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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Maya. Post-BDM. Mal and River are missing Freya and Jayne.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1023 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
“Why ain’t you in bed, River?”
She looked up from where she was weeding her garden to see Mal standing in the doorway.
He shook his head. “All that’s been going on, I’d’a thought you’d be dead to the world right now.”
“No, well, that’s because I’m captain.”
“Captains need their sleep too. To make decisions. Get jobs. Pay the crew.”
“You got something you want to buy?”
“Something pretty to wear for when I get back to Jayne.”
“I don’t think I want to know anything more about that.”
“A dress,” she explained, giving him a version of her ‘boob’ look.
“Oh. Right. And there’ll be a job.” Mal crossed his arms. “Got a lot of feelers out. Something’s gonna come up.”
“It will. Tomorrow.”
“You can see that?”
She nodded. “Still couldn’t sleep.”
“You shoulda tried.”
“Don’t mean me. Mean you.” She pointed at his shirt hanging outside his pants, his suspenders around his hips. “You tried. Didn’t.”
He chuckled. “Guess maybe I didn’t.” He sighed. “Feels like part of me’s missing, albatross.”
“You’ll be back with her soon.”
“This how you feel?”
River nodded. “Torn, uprooted, bereft, abandoned …”
“He ain’t abandoned you,” Mal pointed out.
“Nor she you.”
He smiled grudgingly. “Pair, ain’t we?”
“I miss him.” She spoke simply, running her fingers thought the fragile soil.
“You miss Jayne?” She turned enormous eyes on him in mock horror.
“Well, yeah, kinda, but not in that way …” He knew he was being wound up, and grinned, but it faltered with his next words. “Bed’s empty. So’s the nursery. Feels like it did before, when I didn’t have her.”
“When you didn’t realise you had,” she gently corrected him.
“Still feels wrong.”
“You are a husband and a father. Things are very different.” She removed an errant weed, trying vainly to hold on and procreate.
“I know.” He watched her a moment, then said, “I miss her, River. Her laugh, her voice, her touch … can’t sleep at night without her.” He closed his eyes. “She’s just on Lazarus. That’s all. ‘N’ I can’t help wondering what would happen if I didn’t have her to go back to. If she was gone. If she -”
“Yeah.” The metal of the bulkhead was cool behind him, but all he could see was Freya nearly a year ago, wrapped in the tarpaulin, pinned inside his eyes. “So many times I coulda lost her. Not just because I was a sha gua chun zi, but with Wing, Lon, Niska …” He shuddered. “This ain’t a safe ‘verse, girl. We’ve faced a lot of bad guys, and come out the other side more or less unscathed. But I’m afraid.”
“That one day we won’t.”
“Lost two friends doing what I thought was right.”
“It was,” she breathed, but he didn’t hear.
“Lost another who could have become a friend.”
“Jethro.” She didn’t speak, just mouthed his name.
“Nearly lost a couple more this last time.” He shook his head. “Maybe I shouldn’t be out here at all. Seem to attract these kinda things. Maybe I should take a leaf out of Inara’s book and settle down somewhere. Raise my kids on the ground, not up here in the black.”
“It didn’t stop Han.”
Mal looked at her. “No more it did.”
“You have Freya. But it was your fault it wasn’t sooner.”
He raised his eyebrows at her. “You think I don’t know that?”
“You should have embraced her when you found her.”
“And would things have been so different, xiao nu?”
She smiled widely. “And you’re not going to distract me by calling me daughter.”
“Thought you liked it.”
“I do.” She put her hand on his. “Father.”
“Not your blood.”
“Does it matter?”
“Nope,” he conceded.
“You care about me. Love me. Love us all.”
He moved uncomfortably. “River …”
“And it would have been different,” she went on quickly. “If you had taken her into your life then.”
“How?” He leaned forward. “Jayne said you’d … that you sometimes see the other futures. The might have been’s. What would it have been like for Frey and me?”
“It doesn’t work like that.” She shook her head, then pushed at a lock of hair that fell into her eyes. Mal lifted it up, caught it in her clip again. That one simple action, so natural, so unforced, made her heart sing with affection.
“So how does it work?” he asked, not knowing the effect he was having.
“There are many variables, and things change all the time. Every action has options, every option a reaction, every reaction causes more possibilities to open … on and on, fractally.”
“Right.” He nodded slowly as if he understood, then shrugged. “Still don’t get it.”
“Too many to enumerate,” she said. “But there are a few that stand out. That are more likely than the others.”
“So what are they? I mean, over Frey and me. If I‘d taken her when I should.” He sat back against the wall, drawing his knees up so he could rest his forearms on them. “Come on,” he said. “Give.”
“Possibilities. They stand out more than others, with less changes until they pass the point at which we stand.”
“Now I know you can do this in captain dummy talk.”
“Don’t need to.” She grinned. “You understand. Might like to pretend you don’t, to put the Badgers of the ‘verse off balance, but you do.”
“A ranch. You bought it with the compensation money. Married Freya as soon as you were both let out of the camp, and took up running cattle.”
“Cattle.” Mal considered. “Could be good.”
“The second -”
“Whoa, wait a second there. That’s it? Just her and me on a ranch with cows outside?”
Mal swallowed. “What are you talking about?”
“Two years. Her and you and a ranch for two years. Then just you and a ranch.”
“You know what I mean.”
“She died in childbirth. Your son died with her. Buried them on the hill overlooking the ranch so you could see her every morning.” She raised her head so she could look him in the eye. “You are successful. But there is no-one in your bed.”
“Frey …” He felt a coldness wash through him.
“She’s on Lazarus, Mal. Safe. With Ethan.”
He took a deep breath. “Yeah. I know.” He nodded. “What about the others?”
“You bought this Firefly. The shipyard owner wanted to sell you a yellow one, but you saw her across the lot –”
Mal laughed. “I remember that.”
“Never married Freya, but she was in your bed from the first moment. Chose the crew together. Happy.”
“Happy.” He smiled. “Kids?”
“How come? I mean, I know we’d never’ve been able to –”
That brought him up short. “What?”
“It wasn’t Wash flying Serenity.”
His face went pale. “You mean …”
“It didn’t happen.”
“Run tse de fuo tzoo.” He leaned back on the bulkhead, staring at her.
She could feel the sadness inside. Knew it was just a possibility, that it hadn’t happened, at least here, but quantum laws dictated it had to happen somewhere, and she knew she was responsible for another death somewhere out in the fractal ‘verse …
Mal licked dry lips. “And the third? You said there were three.”
“She never recovered from Dhu Khang. The war didn’t end that night at Serenity Valley, and I killed you.”
He took a deep breath, her words dropping into his mind like lead weights. “Then …” He blinked hard. “So if I’d done what I always wished I had …”
“But you said …”
“Those three are the most likely. From here. Not there. Choose one and things change. Other options, other reactions. You did this. And right now, on Lazarus, you have a wife and a son, and a soon to be daughter.”
“You’re saying there’s no point in beating myself up over not taking Freya before,” he realised.
“I’m saying now is better.”
“You coulda just said that.”
“Would you have listened?”
He smiled shakily. “Prob’ly not.” He looked at her, with her outward appearance of fragility containing a core of steel that was almost unbreakable.
“Not unbreakable,” she said softly.
“Sorry.” His gaze didn’t waver. “And the future? You see that?”
“Some. Nothing concrete, or obvious, or even … just shapes. Like dust clouds.”
“You remember that captain dummy talk?”
She looked at him. “Things are going to happen, Mal. Good things. But bad things too. I feel them.”
“Like what?” He sat forward and took her hand, feeling the earth clinging to her skin. “What kinda things?”
“I don’t know. But there’s a wave of darkness. It isn’t breaking yet, so I can’t see the foam, can’t tell when it will drown us, but it’s building.” She seemed to unfocus.
“Any idea what?”
“No.” She shuddered, coming back to him. “Not yet.”
“You think Freya sees it?”
River nodded slowly. “She does. But she has such faith in you that you will see us through it, bring us safely to the other side.”
“She hasn’t said anything.”
“It’s in her dreams. And there’s nothing to say at the moment. No way around it yet.”
“Then maybe there will be?”
“Fractals, Captain. An infinite web of possibilities.”
He smiled a little. “You know, I can almost see that.”
“Yes.” She caressed the leaves of one of the strawberry plants. “It will be flowering soon.”
“Yeah.” Mal shook himself mentally. “Kaylee’ll be over the moon. Strawberries on demand.”
“The season will last as long as I wish,” River said. “As long as I feed the plants, they’ll keep producing.”
“Kinda like my crew, eh?”
“Exactly. We’ve all blossomed under your leadership.”
Mal laughed. “Okay, now I know it’s time to get some sleep.”
“Can you?” She fixed him with her great dark eyes.
He gazed back at her. “No. Not without her next to me.”
“Nor can I. Jayne’s bulk, his heat, his very being grounds me, anchors me to the here and now instead of the never and then. Without him I am adrift.”
“That’s it exactly,” Mal agreed. “Lost my way in the fog.”
“Shall we find it together?”
He narrowed his eyes. “What are you suggesting?”
She laughed, the sound at once knowing and innocent. “Not that. You are jia yan.”
“Told you, I ain’t your father.”
“And one day I may believe you.” She put his hand to the soil. “But I was suggesting you help me with the weeding.”
He grinned. “That I can do.” He got to his knees and moved forward. “My Momma used to get me to weeding her vegetable garden back on Shadow when I’d done something bad.”
“With a vengeance. Ending up all dirty and sweaty. Reckon that’s why it was punishment.”
“Tell me about her.”
“What, about my Momma?” His lips twitched. “When you can see it all in my mind without me wearing out my tongue?”
“I like it when you tell me. It tastes different.”
“Tastes. Right.” He gazed at her. “What do you want to know?”
“Well, that could take a while.”
“We have the time.” She pointed to the next bin along. “You start with that one.”
“Yes, ma’am,” he said, pulling himself up to it.
“What did she look like?”
Mal reached out, drawing the soil through his fingertips. “Beautiful. Brown hair, hazel eyes, and a wicked sense of humour that had all the hands in love with her a little.”
“A bit like Freya, then.”
“Some. Can’t imagine my Momma taking down a skiff, though.”
“She would probably have surprised you.”
Mal grinned. “Probably would.”
“Strong, got things done, respected …”
As Mal talked, River smiled. No wonder he’d fallen for Freya that first night, when he could and did use the very same words to describe her. Not that he felt in any way that his wife was his mother. Far too oedipal. But she’d instilled in him something much more precious and honourable, and when he saw it in someone else, he couldn’t help the attraction. She smiled wider and let his voice drown out the aching, fill the emptiness caused by lack of Jayne, and carried on weeding.
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