BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

JANE0904

Tall Ship - Part IX
Monday, December 10, 2007

Maya. Post-BDM. Jayne suspects, Mal gets involved, and Freya apologises, but nothing is as it seems. NEW CHAPTER


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1367    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

Jayne pushed through the door and into the bar, taking a deep breath of the smoky and alcohol laden air, feeling it fill his lungs, and headed towards the counter.

“Ain’t seen you in a few days,” the barkeep said, automatically pouring a beer. He pushed it across the wood. “Figured you’d upped and moved on.”

“Not yet. Still got some unfinished business.”

“With Lily?”

He shrugged. “Maybe.”

“Only she’s been moping around here like a wet weekend. Wondered if you’d broken her heart.”

“Not me.” Jayne drank half the mug. “She here at the moment?”

“I guess.” The barkeep didn’t seem that interested in keeping tabs on the women who worked his place. “In her room, I think.”

“Well, she ain’t mooning over me. She ain't got nothing I want.” He finished the beer, putting the mug back down precisely on the wet ring on the counter. “You know, I recall there was a feller looking for someone just a day or two ago. You see him?”

“A feller?”

“Big. Real big. Couldn’t miss ‘im.”

The barkeep nodded. “Oh, yeah. Came in, looking for his … what, cook, was it?”

“That was him.” Jayne turned to look at the customers. “What’d you tell him?”

“I didn’t. Comes in here, demanding to know if I’d seen this guy, and doesn’t even do the courtesy of buying a drink.”

“That’s terrible.” Jayne pushed his mug across and the barkeep refilled it. “And had you? Seen him?”

“Yeah. Coupla days ago. Got that scar on his face and everything, just like his captain’d said.”

“Really.”

“Just the once, mind. Funnily enough Lily made a play for him, and they went off to her room. By the time they got back they was smiling.” He laughed slyly. “Guess the scar didn’t put her off.” He moved off to serve someone else.

“Guess not,” Jayne muttered under his breath. He caught a whiff of a familiar cheap perfume, and turned his head. Lily had just stepped into the bar from the back. Arranging his face into a pleasant expression, he ambled over, coming up behind her. “Miss Lily,” he said, his breath on her neck.

She span on her heel, and her face lost most of its colour under her make-up. She stared at him. “I thought you’d gone.”

Jayne shrugged. “Nope. Just saving my coin ‘stead of drinking it away.” He smiled. “You don’t look like you’re pleased to see me.”

She pulled herself together. “Well, since the last time was over a dead body, I admit it was something of a shock.”

Not the only dead body, Jayne thought. Not with what he’d found out on the edge of town.

---

“Ben, I'm just going to check the fish traps,” Hannah called, pulling her coat tighter around her body, heading out of the door into the late afternoon chill.

“What?” He hobbled out of the bathroom, but she’d already gone. “Fish traps?” he asked Jonah, who was sitting at the table, his legs swinging, going over a lesson his mother had set for him.

“We get fresh fish sometimes,” the boy explained. “Ma’s got some wicker traps set up at the mouth of the river, and sometimes we’re lucky, even this time of the year.” He grimaced. “Otherwise it’s protein.”

“Well, that can be fun too,” he laughed. “Depends what you do with it.”

“I suppose.” He turned back to his book.

“What are you studying?”

“G’ography,” Rachel supplied, sitting next to her brother. “Other planets and stuff.”

“It’s boring,” Jonah added.

He pulled out a chair and sat down. “Again, it depends on what you do with it. Show me.”

Jonah looked sideways at him, then risked a peek towards the door his mother had just gone out of. “You supposed to be helping us?” he asked.

“What else is there to do? Come on. What are you looking at?”

The boy glanced at his sister, then pushed the book across the table. “Ma wants us to list the primary exports of these planets.”

“That shouldn’t be too hard.” He grinned and pointed. “Well, New Melbourne’s easy. That’s fish, too.”

Both children wrote quickly on a pad of paper, their handwriting the large, ill-formed letters of the young, and Jonah looked up expectantly. “How about Boros?”

“Main exports? Wheat and …”

By the time Hannah came back, weighed down by her basket, her children were rolling around with laughter, and the man who had made them happy was holding up his hands.

“No, I mean it. Swore blind they were dragons’ eggs. ‘Til they hatched, then the place was filled with chickens.”

“Ben, are you telling stories?” she asked, putting the basket in the sink, smiling nevertheless.

“Just something I heard once,” he protested, grinning back at her. “From someone.”

“’Bout dragons’ eggs?”

“A tall tale, I’ll grant you. But every word of it true.” He stood up. “Can I help you with those?”

“You any good at gutting fish?”

“Uh … not something I ever recall doing.” He clutched his hands to his chest. “Ah, the benefits of having no memory.”

“Then it’s just as well I already did them.” She laughed at the relieved look on his face. “But you can make some coffee if you really want to help.”

“No sooner said than –“

He was interrupted by the sound of a horse outside, and Jonah ran to the window. “It’s a rider, Ma,” he said, then started to back away. “Ma …”

Hannah was looking out immediately. “Diyu,” she muttered. “Stay inside.”

“Yes, Ma.”

She hurried out into the cold, closing the door carefully behind her.

“Ben, come away from the window,” Jonah asked, his voice worried.

“Who is he?” He still stared out at the horseman, the same one from a couple of days before.

“That’s Mr Kendall. He owns the place next to us.” Jonah sidled up to him. “He’s been on at Ma to sell up, but she won’t.”

“Why?”

“It was Pa’s,” the boy explained. “Bought it for her to be someplace for them to go when he got too old for doctoring. Only …”

“Yeah.” He reached down and put his hand on Jonah’s shoulder, his eyes still on the man outside. He didn’t look as happy as last time, and was pointing a finger at Hannah. “Jonah, take Rachel into the other room.” Hobbling across the floor as fast as he could, he opened the closet and pulled out the rifle. Swiftly checking it to make sure it was still loaded, he turned back. “Jonah, do as I say.”

“Yes, Ben.” Jonah took his sister’s hand and pulled her away.

He couldn’t handle both the rifle and the crutch, so he leaned it against the wall. Not waiting to hear the children’s door close, he stepped a little shakily out into the cold. It bit into his exposed skin, but he ignored it. “Hannah. You okay?”

The man on the horse turned to look at him. “Who’s this?” There was a sneer on his face. “You taking in strays now?”

Hannah didn’t look round. “It ain't none of your affair. And I told you before. In fact, I'm getting pretty tired of telling you. I ain't selling. This is my land, and I do with it what I want.”

“You don’t do anything,” Kendall pointed out. “All this forest could be felled, and the river means cheap energy for a mill, let alone the sea being so close. I could take all this lumber out of here and make a healthy gorram profit.”

“It ain't yours.”

He leaned forward, his hands on the pommel of his saddle. “You know, I have the feeling it will be, Hannah.” He stopped as he heard the cocking of a rifle.

“Ben, don’t,” Hannah said softly.

“Why not? Man comes here, uninvited, threatens you.” His hands were steady on the weapon, the barrel not moving an inch. “I think you’re within your rights to shoot him.”

“I'm not the one with the gun,” she pointed out. “And I don’t think anyone’s going to get killed today.”

“Well, that remains to be seen.”

Kendall glared at him, then looked back at Hannah. “Better leash him, Hannah. ‘Fore someone takes it into their mind to put him down. And you think over my offer. It’s better’n you’ll get from anyone else.”

“Since I’m not selling, that don’t worry me.” She stepped forward. “Now get off my land.”

For a moment no-one moved, then Kendall touched his hat in a travesty of a salute, and dragged on his reins, kicking his heels in. The horse galloped off.

Hannah let out a breath, then turned, her face white with anger. “And what do you think you were doing?”

He lowered the gun, surprised at the vehemence of her temper. “Defending you.”

“I didn’t ask you to!” She hurried into the house.

He followed, slower, feeling the ache in his belly from standing straight on his own. “Hannah, that man’s trouble.”

“Oh, you know that, do you?”

“Yeah, I do.” He caught hold of her arm. “He’s not going to stop until you sell.”

She narrowed her eyes. “And you know this … how?”

He shook his head. “I don’t know. But trust me on this. This is going to go bad.”

“Is that it? What you are? Are you a crook?” She pulled herself free. “Takes one to know one?”

“Hannah, listen to me –”

“No! You just threatened a man! And you’d have shot him, too, wouldn’t you?”

“If he’d made a move against you, yes, I probably would.”

“I really don’t know you at all, do I?” She backed away.

He didn’t follow her, just looked at her steadily. “I don’t know me, Hannah.”

Taking a deep breath, she nodded slowly. “I guess that’s the case.” Turning, she undid her coat. “Well, I have a meal to get ready. You’d better … go do something else.”

He watched her take off her coat and pick up a sharp knife, and knew she meant what she said.

---

Jayne watched Lily as she arranged her dress around her knees. She was fidgeting a bit, but he generously put that down to the fact that he’d refused to pay her for her time, just bought her a drink instead.

“Ya know, I don’t think Dyle did kill himself,” he said slowly, nursing the whisky in front of him. “I think someone caught him by surprise and shoved a gun in his mouth. He probably didn’t have a chance to fight back before they pulled the trigger.”

Her eyes widened. “Why’d they do that?”

“Well, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking the past few days. And I don’t think Dyle was alone in this.” He leaned forward. “I mean, where’s the cash he must’ve made from selling the stuff? That hole he was living in weren't worth squat, and there was no sign of the pickings. So either he sold it, maybe gambled it away, or someone else has it.”

“He did like to gamble,” Lily said quickly, jumping on his words. “Piss poor at it, too. Could’ve easily lost it all.”

Jayne took a mental breath. So he was right. “Could be that,” he admitted. “But no-one’s mentioned buying anything off him. I still say he was killed by his partner.”

“But who’d that be? Mickey was a loner. And he’d just come here, following me.”

“True.” He sipped his drink, enjoying the burning sensation of the alcohol down his throat almost as much as realising his gut feelings were correct too. “Only that kinda suggests it wasn’t even him.”

“What?”

“You said. He only just came here. Following you.” She looked flustered for a moment, and he allowed himself to think on what he’d found that morning. A body, out by the abandoned warehouses on the edge of town. He’d never’ve found it if he hadn’t been looking, but there was a patch of earth where the snow hadn’t fallen, and there were drag marks. The local wild animals had already been at it, but there was just about enough of the face left to see the scar. And the bullet hole in the centre of the chest.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she insisted, patting her hair.

He smiled coldly. “Just talkin’, Lily. Just talkin’.” He twisted the knife a little. “Only if there was a partner, and he still has the goods, him and anyone working with him ain't gonna survive the winter.” His voice had dropped to an almost-whisper, but there was a promise in it.

“Well, you’re talking fei hua.” She tossed her drink down her neck and stood up. “Mickey was a creep, and far as I'm concerned he was a killer too, and the ‘verse is better off without him. And all that stuff he took? Probably sold it to some other creep off a ship, and it’s long gone. Gambled it away, like I said.” She glared down at him. “And you go around saying it’s otherwise, you might find yourself in a whole heap of trouble.”

“You threatening me, girl?” he asked, raising his eyebrows.

“No. Just folks around here don’t like questions, nor the people asking them. Your friend is dead, and the man who killed him is likewise.” She tossed her head. “And I got work to do.” She walked away, sashaying over to a man leaning on the bar and draping herself over him.

Jayne watched her go, a smile playing around his lips. Two minutes, that was all she was gone in the bathroom that day, but more’n long enough to give the heads up to someone. Then she kept him waiting while she mucked about with her clothes before they got going. Time enough for someone to get to Mickey before he did. To blow the back of his head off.

He stretched his legs under the table. Now all he had to do was wait.

---

She stepped down into the dining area, and all conversation stopped, every head lifting to look at her.

“Um, Frey,” Kaylee began somewhat diffidently. “There’s some food in the pot if you want it. I was gonna bring you a plate but if you want to eat with us –“

Freya shook her head gently at the young mechanic. “No. I'm not hungry. But thanks.”

“I can put some aside for you.”

“If you like.” She looked back at the rest of the crew. “But I really came to tell you all something.”

Zoe put down her fork. “If it’s about before, it’s me who should be apologising to you.”

“No. Well, yes, but you’re not apologising for anything. I was in the wrong. You’re right. Serenity isn’t mine. And if I was right, then she still belongs to all of you as well, just as much as you’re all Mal’s friends too.” She smiled a little. “I should’ve remembered that.”

“It ain't nothing,” Kaylee said. She patted the empty chair next to her. “Why don’t you sit down? You look like you could do with a decent meal. Not that it’s that decent. Hank cooked.”

“Hey!” the pilot complained, but only half-heartedly.

“No. Really, I'm not hungry. But maybe later.” She looked back at Zoe. “And you’re right. We need to collect Jayne. He’s not going to be too pleased having to spend his own coin if we don’t.”

“That’s true.” The dark woman nodded. “And we’re on our way there already.”

Freya almost laughed. “Somehow I thought we might be. And I am sorry.” She turned and walked out, her head dropped onto her chest.

“She’s better,” Kaylee said, heaving a sigh of relief. “Coming out of it.”

“Maybe that’s the way to get through to people,” Hank added. “Though I think we’re as likely to get shot doing it.”

Zoe felt a weight lift from her, then saw the look that passed between Simon and Sam. No. Not out of the woods yet.

---

“I'm sorry, Ben.”

They’d eaten, in a somewhat strained atmosphere, and the children had gone to read in bed, and now it was just the two of them, sitting in the soft light of the fire.

“What for? It was my fault. Coming out there. Should’ve known you were handling it.” He leaned back in the chair, watching the flames dance around the logs.

“No, I was wrong. You were protecting me. And I should have been grateful, not shouting at you.”

“Then how about we agree we were both wrong?” He smiled at her, the warm glow catching the planes of his face. The bandage around his head was long gone, but it would take a while before the hair grew back where the bullet had gouged his scalp.

“Okay.” She settled back, drawing her feet up under her like a cat.

The action made him itch, almost as if he was seeing someone else do the same, and for a moment it was virtually there, all his life, every day from when he came crying up to the moment he’d been shot. Then it was gone again, and only the taste remained.

She knew, had seen the tightening of his face, and it loosened her tongue enough to say what she’d wanted to for a long time. “You don’t have to go.”

“What?” He looked at her, his blue eyes dark in the gloom.

“You don’t have to go. When the snow melts, I don’t have to tell anyone I found you on the beach. We could say you’re Ben’s cousin, come to visit, and you decided to stay.”

“You’ve been thinking about this?”

She shrugged, dropping her chin so he couldn’t see the smile that lifted her lips. “Maybe a little.” She slipped off the chair and went down onto her knees next to him, taking hold of his hand. “Ben, stay with me.”

He looked down into her face. “Hannah, you were right. You don’t know anything about me. Not even my name.”

“I know enough.”

“We were just arguing about me holding a rifle on a man,” he pointed out.

“With the best intentions.”

“That ain't enough.”

She smiled. “I know you’re a God-loving man, at least.”

“How –“

She reached forward and gently touched the gold cross at his neck, just visible inside the borrowed shirt. “By this.”

He put his hand up, lifted the chain. As he turned it to catch the light, he saw, for a fraction of a moment, a woman’s face, her hazel eyes gazing at him, love written large in them …

“Ben?”

It was gone, and he couldn’t bring her back. A wave of loss engulfed him. “Hannah, I’m … I'm sorry. I can’t do this.” He stood up quickly, ignoring the sharp tug in his belly, and walked away from her, grabbing the coat from the chair and going outside into the dark and the snow.

to be continued

COMMENTS

Monday, December 10, 2007 7:49 AM

SLUMMING


Glad he had that flash of Freya right at that moment! Whew!

Monday, December 10, 2007 10:10 AM

COLT999


I hope this ends well for Hannah. With Freya tettering off the deep end, shes lible to get shot before she can explain herself.

Monday, December 10, 2007 1:54 PM

NCBROWNCOAT


Whew, there you go again! Just tugging me back and forth.

Both Lily and Mr Kendall are hun dahns and need to learn a lesson. I just hope Hannah and the kids don't get hurt.

Monday, December 10, 2007 1:59 PM

AMDOBELL


I am still betting on the killer being that Sheriff even though we haven't seen him yet. Nice and convenient the goal house being next to the whore house and I absolutely love how Jayne is taking the time to think everything through to catch the bad guy. As for Hannah, I think she has a whole pile of trouble coming her way with that nasty neighbour, which to my way of thinking means Mal has too. Really pleased Hannah didn't kiss him. Memory or not he has enough instinct to know there is someone somewhere for him, let's hope he soon remembers the rest. His family and crew need him. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Tuesday, December 11, 2007 3:06 AM

KATESFRIEND


Wonderful chapter and everything coming to a head nicely. Mal was so ... Mal in this! It was very easy to see this as an episode the way you wrote it.

Glad to see images are coming back to him more clearly. Glad to see Jayne is seeing the light too. And need to get Freya back on Three Hills so she can get some good news soon.


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