Zoe turned to regard Marty, the man who had called out to her. Striding across the room in three large steps, she punched him across the jaw, causing him to fall to his knees. As the others scattered away, she knelt beside him and fisted her hand in his hair, yanking his face to hers. “What the hell are you playin’ at?” she hissed, her voice again only loud enough for the two of them.
“My father,” he panted, rubbing his jaw. Pausing, he spit out a wad of blood-laced phlegm before finishing. “He din’t make it. I din’t want you lookin’ for ‘im.”
Closing her eyes briefly and saying a prayer for the man’s soul, and Kaylee’s, she nodded once, before jerking the boy back to his feet and shoving him roughly into the nearest wall. “Keep your mouth shut,” she warned, sparing a blazing glance to the rest of the Fryes before making her way to Jayne.
Another batch of prisoners had been brought in for them and without a word spoken between them, Zoe and Jayne went about the business of finding the rest of Kaylee’s missing family.
Mal shifted uncomfortably on the Serra’s doorstep. His memories of his last visit were not pleasant and he hated being here now, especially without Inara. Of course, Inara was also the reason he was here, so he supposed he could shoulder a little discomfort and condescension – for her sake.
A butler ushered him into the large foyer and he stood in silence, waiting. The servant had offered to take his coat, but like a kid’s security blanket, Mal had refused to give up the supple brown leather jacket. Thrusting his hands into the pockets, he was gazing at a particularly large art piece when Liliana Serra greeted him.
Turning, Mal returned her smile with a guarded one of his own. Taking the hand she offered him and shaking it gently, he nodded. “Yes, ma’am. But please, call me Mal. There ain’t no need for a lady like yourself to be so formal with a scoundrel like me.”
Her smile deepening at his easy-going and charming demeanor, Lili confessed, “Every time I see you it becomes more apparent to me why Inara is so in love.” As Mal blushed, she gestured behind her and said, “Please, come in and join me for a drink. And call me Lili. Ma’am makes me feel old.”
Mal nodded and then followed as she’d asked. Entering the sitting room he remembered well, he took a seat on a sofa and allowed Lili to fix him a drink of scotch and soda. “Mister Serra couldn’t join us?” he questioned as his hostess gave him his glass and then took a seat across from him.
Frowning slightly, Lili told him, “No, unfortunately not. Edward’s been traveling a lot for business lately.”
Taking a sip of his drink, Mal enjoyed the rich taste before settling himself more comfortably into the couch cushions. Gazing across to Lili he could tell she was hesitant to broach the topic they were both dancing around and so Mal supposed he would let her off the hook. “I have to say, I was a mite surprised to get your message.”
Averting her eyes, Lili toyed with the fabric of her dress as she asked, “How is Inara?”
Pausing, Mal swallowed back his automatic answer, choosing instead to say, “Guarded, I guess, would be the way to put it. Somethin’ is botherin’ her, but we weren’t able to talk about it before she left.”
“Left?” Looking to him with concern, Lili asked hurriedly, “Where did she go and why aren’t you with her?”
Frowning, Mal pushed back his own discomfort at the situation. “Well, I was injured, Lili, on our last job. An’ what Inara’s doin’ now – well, I wouldn’t o’ been much help to them anyways. Zoe, Jayne and River are all with her, an’ so is Simon. She’ll be fine.”
“So, it’s not dangerous then?” Lili pressed, her eyes still exceedingly large for her delicate features.
Clearing his throat, Mal shifted. “Well, ma’am, I wouldn’t say that necessarily. But she’s safe.” Pausing, he fixed her with a stalwart gaze and added, “You know I would never put Inara in harm’s way. Not on purpose. She’s more important to me than anythin’ or anybody.”
Releasing a sigh, Lili sat back in her seat, a bit of color returning to her cheeks. “I know that, Malcolm, truly. And while Edward and I were absolutely awful to you last time you were here, I want you to know-“ Pausing, Lili seemed to consider something, and when she again began to speak, she had locked her eyes on Mal’s face, her gaze radiating sincerity. “Both Edward and I, we’re thrilled that Inara has someone like you in her life. Someone who so obviously loves and cares for her. In the end, that’s all a parent can ask for their child. Happiness and love.”
Nodding once, he took another sip of his drink, letting the statement hang between them for an extra minute. “Well, thank you, Lili. I’m glad you an’ Mister Serra can recognize how much I love your daughter.” As Lili smiled demurely, Mal added, “Which o’ course leads me to the whole reason I’m here. What’s goin’ on with her?”
Her discomfort once again obvious, Lili Serra rose and began pacing the room, her hands clenched in front of her. “Honestly, Mal, after I called you, I realized it wasn’t my place, but-“
“But now I’m here, so you might as well tell me,” he intoned quietly. He didn’t mean for it to sound like a threat, but he wanted the woman to know that sending him away with nothing was not an option.
Smiling sadly, she nodded once and then turned to face him. “It has to do with her child.”
Closing his eyes, Mal muttered a curse under his breath. Downing the rest of his drink in one gulp, he rose and paced across the room, fixing himself another, forgoing manners. He was going to need to be good and buzzed for this conversation.
Puzzled by his outburst, Lili watched as he poured himself a stiff drink and commented, “I wasn’t quite expecting that kind of reaction.”
“No?” he snorted, turning and leaning against the sidebar to regard her. “An’ what were you expectin’? Concern? Tears?”
Bristling at his tone, she answered sharply, “A little concern wouldn’t kill you. You have to know how hard this has been for Inara.”
“O’ course I do,” Mal all but shouted. Taking a deep breath, he realized instantly how inappropriate he was being and tried to apologize. “I am very sorry, Lili. I din’t mean to yell.” Pausing, he took a thoughtful sip of his drink and then explained, “The truth is, me an’ Inara been goin’ round an’ round ‘bout her daughter. She’s been wantin’ to get to know her an’ I don’t think-“
“She didn’t have a girl,” Lili told him, interrupting quietly. As Mal turned those steely blue eyes to her, confusion written all over his chiseled features, Lili took a deep breath and told him, “Inara’s baby wasn’t a girl. She had a boy.”
“Wo de ma,” Mal murmured, sinking heavily against the counter. Trying to understand what this new information could mean and how he should handle it, Mal found he was only growing more and more confused. Crossing the room to resume his seat, he chugged down the rest of his drink and then glanced to Lili. “I think you best start at the beginnin’.”
Simon could not sleep. He wasn’t all that surprised. He had grown accustomed to falling asleep in Kaylee’s arms over the past year and her absence effected him, physically and emotionally, more than he’d ever thought possible. He’d briefly toyed with the idea of taking a sedative, but he knew it would only make him moody.
So instead, he was wandering the ship. Simon had a hard time believing it had only been six months since he’d last lived on board the firefly. It felt like a lifetime ago. With a smile, he surveyed the infirmary, the room well-stocked, but sorely underused since he’d left. Supposing that was a blessing, he headed for the galley, wondering if some tea might do the trick and calm his nerves.
Zoe and Jayne had said that they’d found of all Kaylee’s family, save her father. The knowledge that he’d have to break the news of her father’s death to his wife did not sit well with him, and Simon suspected it was another reason why he was awake. She’d already been through so much, he did not relish the idea of seeing her in any more pain. But regardless, Simon would be the one to tell her, he would be the one to hold her when she broke down and he would stay beside her no matter what. Besides the inherent responsibility in the marriage vows they’d pledged, Simon had long ago resolved to never abandon her.
“You’re a good husband.”
Startled, he whirled on the sound of the voice, squinting into the shadows of the room to find his sister. Of course, she’d be awake. She seemed to sleep less than anyone. Making out her slim, pale frame folded into one of the large easy chairs to the side of the galley, Simon moved towards her with a small smile. “You know,” he stated simply, sitting on the small table before River. This close he could make out her features, her big eyes and drawn face and he worried that maybe something besides the normal jitters of the mission were keeping her awake.
Frowning at him softly, River sighed. “Of course, I know, you boob. You can’t keep secrets from me.” Reaching for his left hand, she took it in her own, her fingers gently ghosting over the wedding band that now sat on his ring finger. “Besides this was a pretty clear indication.”
Smiling softly, Simon whispered, “No one else has seemed to notice.”
“A bit preoccupied,” she explained, squeezing his fingers gently before dropping his hand. Sitting back in the chair, she shivered and wrapped one of Mal’s old army blankets around her more tightly. “Captain Daddy isn’t going to be happy.” As Simon’s eyes snapped to her face in alarm, she smiled wide and told him, “Wanted to be there. Wanted to threaten you one last time. ‘Don’t hurt my mei mei’ and all that.”
Sighing, Simon pivoted into the chair beside her, and tipped his head back against the wall. “I would have thought he’d know by now that Kaylee means everything to me. I won’t hurt her, I can’t.”
Patting his arm reassuringly, River told him, “He does. But he still has to say it. It’s his job.”
“I suppose.” Simon let silence build between them. It had been quite a while since he and his sister had simply sat together. He’d missed it – missed her.
Looking to her, he asked, “I was going to make some tea. Do you want some?”
Nodding once, River watched him rise and work. He flipped on the small stove light in the galley and in the buttery glow she could make out his sure movements. It didn’t really matter what Simon was doing or why, he always moved about with the same confidence. It was a skill River had envied for years.
In minutes he was back beside her, offering her a steaming mug which she accepted gratefully. Sipping their tea in silence, it seemed neither sibling was at all interested in talking, but Simon felt a bit of guilt creeping along his spine. He knew things between his sister and Rafe were getting more complicated, and while she was an adult, he still had a responsibility to watch after her.
“River,” he said softly, letting another sip of the warm liquid make a trail to his belly. “How are things?”
Frowning softly, she hid the look behind her mug. “How do you mean, Simon?”
Returning her frown, Simon turned to look at her. “You know what I mean, mei mei. You and Rafe? How are things?”
She shrugged. “Fine.”
Simon highly doubted that were the case. “River, you know you can tell me anything.”
“Not going to talk to you about my sex life, Simon.” Or lack thereof. She took a moment to look at him, delighting in the way his face blanched at her words. Giggling, she nudged his knee with her foot and murmured, “You’re still such an easy mark.”
Sputtering, Simon settled for drinking his tea, doing his best to knock the image of his baby sister and Rafe having sex out of his head. “Well, I’m glad actually, because I don’t want to know.” Pausing, he took a deep breath, and then said, “But I do want to know how you are. Love is pretty scary and-“
“And I’m not normal,” River finished for him. With a sigh, she leaned over and placed her cup down, rearranging the blanket about her small form as she settled back in her seat.
“Mei mei, that’s not what I meant.” Simon was horrified, worried he’d hurt her feelings. Placing his cup down, he reached for her hands, clasping them through the blanket. “You know I would never imply-”
“It’s okay, Simon,” she sighed quietly. Lifting big brown eyes to his face, she admitted, “It’s been hard.”
His expression softening in an instant, Simon brushed some of her hair behind her ear and prompted, “Tell me.”
“Rafe is wonderful,” she began, wanting to make it clear to her big brother that her intended beau was not the problem. “He really cares for me, Simon. Loves me even. I can feel it.”
“Has he said it?” Simon questioned.
Smiling softly, River nodded. “Yes, he has. More than once.” Locking her brown eyes on his blue, she added firmly, “And he means it.”
Releasing a silent sigh, Simon murmured, “Good, that’s good.”
“I told him about Miranda.” River was surprised that Simon’s first reaction to this news wasn’t a stern scolding. Simon didn’t like to talk about Miranda or the events preceding it. He rarely liked to talk about those eight months, when she’d been crazy, at all.
“And?” Simon was amazed at how dry his throat suddenly was, despite the tea he’d just poured down it.
“And he understands.” River sighed, resting her cheek to her shoulder. Eyes unfocused, she added softly, “But I don’t.”
Confused, Simon waited in silence, knowing by River’s far-off look that she was trying to gather her thoughts. “I don’t understand how to be the killer and a girl at the same time,” she finally admitted, her harsh whisper grating along Simon’s skin. “I don’t think I can be both.”
Raising wet brown eyes to his face, she swallowed hard and continued. “When I’m with Rafe, the rest of the world drops away, but the minute I try to feel more, try to concentrate on all I feel for him and him for me, it all comes rushing back. Miranda and Reavers and the Academy and … I don’t want to kill anyone, Simon. Why did they make me?”
Her voice a strangled sob, River buried her face in her hands even as Simon leaned forward and wrapped her in his arms. Her small body shook mightily with her fear and confusion and Simon rocked her as he had so many times before, trying to ease her burden.
And trying to ignore the fact that he had no answer.
“Mother and father were right to be afraid of me,” she said after a time, her voice still hoarse. “I am a killer.”
His jaw tightening at her sad statement, Simon leaned back and again sat across from her on the low table. Reaching for her hands, she gave them to him, comforted by the warmth as he asked, “What did they say to you, mei mei?”
“Didn’t have to say it, Simon,” she reminded him quietly. “I can still hear it, even if the words are said in silence.”
“When we told them,” she answered. “When we told them about the men I killed, the Reavers, Miranda. They wanted to believe they’d gotten their daughter back. They didn’t know she’d be a killer.”
“River, please.” Simon’s voice cracked a bit on the last word and he swallowed hard to push his despair away. Once again, his baby sister was looking to him with those big eyes that managed to bore a hole through his soul. She was so lost and all Simon wanted to do was protect her. But he couldn’t, he knew that. He’d tried before and failed. “You only-“
“Did what they programmed me to do,” she said softly, doing her best to shut out Simon’s pain at her revelation. She loved her brother more than her own life and while River had not wanted to burden him with this, she couldn’t keep it bottled up any longer – he was the only person who would understand. “Who’s to say I won’t do it again?”
“It’s been over a year since Miranda,” Simon reminded her, his voice firm. “And nothing like the Maidenhead or the Reavers has happened since. Right?”
Shaking her head once, River murmured, “No.” Taking a deep breath, she lifted her eyes back to his face and added, “But maybe I just haven’t seen the right trigger. Maybe they haven’t been trying hard enough. Maybe I-“
Breaking off as her breath caught in her throat, River dropped her chin to her chest. Taking a deep shuddering breath, she leaned into Simon’s chest as his strong arms enfolded her again. Gripping at the front of his shirt, she whispered, “I told Mal that I’d be his albatross. Told Rafe I had to choose.” Taking another deep breath, she said, “But I don’t want to choose loneliness and isolation, Simon. I want to feel, want to be warm and safe and not scared of my own abilities. I want you to fix me.”
Squeezing his eyes closed against the pained sound of her voice, Simon rubbed soothing circles along her back. “River, you’re not broken.”
“Yes, I am.” Her voice was stronger than only moments before and when she pulled away, she met his eyes with no hint of hesitation. “I’m not a woman, Simon, not normal. That’s what’s broken. I only work as a killer and a moonbrain. You have to take the killer away.”
“Mei mei,” he breathed, cupping her cheeks in his hands and staring intently into her eyes. “I don’t know if I can. I tried, for a long time, remember?”
Nodding once, River tried to offer him a small smile of encouragement. “I know. But you can try again. You’re the best doctor ever. I know you can fix me.”
Despite River’s ringing endorsement, Simon was not convinced. He had tried, for months, almost a full year, to repair what the Academy had so irrevocably broken. But no matter what drug combinations he’d tried or new techniques he’d discovered, nothing had come close to relieving the psychosis River suffered. It meant more than he could ever put into words that she still trusted him, but it also scared the living daylights out of him. Simon was not at all certain he was worthy of such unflagging faith.
“I will try, mei mei,” he finally whispered, dropping a kiss into her hair, her head once again resting against his shoulder. “But I can’t and I won’t promise anything.”
“It’s okay, Simon, I know you can do it.” She sounded so sure, so confident that Simon found himself unwilling and unable to disagree.
Friday, June 15, 2007 10:51 PM
Friday, June 15, 2007 10:55 PM
Friday, June 15, 2007 11:12 PM
Saturday, June 16, 2007 1:20 AM
Saturday, June 16, 2007 3:03 AM
Monday, June 18, 2007 7:44 PM
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