BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

JANE0904

Kith and Kin - Part IV
Saturday, March 7, 2009

Maya. Post-BDM. In which the crew finds out what's wrong with Mal, and there is a hint of more trouble on the horizon. NEW CHAPTER


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1396    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

Zoe sat on the bridge and stared out at the stars. Not that she saw them. Her mind was elsewhere, back on Persephone, replaying the events of the pick-up. She was positive she’d never met Fisher before, even though Freya was insistent the man at least knew her name. She never forgot a face, and while her memory for the minutiae had never been as good as Mal’s, Fisher was a stranger to her.

She shook her head slightly. She’d always been slightly jealous of the way Mal was capable of remembering details of other folk’s lives that she hadn’t picked up on. Even in the war, when he had a shifting and changing platoon under him, then almost a brigade towards the end, he could still recall if someone was married, what their wife’s name was, how many kids they had, and would talk to any of the grunts that needed it, showing he cared. Maybe it was a trick, although she doubted it, but she wished she knew how he did it.

“Okay,” Hank said, coming up behind her and pulling the seat around to face him. “No moping.”

“Ain’t moping.”

“Then whatever it is you’re doing.”

“Taking the watch.”

“Honey, Serenity’s autopilot is more’n capable of making sure we don’t hit something.” He grinned. “It’s time to play.”

She raised one eyebrow. “Play?”

“Yeah.” He grabbed her hand. “Come on. You’re on my team.”

“Hank …”

---

Jayne watched her sometimes, when he thought she didn’t know. Wasn't very often, since she nearly always turned to look at him, a smile lighting her pale face as she fixed her dark eyes on him. But occasionally, when she was thinking about something else, or maybe a hundred something elses, he would catch her unawares, and wonder at how the ‘verse could reward a bad man like him with something as good as her.

He was under no illusions. No matter he and Matty had made it up, that he’d managed to spend some quality time with his Ma before she died, he knew what he was. What he was always going to be. But maybe he could be something else as well, and that he owed to a slip of a girl who was crazy enough to want him.

He looked at her under his brows as he fixed the chain holding the makeshift metal hoop in place. She was standing by the edge of the top catwalk further round, outside their shuttle, but her gaze was centred someplace else, outside the ship. Caleb was at her feet, playing with his horse and laughing to himself, but she was taking no notice. Instead her fingers were busy plucking at a strand of her hair.

Jayne stood straight. “Moonbrain? You okay?” He walked towards her. “Riv?”

“Shiny,” she said, but it was distantly, and her fingers became a blur.

“You’ll be bald by the time you’re done,” he joked as he reached her, but she didn’t smile, or even hit him as was her usual response. “What’s up, girl?”

“Not … sure.”

Irrationally he glanced towards where she was staring. “We got company?”

“No …” Her brow furrowed.

“Then what?” His shoulders tensed.

“Just …” She shivered, as if ice water had been tipped down her spine.

He pulled her into his arms. “Tell me.”

“I can’t see. Something. A darkness, but …” She shook her head irritably. “Fuzzy.”

“Think Frey might be able to see better?”

She bit her lip. “No. She’s too worried about the Captain.”

“That’s crazy. He’s better. You saw him at breakfast. Looks to me like he’s thrown off whatever it is, and is back to his truly annoying self.”

Mal had, indeed, been acting normally, and had eaten more than for several days. Although, come to think of it, Freya had hardly taken her eyes off him the whole time.

“Hiding it,” the psychic explained.

Carefully taking the strand of hair from her fingers and pushing it behind her ear, he ran his finger down her cheek. “River, he’ll be okay.”

She didn’t say anything, just sighed mightily.

Jayne stamped on the urge to smile, mainly because she looked just like her niece but mostly because she could do him some serious harm. Like not sleep with him. “Can I help?” he asked.

She looked into his blue eyes, struck once again by how he accepted and loved her. It was all there, written in those cerulean orbs, if only anyone took the time to read. And she’d – She stopped herself. It must be a bad day if she was letting herself get distracted. “No,” she said softly, leaning against him and moulding her form along his strength and aware of every single square nanometre. “My fault.”

“’Cause I'm here. No matter what.”

She smiled, reaching up to place a soft kiss on his lips. “I know.”

He gathered her up, holding her to him, and was about to get much more intimate when Hank hurried out onto the catwalk, Zoe beside him.

“No, no, no,” the pilot moaned, turning away somewhat theatrically to face the expanse of the bay. “Not this time of day!”

Jayne glared at him. “I ever come in and interrupt you?” he asked.

“Well, there was that time –“

“Honey.” Zoe’s voice stopped him in his tracks. “You remember what I told you?”

“No winding the big man up?”

“That’s it.”

“Fine.” He allowed a childish look of petulance cross his face, but it cleared quickly as Kaylee and Simon walked out of the common area, the children following curiously. “Then let’s play ball.”

“Ball?” Zoe asked.

He turned to her. “Come on. It’s been weeks since we had a game, and I feel the need for some gentle exercise.”

“So you’re taking Jayne on at hoopball.”

“Well, I was thinking more about him being on my side -”

The big man grunted. “Forget that,” he said, leaning down and scooping Caleb onto his hip. “I intend winning.”

---

Freya carried the portable Cortex link into the galley from the engine room, setting it down on the table. The last time they’d used it, the screen had shorted, and Kaylee took it into her domain to try and fix, saying it was probably all the time Jayne had spent staring at the Kugelman Hoard that had done it. The big man had groaned and made himself out to be hard done by, but by the looks of things, their wonder of a mechanic had managed to replace whatever had blown, and Freya was looking forward to telling the children the ancient Greek legend of Ulysses and his ten year journey home to Ithaca.

Not that there was sign of the children yet, but they knew when lessons were about to start, and usually made it without too much calling. In fact no-one was about, and when she looked along the corridor it appeared that the bridge was empty too.

Strolling back towards their bunk, she leaned over the open hatch. “Mal? Come on. Time to go see Simon.” There was no response. “Mal? I know you don’t want to see him, but you have to.” Stepping down the ladder just far enough to ascertain the room was empty, her brow furrowed. “Where is he?” she said to herself.

Climbing back up she heard someone shouting. Not in fear or anger, but more joyful than that. It seemed to be coming up the stairs from the cargo bay. She hurried down, stepping onto the catwalk and coming to a dead stop in surprise.

Jayne had Bethie on his shoulders, and she was holding onto the big silver ball while her Uncle darted between Hank and Zoe. Then she was under the hoop.

“Score!” Jayne crowed.

“That ain’t fair,” Hank complained, his voice rasping as he leaned forward with his hands on his knees and tried to avoid fainting. “You’ve got too many on your team.”

“And you didn’t get Ethan to put one through for you?” Jayne pointed out.

Someone laughed. “He’s got you there.”

Freya was surprised. That was Mal. She bent over the railing a little further, looking directly down, and saw her husband, with his suspenders around his hips and shirt off. “Mal?”

He moved out into the bay so he could see her as he tried to catch his breath. “Hey, Frey. You gonna come and join us?”

“What the hell are you doing?”

“Playing hoopball.” He nodded towards his pilot. “Maybe you can take Hank’s place, seeing as he’s pretty much dying.”

“Am not!”

Mal ignored the man. “Or we can make it four on four, and River joins in.”

“Mal …” Freya couldn’t believe what she was seeing, and heat began to burn in her belly. “You shouldn’t be … you’re not … this isn’t good for you.”

He held up a hand. “I’m feeling okay, Frey. Better’n yesterday, that’s for sure. So I thought I’d -”

“Thought?” She stared at him. “I doubt there’s much in that brain of yours other than pretending!” She shook her head slowly. “What about last night? When we were -”

His eyes hardened a little. “Frey, you really wanna go into that now?”

She opened her mouth to argue, to tell him exactly what she thought of him, that he was the most exasperating man she had ever met … then a wave of discomfort so acute washed over her that her chest felt tight, and she had to hold onto the railing to stop from falling to her knees.

“He’s not playing that hard,” Simon said, trying to placate the irate woman, noticing her distress but putting it down to the anger.

Freya managed to get enough air into her lungs. “Not … Then how come he’s sweating so much?” Something was wrong. Very wrong.

The doctor seemed surprised, then took a better look at his captain. His dark brown t-shirt was indeed soaking wet around the neck, and was sticking to his back. Yet despite this, his face was pale. Simon moved forward. “Mal, I think maybe I’d better -”

“I’m fine,” Mal said firmly, rubbing his fist into the centre of his chest. “Just a bit winded, is all. Maybe I ain’t as young as I thought I was, and p’raps I’d better sit this next …” He had to stop as the ache spread down his arm.

“Simon,” River said urgently, her own skin deathly white.

Hank, the closest to him, put out his hand. “Mal?”

Wo de …” Mal couldn’t finish. Pain crashed through him, knocking all the air out of him as if he was in a giant vice. He staggered back, and would have fallen if Zoe’s strong arms hadn’t eased him down to the deck.

Kaylee gasped, her hands to her mouth.

“Daddy?” Ethan asked, darting forwards only to be stopped by River’s hands on his shoulders. “Want to help. Let me go!” He started to struggle, but she went down onto her heels and pulled him against her.

“Ethan, shh.”

“Let go!”

Ethan. He heard his Aunt’s voice in his mind, and he stopped struggling, but he wouldn’t take his eyes off his father’s prone figure.

Freya was trying to climb down the stairs, but her vision was clouded, psychic pain radiating through her. “Mal …” she whispered.

Help Freya, River dropped into Jayne’s brain this time. She’s feeling it.

The big man nodded and bounded up the steps, putting his arm around his friend and half-carrying her back to the bay floor.

Simon was on his knees next to Mal. “Tell me,” he said quietly, slipping into his professional mode.

“Can’t … can’t breathe …” Mal ground out. “Pain. Like someone’s … sitting on … my chest.”

“Infirmary,” Simon ordered, and between them Hank and Zoe lifted their captain up, carrying him swiftly through the doorway to the common area.

“Simon?” Kaylee whimpered.

“Look after the kids.” Then he was gone, Jayne helping Freya after him.

Kaylee turned to gaze at the children. River still had hold of Ethan, rocking him slightly, while Bethie’s fingers were tangled up with Jesse’s, her eyes wide and full of unshed tears. Hope and Ben were still sitting on the deck, but he had his little arms around her, and she was shivering. Even Caleb, who didn’t know what was going on, had stopped playing with his horse and was staring.

“Is it a …” she asked, her hand above her heart.

River nodded slowly.

“Daddy?” Ethan murmured.

---

Simon slipped the oxygen mask over Mal’s face, turning up the flow to alleviate the blueish tinge to the man’s lips. “Try and breathe normally,” he advised.

“Easy … easy for you … to … say.” Mal tried to smile but it turned into a grimace.

Zoe was getting out the sensors, but with Mal’s t-shirt still on …

“Here.” Jayne slid Binky from its sheath and quickly, but with care, slit the fabric from base to neck.

“Thanks.”

“That’s … my … best …” Mal complained, but couldn’t finish.

“Why do you have to do that?” Freya asked, standing next to him, his hand wrapped in hers. “Make stupid jokes all the gorram time?” She still sounded angry, but now it was because of him, not at him, and she was biting back the tears.

“Thought that … that was … what you loved ‘bout … me.”

“Mal, I could seriously -”

“Freya, please, I need to work.” Simon tried to push her away, placing the sensors on Mal’s chest. Immediately the infirmary was filled with a fast-running beeping sound, almost too close together to count.

“No, I -”

“Jayne.”

The big man put his arms around Freya’s, pulling her away. “Let him do his job, Frey.”

She didn’t want to, but the look in Mal’s eyes, the pain she felt coming from him in waves, made her reluctantly release his fingers and allow Jayne to ease her back.

Taking the small handheld scanner from Zoe’s outstretched hand, Simon ran it over Mal’s chest. What he saw had his face tightening. “TriLasothin. 10 milligrams. That cupboard.” He pointed.

Zoe nodded.

“Doc?” Hank asked.

“It’s a vasodilator.” Simon looked down at his patient. “It will help, but I can’t give you too much, not until I know the cause.”

“Thought I … I was dying,” Mal managed to say, unbidden tears from the pain leaking out of the corners of his eyes and running down into his hair.

“Not on my watch.” Taking the hypogun, he injected it directly into Mal’s neck.

There was a moment’s silence, then the beeping began to moderate, become more measured. Simon nodded slowly, not taking his eyes from the readouts on the wall.

Mal took a breath, then another, and closed his eyes at the wonderful sensation of the concrete block on his chest easing.

“Mal?” Freya pulled free from Jayne’s grip and approached the medbed.

“Sorry,” he whispered, his voice distorted by the oxygen mask. “Didn’t mean to scare you like that.”

“Scare me?” She took his hand, this time unwilling and unable to let go. “If you ever do that to me again, I’ll …”

“What?”

“I’ll think of something.”

“Can’t be worse than seeing that look in your eye.” He squeezed her fingers.

She could hardly feel it. “You mean me being absolutely livid with you for being so stupid?”

“Yeah, that’s the one.”

Hank grinned at Zoe, relieved that whatever it was had been averted, then faltered as he saw the look on her face.

Simon ran the scanner over Mal’s chest again, then looked at the readouts once more. “Hank, where’s the nearest planet with a decent hospital?”

The atmosphere, which had begun to lighten, thickened immediately.

“Um, now? Probably Boros.” He swallowed. “Why?”

“How long would it take us to get there?”

“Well, we’re fuelled so we could do it full burn most of -”

“How long?”

“Thirty hours and twenty seven minutes,” River said, appearing in the infirmary doorway.

“Do it.” Simon turned back to the readouts.

Hank glanced at Zoe. “Look, I don’t exactly -”

“Do it,” she repeated softly, looking at him just once before going back to gaze at her captain.

He stared at her, then nodded in understanding, and ran out of the room. They could hear his footsteps disappearing up the stairs.

“I take it there ain’t no good news,” Mal said, taking shallow breaths, wary of feeling the overwhelming pain in his chest again.

Simon turned and looked down at him. “You had a heart attack. At the moment, I don’t know why. But there’s a serious narrowing of the artery, and one of the valves in your heart doesn’t appear to be functioning properly.”

“And the … the pain?”

“Your heart was trying to push blood it wasn’t getting around your body. Mal, I’ll be honest with you. You were moments away from full cardiac arrest.”

Freya’s hands tightened.

“That … don’t sound great,” Mal said, swallowing hard.

“It’s not. What I gave you opened up the blood vessels enough so that your heart can pump more normally, but if I don’t figure out the reason …”

“I could have another.”

“Yes. And this time it could be fatal.”

In the silence that followed everyone held their breath.

Finally Mal said, “You think you should be telling me that, doc? Man in my condition?”

Simon’s lips twitched, just once. “You’d rather I lied to you?”

“No. But sugar coating it wouldn’t’ve been a bad idea.”

“Well, you’ve always said my bedside manner leaves a lot to be desired.”

Mal knew the normally stoic professional manner of his resident medic hid real concern and love for his patients, so he didn’t take it to heart. So to speak. “Surely have. And Boros?”

“I’m a good doctor. But I might need help this time.”

“Then it looks like I ain’t going anywhere.”

“No, you’re not.”

Mal lifted his head enough to look at his first mate. “Zoe, you got the ship. Since I’m otherwise engaged.”

“Yes sir.”

“Don’t crash her.”

“I’ll try not to.“ She squared her shoulders and walked out, heading for the bridge.

Jayne looked out into the common area, and saw his wife staring at him. Leaving the others, he joined her. “River?”

“Look after the children,” she said quietly. “I need to stay close in case Simon needs me.”

“You think -”

She put her fingers across his lips, silencing him. “I don’t know. But I have to stay. And Kaylee needs to be in the engine room.”

He looked into her eyes and nodded. “They’re gonna be worried. ‘Specially Ethan.”

“Take them into the shuttle and talk to them.”

“What about?” He couldn’t help it. He had to chuckle. “Moonbrain, there’s only a few things I know any too well, and most of ‘em ain’t right for ears that young.”

“Tell them about your childhood. You and Matty. Get them to paint the stories.”

“Paint ‘em. Huh.” He shook his head. “Not sure I can do this.”

She put her hand on his cheek. “My Jayne can do anything.”

“Think maybe you’re gonna be sorely mistaken.” He bent for a kiss then hurried into the cargo bay.

---

Time seemed to pass slowly in the infirmary, so Freya was surprised to look up and see more than an hour had gone by since she’d set up for lessons. Simon was busy with his machines, and Mal didn’t seem in the mood to talk, so she just sat on the stool and held his hand. But eventually it got to be too much.

“Considering you’ve done almost anything to stay out of the infirmary, you also seem to put yourself in harm’s way enough just to end up back in here,” she said, needing to fill the quiet. “Is there something you’ve been trying to tell me?”

Mal smiled, slightly blurred through the mask. “Yes. Sorry, but me and Simon are planning on running off together to live a life of decadent luxury.”

“Right.” She brushed his damp hair from his forehead. “So me and mine are going to be left destitute.”

“I’m sure you’ll be able to find someone to replace me.”

She licked dry lips. “I don’t want that, xin gan.”

That was too close for comfort, so he found refuge in humour again. “Don’t know how you’re gonna break it to Kaylee that her hubby’s sly, though.”

She let him. “Carefully.”

Mal smiled.

“Hey, I’m right here, you know,” the doctor complained, adjusting the sensors delicately, only half listening to the banter going on under his nose.

Freya ignored him. “Although, you know, I always thought if I were to lose you to another man, it would be Jayne.”

Mal’s eyes widened. “Jayne?”

“Mmn. All those muscles. The blue eyes. Something about him, especially when he‘s all sweaty from working out …”

“Sounds like you’re the one I need to worry about.”

She leaned down, moved the mask to one side so she could press her lips against his, just once. Putting it back she whispered, “Never.”

“’Sides,” Mal went on, tasting her in his mouth, “if I made a move on Jayne I think River’d hunt me down.”

“True.” She nodded slightly. “Better stay where you know you’re wanted.”

“Intend to, Frey.”

Simon coughed. “I hate to interrupt this display of slightly saccharin affection, but I need to take some blood.” He held up a hypo.

“More?” Mal asked. “You sure I got enough?”

“Barely. But I won’t take much.” He slid the needle into the vein on Mal’s arm.

“Ouch.”

“Baby,” Freya murmured.

“You ain’t on the receiving end.” He watched the precious red liquid fill the tube. “Seems like a lot, doc.”

Removing the hypo Simon pressed on the tiny wound. “I need to do some more -”

“Here.” River had stepped silently into the infirmary, and was holding out a handful of small boxes.

“What’s that?” Simon asked, taking them from her.

“I went through one of the crates.”

Simon’s eyebrows raised as he studied the details. “This is … pretty high end stuff.”

“What is it, doc?” Mal wanted to know, trying to raise himself onto his elbows but feeling as weak as a kitten as Freya pressed him gently back down.

“Blood tests. Some of the newest on the market.” He smiled at his sister. “Thanks.”

“If you want I’ll keep looking, see what else is in there.”

“Hey, we gotta deliver that.” Mal held up a hand. “Hello? Anyone listening? I’m still captain here.”

“No, you’re not,” Simon pointed out, taking the tests to the counter and opening them up. “You relinquished that to Zoe.”

“Temporarily, doc. Only temporarily.” A feeling of weariness spread through him, and his eyes began to close.

“Simon?” Freya spoke urgently.

He turned, checking the readouts. “It’s okay. He’s just tired,” he assured her. “Sleep wouldn’t be a bad thing. It puts less strain on the heart.”

She nodded, but the look of concern didn’t leave her face.

“It’s okay, ai ren,” Mal said, his words slurring slightly. “Just gonna take a few. Wake me if something important happens.”

“Right.” She rubbed the back of his hand with her thumb. “I’m not going anywhere.”

“Good. That’s good.” He slipped into sleep.

“Honestly, Frey, it’s the best thing for him right now.” Simon smiled at her, then went back to the tests.

It didn’t help.

---

“You got them?”

“Yeah. Picking up their transponder code loud and clear.”

“Might’ve cost, but it’s worth it.”

“They ain’t heading to Priam, though.”

“Oh? Where?”

“Not sure. Could be Boros.”

“Lousy thieves. Probably never intended making the delivery.”

“Then what are we?”

“Justice.”

“Boone …”

“Move us up. I want this done. And that bitch dead.”

to be continued

COMMENTS

Saturday, March 7, 2009 12:30 PM

WAKEUPSOON


So, he wants Zoe dead? Maybe .. idk, I could be interpreting this wrong. Hurmmm ... Mall'll be fine tho, if he's not you're sure to have a riot on your hands ..
Anna.x.(:

Sunday, March 8, 2009 4:38 AM

NCBROWNCOAT


Why does he want Zoe dead? Ahhh the mystery?

And Mal needs to be OK. Dong ma?

Sunday, March 8, 2009 1:44 PM

ROBSAD79


Ooooh this is getting good.

Sunday, March 8, 2009 4:23 PM

KATESFRIEND


So knowing that this isn't going to turn out as straightforward as it seems, what have you got up your sleeve? New virus attacking heart valves? Poor Zoe - at the center of the storm and no one sees it coming.

Sunday, March 8, 2009 11:22 PM

AMDOBELL


I can't help but feel that Mal's heart condition was induced. If he had a weak heart our valiant Captain wouldn't have survived half the things he gets into but I'm pegging my hopes on River or Frey spotting the source and Simon putting it right. Just not sure how close you're going to cut this. Also, it sounds as if there is a tracker on the ship or attached to the cargo and given the conversation at the end it makes me think there is something really dodgy about the job. Hope River and Frey stay sharp enough to keep an eye out for trouble. And don't kill Mal. You really wouldn't like the nine hells you would end up in if you killed him, *dong ma*? Great work as always, Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Tuesday, March 10, 2009 2:12 PM

ANGELLEMARCS


Okay, so I am trying hard to keep breathing. I know you said you wouldn't break him so I am trusting you, but this is getting good and scary and me likes it. Going to read five now!!


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