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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Mal gets help from an unexpected source, and Anya and Adam have a talk.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 550 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
Mal looked at his crew, each one shackled at hands and feet and sitting in the holding cell of the Alliance cruiser Columbus. He raised his own cuffed hands to allow River to slide into the circle of his arms. Her body shook with silent tremors, and Mal’s heart contracted painfully as he felt the violence of them against his own body. Trying to shield her from the chaos of his thoughts, he murmured against her hair, “It’s going to be all right, bao bei. We’ll get him back.”
“I didn’t see it,” she cried softly, her words muffled against his chest. “I didn’t know what was going to happen until it was too late.”
Suddenly, Mal remembered that Adam had said Riley was a bad man almost immediately. Trying to keep the memory from River, he filed it away for future thought. Murmuring meaningless reassurances into her ear, Mal studied the rest of his crew.
Zoe sat, dry-eyed and ramrod straight, staring out past the bars as if she could summon Anya to appear if she concentrated hard enough. Since Jayne had been forced to let her go and they’d both been cuffed, she had uttered not a single sound, her heart turned to lead inside her chest.
Even Kaylee said nothing, crying softly on Simon’s shoulder, worried horribly for the children, and the Captain, and Simon and River, who would surely be at terrifying risk in Alliance custody. She tried not to think about how the Captain had looked when they’d rescued him from the Salisbury prison, knowing that what awaited him now might be even worse. She tried equally as hard not to imagine how Simon might fare amongst hardened criminals in a penal colony. As for River, Kaylee could scarcely imagine the pain of losing her second child or the overwhelming fear of falling back into the hands of those who had hurt her so terribly before.
Jayne and Inara sat next to each other, knees touching just barely. Neither spoke, though both thought of things they might have said had they known a day such as this was imminent.
Simon absently muttered assurances to Kaylee, numb with the shock of what had transpired on the ship. Imagining the danger to River in an Alliance facility, or the horrors that Kaylee might face if she were sentenced to imprisonment caused his traumatized thought processes to simply shut down. His love and concern for his nephew, a likely candidate for Academy experimentation, served to effectively numb his last emotional response.
“Let her go,” a guard said roughly, banging on the bars with his baton. “I said let her go. No hands-on between prisoners.”
Mal looked at him, nostrils flaring in murderous fury. “Don’t, ai ren,” River whispered, slipping out of his encircling arms. “He’s looking for an excuse to hurt you.”
It took every ounce of control Mal had to remain seated, as the guard grinned at his predicament. Their staring contest ended as Mal felt the cruiser land on Boros. Praying to the God he’d just recently come back to speaking terms with, he asked silently for a reasonable official somewhere in the Fed station on Boros. Before he could complete the prayer, he was unceremoniously yanked to his feet and pulled from the cell. River followed, only to be pushed back by the guards. Mentally sending her all the love he could, Mal looked back over his shoulder to see her tear-stained face pressed disconsolately against the bars.
Adam curled into Anya’s lap, scared into sucking his thumb, a habit he’d almost completely broken until now. “I’m hungry,” he whispered.
“I know, sweetie,” Anya said. “I missed breakfast too. I’m sure someone will come soon to help us.”
Adam shook his head sadly. ‘Daddy can’t come,” he said, his lower lip trembling. “The bad man will take Daddy away.” One tear rolled down his chubby cheek. “And Miss Zoe too.”
Anya’s heart beat rapidly in her little chest. “You don’t know that for sure, Adam Reynolds,” she said, as much to convince herself as him.
“Yes I do,” Adam said, suddenly looking much older than his eighteen months. “Saw it.”
Anya squeezed her eyes shut, hoping the little boy was wrong. “Just ‘cause you saw it don’t mean that’s the way it’s gotta happen,” she said softly. “Captain Mal and Mama been in worse scrapes before, and they always make it out okay.”
Adam pondered the possibilities for a long moment. “But I’m still hungry,” he said, rubbing his eyes with fatigue.
Relieved he made no further predictions, Anya sighed. “Me too.”
Mal sat chained to a chair in a standard interrogation room. More tired than he could say to find himself about to be on the ass-end of another gorram interrogation, he surreptitiously flexed his muscles, wondering at what point the first bone-jarring blow would fall. It was a real puzzle to him sometimes how a once peaceful rancher from Shadow should end up faced with these situations so gorram often. His mind whirred with worry for his helpless son, his emotionally vulnerable wife, and his unlucky crew.
Thus occupied in an endless loop of tension, he was not aware that the door opened beside him until he heard it shut again with a metallic click. He turned to see a man of about his own age, dressed in the conservative style of business suit he associated with Alliance lackeys. The man took a seat across from him, and, laying a data pad on the table between them, met Mal’s eyes, smiling pleasantly. “Good afternoon, Captain Reynolds. My name is Thomas Bridgman, but my friends call me Tom.”
“Well, Mr. Bridgman,” Mal said dryly, emphasizing the name choice, “I’d shake your hand but mine seems to be shackled to the chair at the moment.”
Bridgman rubbed his chin absentmindedly, looking down at the data pad. “Yes, we’re gonna have to see about fixing that.”
“Shen me?” Mal asked, wondering if he’d heard the man correctly.
Bridgman looked at him with the slightest trace of amusement in his green eyes. “I’m an advocate, Captain Reynolds. Hired to see if we can untangle the mess you’ve stumbled into.”
“Court appointed?” Mal asked, letting his tone indicate exactly how useless he thought an advocate appointed by the government to be.
Mal frowned. “Well in that case, best you know right now I ain’t got the means to pay you, if it’s coin you’re after.”
“Don’t worry, Captain,” Bridgman said kindly. “The fee is being taken care of by a third party.”
“Who?” Mal asked uneasily.
“His name is Peter, and he said to tell you that he and his new wife are doing well, thanks to you, and that this is his way of showing his appreciation for your help.”
Mal smiled briefly, remembering the conversation he’d had with River’s former Academy classmate about the special girl he needed to see again. “How’d you get here so fast?” he asked. “I don’t see how Peter could have known so quickly I was in need of an advocate.”
“Apparently you made quite an impression on the young man. I’m unsure as to how he knew you’d been taken into custody, unless there was some kind of flag in your file to alert him.”
“Oh, I’ve no doubt there’s all manner of flags in my file,” Mal said. “Tell him I take it as a real kindness, what he’s offerin’, but I conjure it’s a mite late for getting me clear of all this. Hard to disprove a prison escape when you’re out and about flyin’ bold as brass,” he added wryly.
“Well,” Bridgman admitted, “it could be that we’ll have to work at that from a different angle. In the meantime, is there anything I can get for you?”
Mal leaned forward, fixing him with an intense stare. “You can see to getting my wife clear of this and helpin’ her get our boy back. You got a way to do that?”
Bridgman returned the stare just as intently. “I’ll make it a priority, Captain. Anything else?”
Mal looked down at the floor for a moment. “Know anyone who might consider doin’ the same for the rest of my people?”
Bridgman felt the man’s worry like a physical blow. “I’ll work on that as well.”
Mal looked up gratefully, for some reason trusting this man to keep his word. “You manage those things, and I’ll be obliged to you.”
Bridgman nodded, and picked up the data pad. “Well then, let’s get started. Maybe it would be best to explain to me exactly how this whole thing began.”
River sat alone in a holding cell, separated from the rest of the crew by a transparent partition. The commander of the Boros Fed station had moved each of the others into individual cells in what River could only assume was an attempt to further demoralize them. Though she could still see her shipmates, she could not touch or communicate with them. Thus closed off from physical proximity to their worries and fears, she could focus more completely on her search for Adam.
Concentrating on the task, she found the familiar pattern of his thoughts and knew he was close by. Since Adam was only eighteen months old, there was little order to his mind and River sifted through the chaos, grateful beyond words that she could feel him so strongly. She felt the sharp pang of hunger, and knew it was not her own. Someone had neglected to feed him, she thought worriedly. She sensed the strength he drew from Anya, and rejoiced that at least the precious little girl was providing him with sorely needed comfort. Pushing further, Rive closed her eyes in an effort to se what he saw in the room around him. After several minutes of trying, she realized that he wasn’t seeing anything at all. He was asleep. Making a mental note to try again later, she withdrew gently from his jumbled thoughts, reassured that at least her baby was alive and not in any imminent danger. “Mama’s here,” she whispered, leaving the barest imprint of her presence behind in his mind.
Anya stroked Adam’s soft hair as he slept peacefully in her lap. She was trying hard not to think about the possibility that Adam had seen the truth of things before. Surely Mama and Captain Mal would find some way to come back to them, she thought for the thousandth time. But Anya had known loss before, and a little nagging voice in the back of her head kept reminding her that sometimes family did leave and never come back. Sometimes the ‘verse snatched up people you love and never returned them to you.
She felt the sting of tears behind her eyes and blinked them away angrily. She knew, in an instinctive way, that Adam could read her feelings, and she did not want to alarm him. So, carrying the weight of the ‘verse on her slender shoulders, she pushed away her dismal thoughts and repeated like a mantra her faith in Zoe and Captain Mal until she, too, fell into a light sleep.
To be continued
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