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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - DRAMA
Starting to heal - The ladies of Serenity get together to encourage each other. Mal talks to Cole. Jayne and Jamie are still working things out.
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 815 RATING: 10 SERIES: FIREFLY
PART 10 – Starting to Heal
Genny smiled as she took Emily by the hand and led her down the hall, explaining the time-honored, super-secret gathering that only Serenity’s women were a part of. Jamie must have said something to Emily, else she’d be putting up a hissy fit about being far from her Papa, but Genny had found her by the snack machines alone, and took that as invitation. She wasn’t sure she was allowed to bring Emily into the meetings, but this was an emergency.
“Normally, I’d wait until you’re a woman to tell you these things, but we’re all going to our own worlds soon, and it’s important that I tell you in person,” Genny explained as they entered River’s and Zoë’s room. “We are the women of Serenity, and it’s vital that we stick together because sometimes men do stupid things and when they do, you need your girls to be there for you.”
Emily swelled with pride and belonging, but it clouded pretty quickly. “What if there’s nothing you can do to help?”
“It’s not about doing,” River said, standing by the window, looking out. It was she who had called them all with the S.O.S. – man trouble. Sometimes these meeting involved complaining or crying or hair pulling. Sometimes they involved wine and pedicures, because not every trouble could be spoken out loud.
“All you need to do is listen and care,” Inara explained. She and Kaylee were standing by Zoë’s bed.
“Zoë’s fading on us,” Kaylee said. “River, can we skip to the good news?”
“Since when does an S.O.S include good news?” Inara asked.
“I can explain,” River said, taking a deep breath. She leaned against the wall and looked at the group of them gathered. Her eyes were red and puffy, and her mouth twitched like she couldn’t decide how she felt. “I might be a little … free-spirited for awhile, because I won’t be on meds, because … I’m pregnant.”
Inara gasped and covered her mouth. “I thought –”
“So did everyone,” Kaylee said with a cheery smile. She’d known for hours already.
Zoë clapped her hands and smiled so tight tears came out, but she reined back her emotions as the pain took hold.
Emily punched her fist in the air and whooped. “Yes! I won’t be the baby anymore!”
“Oh! Oh! That’s what that face meant! Oh, I’m so glad I captured it.” Genny squealed, her hand fluttering over her mouth, trying to contain her excitement. She reached quickly into her purse, pulled out her capture and scooted next to River. “Look! This was the face Dad made when Mom told him.”
“Oh, you sneak!” Kaylee cried, crowding around to see.
“I had it out,” Genny said defensively. “Didn’t you see Michael under the coats?”
Genny scrolled to the picture of Michael sleeping under the pile of everyone’s coats and they all laughed.
“And we’ve lost Zoë again,” Inara announced, dropping Zoë’s hand so she could come over and see the pictures too. They cheered and congratulated River, none of them wanting to break the aura of happiness and ask about the bad news.
Then Emily tugged sullenly on River’s elbow. “How sick will you get?”
With Emily, everything centered around that fear – that someone else would get sick and die and she’d lose her dad again.
River wrapped her arm around Emily sympathetically. “Don’t worry so much. Where do you get all this worry? Your Momma never worried like that. She laughed in the face of death.”
“She did,” Kaylee agreed, more creeped out than cheered by the memory. “It was really eerie.”
Emily’s face scrunched up again. Breaking away from River, she walked to Inara and clung desperately to the woman who had become her surrogate mother over the past few years.
“I don’t want to go home,” she confessed to Inara. She ducked her head and bit her lip. “I don’t want to live in that house. Momma’s not there. She can never be there. She would never have wanted to live in that house.”
Inara embraced Emily and the other ladies gathered around, each laying a comforting hand.
“You could come to Sihnon with me and Cole,” Genny offered, running her fingers through Emily’s hair.
“I got a place by the beach,” Kaylee tried.
Emily sucked in some air and wiped her face, even though no tears had fallen. “I can’t leave Papa,” she said. “I just wish we lived on a space ship again. We were all together.”
“Sweetie, there’s not one among us that doesn’t miss living vessel-side,” Inara said compassionately, caressing Emily’s cheek soothingly.
“Huh,” Kaylee murmured. “That is something. How’d we end up land locked?”
“I didn’t,” River said. “Zoë didn’t.”
“The ship broke,” Inara shrugged. “The Captain retired. The rest of us needed a break.”
Genny and Kaylee exchanged a look.
“I’d make a great Captain,” Genny said thoughtfully. “Ain’t nothing I touch that I don’t try to take charge of.”
“Is Cole into that?” Kaylee teased.
“Not a lick,” Genny retorted without missing a beat. “That’s what makes him fun.”
“Is that a sex reference?” Emily asked, when the others smothered snickers.
“I’ll explain when you’re older,” Inara laughed.
Emily sighed loudly. “Momma would’ve told me.”
“I happen to know a decent mechanic and good pilot,” Genny continued, looking around the room.
“Decent?” Kaylee repeated, in mock offense.
“Does anyone still have Michael’s card?”
Mal beamed with joy as he strode into the cafeteria to meet his son. The room smelled of dirty mop water and strong sanitizers, and the food was unremarkable and bland enough not to leave a scent at all. It was a bright space, filled with long tables, and empty since it was well after dinner hour. Cole sat alone, drawing rings on the table with the stirrer of his long cold coffee. He looked up when Mal approached and managed to keep the hopeful smile off his face, but not out of his eyes. When Mal sat across from him and wordlessly set his elbow on the table inviting the arm wrestling match, Cole’s lips parted in surprise. He looked at his father, then at his hand, like he couldn’t decide how he felt about the challenge. Eventually, he just shook his head, placed his elbow on the table and clasped Mal’s hand.
There was no spoken word between them before the match began. Mal found he wasn’t straining too hard to keep from knocking Cole’s hand over. It was fun sitting there, looking at his boy – now a man – having purpose in being connected without the need for words. He couldn’t believe he hadn’t done this sooner. Mal pushed a little harder and Cole matched the push, keeping their hands pointed skyward.
“I’ll go easy,” Cole said, loosening his grip, and maintaining the force with his open palm. “Don’t want to risk breaking your hand again.”
“You didn’t break it the first time,” Mal said evenly. His son was toying with him and he found that annoying.
“You never gave me a chance,” Cole said icily, closing his fingers again and closing his grip.
Anger! Where did that come from? He’d always had a good relationship with Cole. At least he thought he did.
“I’m giving you one now. Jamie fixed that bone up hard as steel, so…” Mal grunted rather than finishing the sentence as Cole pushed him a little harder and he had to start putting effort into the match. “Mama says you’re working for the Guild.”
“You said I couldn’t be a Shepherd,” Cole replied. He wasn’t even straining yet. “You never said anything about being a Companion.”
It had been their joke for years, whenever Cole mentioned an outlandish career, he’d qualify it with that bit about not being a Shepherd. Sometimes Mal wondered if he really did want to be a Shepherd … but not the celibate kind, since he was married.
“Don’t know why I have to hear it from her is all,” Mal said. Come to think of it, most of what he knew about Cole came through Inara.
“You can’t shame me out of the Guild,” Cole growled. This time he pushed and Mal lost ground. Digging his feet into the floor and elbow into the table, Mal found some leverage to push back. They’d started off so well, but now he was confused. It reminded him of the first year he’d known Inara and he never said one thing right the whole time.
“Never reckoned I could. You always did take after your Mama.”
Mal smiled. Cole didn’t. If anything he looked more upset.
“What did you expect me to do?” Cole carped bitterly. “Take up gun slinging?”
“May not be as respectable, but there’s honor in it,” Mal said. He was losing ground in this fight.
“There’s honor in what I do as well.”
“I didn’t say there wasn’t,” Mal cried defensively. “I’m sure what you do is perfectly respectable.”
“Glad I could make you proud,” Cole said sarcastically, emphasizing the last word by winning the fight and slamming Mal’s hand against the table. Mal was shocked as much by Cole’s burst of strength as by the anger radiating between them, and he stared dumbly as Cole got up from the table. His hand was bruised, but it would heal on its own. Cole was another story.
“Hold on now!” Mal cried, jumping to his feet and grabbing Cole by the elbow.
“Why is everyone trying to change me? Zoë’s forcing this mission on me. You’re …” Cole lost wind for his argument, paced in a circle, and raked his fingers through his hair. As much as Zoë’s request may have stirred something, Mal’s intuition told him he wasn’t entirely free of blame. Mal had stopped speaking ill of the Guild since Inara said she’d stay on Serenity to help raise Little Zoë. If Cole sensed any disapproval from him, then something was speaking louder than his own silence.
“This isn’t a cry for attention,” Cole said coldly, shaking his arm free. “This is the path I’ve chosen. Deal with it.”
“There seems to be a misunderstanding between us,” Mal said, his voice getting low and serious as he crowded close to Cole. “I got some truth to tell and it’s important enough that I’ll say it ‘til you hear me. There is nothing I see in you that I’m not proud of. Do you know that?”
Cole wrinkled his nose in disbelief and turned away bitterly.
“Son, look at me,” Mal urged. When Cole didn’t turn, Mal walked around him and craned his neck to get in Cole’s face. “I’m proud of you. I am. If you need to hear it more often, send me a wave. I’ll tell you every day. If I’m not there, anyone within two miles of the house has heard me boasting about you. Some of ‘em will run off in the other direction when they see me, they’re so tired of hearing it.”
Cole finally looked at him, his eyes swimming in confusion. “You don’t know anything.”
“Then tell me,” Mal said emphatically, cupping his son’s face in his hands. “I could use some new material. Like I said, people run off.”
Cole chuckled and then looked angry at himself for doing it.
“I got no qualm with the Guild,” Mal continued, searching for words that he’d never said out loud and figured he should probably repeat to Inara later in case she needed to hear this too. “Don’t much like their business, but they look after their own and I can respect that. Were it not for them, your Mama would’ve been lost to us years ago.”
“I know,” Cole said. “Because that’s what I do. I look after the ones that get hurt or lost.”
Mal stared a moment, breathless in surprise. He really had no idea what his son had been up to, but it didn’t change the facts. “I’m proud of you.”
“You said that.”
Mal waited a moment in silence, then went back to the table and presented his arm for another match. Cole shifted foot to foot fighting with himself, but eventually he sighed and sat down too.
“I’ll beat you this time, son,” Mal promised.
Jayne never knew how to talk to Jamie when the boy was stressed. Jamie was too much like Simon and Jayne always said the wrong things. Any of the other kids were fine if Jayne came to their rescue, but Jamie always wanted his dad. No matter what danger he pulled Jamie from, it was never safe until he did that last step – carried him to the Infirmary and let the Doc say he was okay. He didn’t remember too well breaking Jamie’s arm, but he believed it happened because of the way Jamie had flinched when he touched him.
It hurt him to know he’d done so much damage to someone he loved so much. And he was sure this could have been made right if he’d come to his senses and carried Jamie to his dad right when it happened. It was too late now. Time had left an ugly scar and there was nothing Jayne could do or give to Jamie that would make a bit of difference. He wasn’t even sure he should be sitting there. Jamie always spoke his mind and if he’d been glad at all for Jayne not leaving him alone, he would’ve at least mumbled a thank you. All Jayne got for the first ten minutes was silence.
“Liu koushui de biaozi he hou zi de ben erzi.” Jamie finally muttered.
Jayne chuckled even though he knew he probably shouldn’t. “It’s good to know all that schooling ain’t cut into your swearing any.”
Jamie huffed angrily. “I think you’re a bad man.”
Jayne nodded, hating that he’d fallen so far from favor, but accepting it just the same. “I think you’re not wrong.”
Jamie picked at his fingernails and twitched tensely, like he expected Jayne to hit him at any moment. “You’ve seen a hundred men die, and a good deal of ‘em by your own hand. You’ve lost friends in a firefight. You lost your Mom and your brother. You always worked it out. Why was this time different?”
That was a good question. The kid was too reasonable, and if reason ruled the ‘verse, maybe Jayne would have an answer. Jayne had never found any reason in Sky dying.
“Have you ever loved a woman?” he asked Jamie.
“A man?” Jayne checked.
Jamie rolled his eyes. “No, I prefer women. I just haven’t been looking for one.”
“I never looked either,” Jayne said reflectively. He turned away from Jamie because Jamie had judgment radiating off his skin, and it made it too hard to talk when they were facing. “Sky fell into my life that day she picked my pocket and broke the Captain’s hand when he tried to stop her.”
“I know the story,” Jamie interrupted.
Jayne pressed his lips together in frustration. “It’s worth looking. If I’d known what joy she would bring to my life, I would’ve started looking a lot sooner.”
He hadn’t intended this to be a sage lesson, and Jamie didn’t look to keen on learning at the moment. Jayne had fallen hard for Sky, but it was okay, because she’d caught him. He didn’t realize that she was still holding him up until she was gone. Then he fell the rest of the way, hit rock bottom, and shattered into a million pieces.
“But you lost her,” Jamie whispered, his voice low and hoarse. “Then you lost your mind.”
Jayne nodded guiltily, knowing he’d lost more than his mind in the aftermath. “Not everyone loses.”
With a shiver of revulsion, Jamie shook his head in disgust and cradled his arm, and Jayne looked at him closely. It didn’t make sense for a kid like Jamie – someone who had grown up around so much love – not to be looking for love. He hoped he hadn’t scared the kid into solitude.
“I am a monster,” Jayne said. “I’m a goddamned bastard. You are nothing like me. Don’t let me being stupid stop you from looking.”
“It’s not,” Jamie said icily, balling his hands into fists and forcing himself not to cower so much. “Believe it or not, the galaxy does not revolve around you.”
“That’s good,” Jayne said, leaning back against the chair, and resolving to sit quietly again. “I’ve lost some weight and that tends to muck up the orbits.”
Jayne kept his back to Jamie, letting the curtain of silence separate them. Simon walked by and eyed them critically, then summoned Jamie with a word. Jamie fled gratefully, but surprisingly, he paused before he rounded the corner.
“My transport leaves at midnight,” Jamie said, talking more to the floor than to Jayne. The boy took a deep breath and his eyes flickered up, then back to the floor. “Will you be there?”
Jayne could barely get out a ‘yes’ before he got too choked up to speak.
Please comment before reading on to Part 11
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