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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Maya. Post-BDM. Just some snippets from the different lives on Serenity and the Empress, and perhaps a hint of things to come. NEW CHAPTER
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1405 RATING: 10 SERIES: FIREFLY
Time passed, as time tends to in the normal ‘verse, although River had a long lecture prepared on that very subject, with a slideshow and some ten dollar words that … no. The look on the captain’s face was enough to stop her. So suffice it to say that the clocks moved on, hair grew, and the distance between the Empress of Sihnon and Serenity increased with each day, and two very different styles of life were going on.
“She’s doing her best,” Hank said, “but with that cargo in her hold it’s like trying to swim through treacle. Each time we pick up a little boost or brake from a passing moon, the extra mass throws my calculations off, and … well, it’s getting boring.” The pilot certainly looked tired, nursing a cup of very strong coffee at the kitchen table.
“Could always dump it,” Jayne, ever the pragmatist, suggested.
“Can’t do that.” Mal crossed his arms. “Got us a payday waiting.”
“Badger.” For a big man the ex-merc could get a lot of bile behind a single word.
“Badger,” Mal confirmed. “Although I’m beginning to think maybe we should bury him under it.”
Simon, sitting on one chair, his leg resting on another, nodded in agreement. “I’ll help.”
“Can’t,” River said, drifting past on her way to check the bridge controls. “Might need it.”
Mal looked up sharply. “What’s that, albatross?”
She didn’t answer, just patted Hank on the shoulder, saying, “Get some sleep. I’ll look after things.” With that she was gone.
“You know,” Mal said musingly, “sometimes I wonder if there’s anyone real on board this boat ‘cept me. Maybe I’m hallucinatin’ the rest of you.”
Hank put his forehead on the old wood. “If you are, can I join you?”
“Not sure.” Mal looked at Simon. “Can hallucinations hallucinate?”
The doctor shrugged. “I wouldn’t dare to give an opinion. Seeing as I’m one as well.”
“Maybe I should ask your sis.”
“She’s just having an untied day,” Jayne said, picking at his teeth with one fingernail.
“Untied. Good word.”
“She’s worrying about the others,” Simon said.
“I know.” Mal gave a half-smile. “So the sooner we get to Persephone the better.” He turned back to Hank. “What’s our current ETA?”
The only answer was a light snore from an apparently comatose pilot.
Empress of Sihnon – Glacier …
Beautiful, but cold. The heated hovers hired for the day kept everyone toasty warm, and allowed them to enjoy the bright white snowfields, intricate houses carved from sheer blue ice, and the huge fire burning day and night from the volcanic gases.
The bravest ventured out, well-wrapped against the chill, to ride the frozen falls that gave the planet its name, sliding down the ice runs in huge toboggans built for a dozen souls.
“Whoo-ee!” Kaylee said, stepping inside the local wine-hall and shaking the snow from her boots. “You shoulda come.”
The two women sitting by the enormous log fire looked up.
“With my shoulder?” Zoe shook her head, her hands wrapped around a mug of something that steamed fragrantly. “I think Hank’d disapprove.”
“You don’t know what you missed.”
“Where are Frey and the girls?” Inara asked, looking past her through the thick glass door to where the dipping sun was making the snow glitter in a rainbow of colours.
“Phoebe and Joy wanted to go again, so Frey said she’d take them. I think Val and Flynn’re waiting for ‘em at the bottom.”
Kaylee shrugged. “I kinda think they’re arguing.”
Inara didn't bother to hide the smile. “About what?”
“Not too sure, but Val seemed to be giving Flynn a piece of her mind about something or other, and he was looking fit to bust.”
Zoe grunted slightly. “It’s possible we may not have to make up our minds about Flynn,” she said, inhaling the scent of herbs from her drink and feeling it cleansing her sinuses. “He may not survive long enough.”
“Aw, Val ain’t gonna hurt him.” Kaylee tossed her heavy coat towards the pile by the door, and signalled for another drink. “Much.”
The other women laughed.
“Hey, big feller.” Mal smiled at Ben seated at the table, sucking loudly on the end of a pencil and staring at his notebook, for once not in the company of Hope or any of the other children.
“Uncle Mal.” Ben glanced up quickly and smiled, but his coffee-coloured face went straight back to being serious as he looked down at the page in front of him.
“Mmn.” The little boy sighed. “I don’t understand it.”
“Want me to take a look with you?”
Mal pulled a chair up close and sat down. “Okay, what’re you working on?”
“Sums.” Ben sighed again.
Mal nodded, knowing Freya had left some work for them to do, and that she liked to push them a little, particularly if they seemed to have an aptitude, which Ben did. “Let’s take a look.” There was a pause. “Huh.”
“I gather this ain’t your Auntie Frey’s.”
“I’ll have a word.”
“Thanks, Uncle Mal.”
Empress of Sihnon – Daedalus …
“Do you think they’d notice if I kinda slipped one into my pocket?” Joy asked quietly. Yet again her parents had decided not to take advantage of the trip off-ship, preferring to remain on board the Empress and rest.
Personally Inara wondered that while they loved their daughter dearly, they found her a little tiring, and since someone else was prepared to keep an eye on her, they were taking advantage of the opportunity for a little time together. Alone.
Inara trod quickly on the thought that drifted across her mind that she’d quite like that herself, and smiled at the young woman. “I think they probably would.” She could vaguely hear the guide ahead talking about how the diamond veins on Daedalus were first discovered, and that the tunnel they were traversing was the newest in a series of excavations.
“Yeah, that’s what I thought.” Joy sighed. “Be kinda nice, though, wouldn’t it? To have lots of pretties.” She sounded wistful as her hand strayed to a lump of crystal in the wall, but didn’t touch.
“It’s all right,” Inara admitted. “But they don’t mean much. They don’t keep you warm at night.”
“You mean like a man?”
“That’s ... one of them, yes.”
“My Ma says men ain’t to be trusted.”
“Yeah. Then she gives my Pa one of them looks, and they don’t talk for a while.”
“Ah.” Inara didn’t say it, but she had an idea what that meant.
“Not that I’ve ever met a feller I wanted to be with for the rest of my life,” Joy went on, skirting the issue of her father’s possible infidelity.
“There’s plenty of time.”
“Oh, I know.” The girl grinned suddenly. “And I’m having way too much fun to settle down.” They moved on, not wanting to get too far from the main group. “And there’s other people to talk about, anyway.”
“I’ve been doing a little research.”
“Being nosy, you mean.”
Joy wasn’t phased. “Pretty much.” She laughed. “Like about the woman in the Presidential Suite. Nobody’s seen her, or knows anything about her, ‘cept her name. Madam Reynolds.”
Inara’s eyebrows went up. “Reynolds?”
“I know. I kinda thought that was odd myself. Think she’s related to your Ms Reynolds?”
“Freya? I doubt it. I don't think there’s any money in that family.”
“And there’d have to be. Heard tell those rooms cost more’n the rest put together.” She leaned over conspiratorially. “And she’s pregnant.”
“That’s nice for her.” Inara couldn’t help the slight pang of disappointment, telling herself there was plenty of time for that too, only she wasn’t sure she was listening.
“Pretty far gone, from what I’ve heard.” Joy stopped to admire another rough diamond. “I've heard she’s some bigwig in the Alliance, ‘cepting she’d be travelling by cruiser if that were the case. Or that she was a criminal on the run. You know, hiding in plain sight. Somebody else said she was the wife of a rich man goin’ home to have his baby.” She shrugged. “Not like we can go up to the door and knock.”
“No. And don’t even consider letting yourself be tempted.”
Joy giggled. “As if I would.”
“As if you wouldn’t.”
“Well, maybe,” she admitted. “But it’s the same with the fellers in the Premier Suite. Three of ‘em, and not one’s stuck his head out since they got on board.” She glanced around. “You think they’re sly?”
“If they are, that’s up to them.”
“Oh, I know. And I wasn’t saying anything against it. I got no problems with guys liking other guys, ‘less they take the good-looking ones.”
One of the Reilly twins jogged towards them, her face a little pink. “Aunt ‘Nara, the man says you have to stay with us, else you might get lost.”
“Thank you, Phoebe. But remember, young ladies don’t run.”
“Then how do they get where they want to go?” Phoebe asked, but it was with a knowing look in her eye. She knew exactly how to behave, but chose not to.
“I think we might have a little update on deportment, don’t you?”
“Whatever.” She grabbed Joy’s hand. “C’mon,” she said. “I think Val and Flynn might just start spitting at each other.”
“Are they still arguing?” Inara asked, a sigh in her voice.
“Oh, only all the time.” Phoebe tugged her new friend along. “Don’t want to miss the fireworks.”
They ran ahead, regardless of being ladies, young or otherwise, while Inara kept up the deceptively fast walk, her mind on the matter of Flynn Youngblood. Honestly, the way he was going, they’d need the other bodyguard Freya had waved Dillon about.
And that was another thing. Madam Reynolds? Just who was she? She’d been honest when she said there was no money in that family, but she allowed a small smile to play across her lips as she entertained herself with the thought that perhaps this was a rich relative of Mal’s, and the look on the woman’s face when she found out she was kin to a thief and reprobate …
“Just there,” Bethie said, squatting on her heels and peering under the main board.
“Here?” Hank, lying on Kaylee’s wheeled trolley, felt around, then yelped as a spark met his finger. He pulled it back, sucking loudly on it. “Da-shiong bao-jah-shr duh la doo-tze,” he swore, somewhat indistinctly.
“That’s it.” She wasn’t at all worried about his cursing, having heard a lot worse in her few years.
“You know, I ain’t a mechanic,” he said, examining his fingertip.
“Do you want me to do it?”
Hank looked up at her. “Nope, that’s okay. Not having you put your hand into something. You might not get it all back.”
Bethie giggled, then got back to business. “You need the no. 7 power relay converter, the Humboldt shears, and a new interlocker.” She thought for a moment. “That’s it.”
“You know, I didn’t realise just how much your Ma does to keep us flying.”
Bethie nodded, her brightness subdued a little. “I know. Momma says Uncle Mal would’ve crashed years ago without her.”
“I reckon he’s right.”
“I miss Momma.”
Hank sat up and pulled her onto his lap. “Me too. And Zoe.”
“Do you think they’re having a good time?”
“Not thinking about us?”
“Not a bit.”
“Uncle Hank, you’re not a good liar.”
“I know. I figure it’s one of the things your Auntie Zoe loves about me.”
“She loves how you like to –”
Hank held up a finger, coincidentally the one that had come into contact with the live wire. “Now, what did we say about talking about … things like that?”
“Exactly.” He shook his head. “You know, you’re getting more and more like your Auntie River every day.”
“You say that like it’s a bad thing.” The woman in question stepped over the sill onto the bridge.
“Did I?” He grinned at her. “Must have been the electricity coursing through my nerve endings, made my mouth run off.”
“Hmmn.” She put down the items she was carrying. “Perhaps you’d better let me do it, then.”
He glanced at them – a no. 7 power relay converter, the Humboldt shears, and … “A new interlocker?”
Empress of Sihnon – Shadow …
Freya looked out of the great observation window in the Maritime Room, watching a planet slip by.
“Penny for them.”
She glanced up. “Dr Barkin.”
“Ma’am.” He indicated the seat opposite her. “May I?”
“She’s not here.”
Barkin smiled. “If you’re referring to Mrs Mills, I think I noticed.” He sat down, taking her non-refusal for acceptance. He looked out at the planet, half its surface lit, the rest in darkness. “It looks very peaceful.”
“And yet they say nobody can live there anymore.”
“That’s not quite true,” Freya commented. “The major continent, no. Too much damage. But people scratch a living elsewhere.”
He looked surprised. “You’ve been there?”
“A couple of times.” She could see the question in his eyes. “My husband comes from there. At least, that’s where he was born.”
“I see.” He didn’t really, and she wasn’t about to enlighten him.
“So were you just walking through, or did you want something?” she asked, raising her eyebrows at him.
Barkin had to laugh. “All right, you got me. I was wondering where your friend was.”
“Married.” This time it was with heavier emphasis.
Barkin’s lips twisted. “It’s only a game, Mrs Reynolds.”
“A game that might end up hurting someone.”
“No. I think you’ve probably played it too often for that.”
He seemed surprised. “I have to have something to do. These trips can be deathly dull.”
“Then try your luck elsewhere. Zoe’s too good a woman to be trifled with.”
“She’s very beautiful.”
This time Barkin laughed. “You should hear her moan when I work on her shoulder. It’s very erotic.”
Freya sat back and contemplated him. “You know, what I said about you not getting hurt … I don’t think that was quite true. You try anything with Zoe, and you’re the one who’s going to need a doctor.”
He stood up. “And that might be fun too.”
She watched him amble off, whistling some popular tune under his breath.
Something about him made her uneasy, but it was probably just the fact that he obviously intended continuing his pursuit of Zoe, despite being warned off. Still, Serenity’s first mate was more than capable of defending herself, even with one arm out of action. Hell, even with both hands tied behind her back.
Maybe she was missing Mal. It was all very fine and dandy, being able to have conversations with him whenever she wanted, but it was getting harder, and she still woke up to a cold pillow next to her.
She sighed, and the sound had a waiter appear at her elbow. She waved him away, half her mind still on Dr Barkin. It wouldn’t hurt to keep an eye on him, she decided. Not for Zoe’s sake, but just to keep her sleep easy. Besides, as Mal always said, a little paranoia could be a healthy thing.
“I want my Mama.” Ethan crossed his little arms and glared at his father, refusing to come any further into the infirmary.
“Now you know that ain’t gonna happen, not quite yet. Few more days and we’ll be at Persephone, and you can crawl into her arms as much as you like, and I’ll be pretty much joining you. But right now, you gotta let the doc do what he needs to.”
Simon rested on the stool, wondering if he was going to have confrontations like this one with his own son, and finding himself almost looking forward to it. He idly rubbed at his thigh, wondering if they’d notice if he scratched the healing wound.
“Don’t want to.”
“Why not? It ain’t like it’s the first time.” Mal was being surprisingly reasonable.
“Mama makes it not hurt.”
“It hurts?” He went down onto his heels in front of his son.
“It might,” Simon agreed quietly. “The wire is very fine, but …”
Mal turned enough so he could look at the young man. “What does she do?”
“Sings. Talks. Takes his mind off it.”
“How come she’s never told me?”
“Probably didn’t want to worry you.”
“Okay.” Mal thought for a moment. “How about I tell you a story?”
Ethan didn’t look convinced. “’Bout dinosaurs?”
“With all the noises.”
“I suppose I could –”
“I’ll get them!” The little boy was out of the infirmary like a shot and running up towards the bridge.
Mal stood slowly and turned to Simon. “Do you have to do it now?”
“It’s the last time,” the doctor assured him. “But I need these final readings to make sure I have a solid baseline in case anything ever goes wrong with his pacemaker.”
“It ain’t likely to, is it?” Mal asked, unable to keep the image of his baby son lying on the medbed, his skin cherry red, his heart in freefall because of Minuet’s.
“No. Everything’s been within normal parameters, but after that EMP hit we took a couple of months ago, I just wanted to be careful.”
“And I appreciate it. I know I don’t always show it, but I do. And I know Frey does, too.”
Simon felt a slight embarrassment at Mal’s honesty. “You’re my patients, Mal. And my family.”
“Seems like there’s a few doctors don’t think like that.”
“Perhaps. And perhaps you’re lucky I decided to take this ship rather than the Brutus.”
Mal couldn’t help smiling. “I always thought that was ‘cause you fell in love with the barker.”
“I refuse to comment.”
“Got them!” Ethan announced, stepping back into the infirmary and holding up the stegosaurus and the T-Rex. He eyed the medbed warily.
“Okay, then. Come on.”
“Still don’t want to.”
“I know.” Mal lifted him onto his hip. “And I wish it were your Momma making it better for you, but you’ll have to make do with me.” He brushed his hair from his eyes. “And I’m sorry. I didn’t know.”
Ethan handed him the yellow dinosaur. “S’okay.” He watched Simon limp across with a tray containing the fine wire, a hypo filled with a local anaesthetic and the handheld scanner, and he deliberately looked away.
“Okay,” Mal said quickly, hitching up onto the medbed so Simon could get at the tiny cannula he’d put between Ethan’s ribs. “So, what’s this one’s name?” he asked.
“Steve. Good name. What does Steve like to eat?” As he talked, he kept his eyes on Ethan’s face, trying to ignore what Simon was doing, just helping his son as much as possible by sending calming thoughts, much as he thought Freya would do. As he did so, he began to realise just how much Freya did to keep things running smoothly, to make his life – and that of his family – as easy as possible.
Empress of Sihnon – between systems …
Inara tossed. First one way, then the other, until the bedclothes were wrapped around her legs and the sheet beneath her was little more than a twisted rope.
She’d woken from a dream of Lazarus, sitting in one of the wrought iron chairs in the orchard, the sun warming her skin. Something was nuzzling at her, and when she looked down she could see it was a baby, very young, probably newborn, pushing at her naked breast as it fed. As he fed. She knew it was a boy without looking, just as she knew the father was Sam, although the olive tint to the baby’s complexion was further proof.
A wave of joy seeped through her, knowing this was her child, fruit of her body, testimony to her love, and she held him close, feeling a completion she’d never known in all her years as a Companion. So when the dream slipped away from her, and she woke up with her arms empty, she had allowed herself more than a handful of tears before attempting to go off again.
In vain. Eventually she sat up, staring into the darkness.
“This is ridiculous,” she said.
Switching on the light, she untangled herself from the blankets and stood up, crossing to the mirrored table. A moment’s perusal persuaded her that there was no external evidence from her crying, but just to be sure she ran the applicator over her powder, anointing her cheekbones and jawline, before dragging a brush through her heavy dark hair. Hmmn. She’d do.
She dressed quickly in loose black silk pants and a black and gold top, the least ostentatious of the clothes she’d brought with her, before slipping into a pair of low-heeled black sandals. One final glance in the mirror and she was almost satisfied.
Opening the door into the main lounge as quietly as possible, she stepped through, noting the Cortex still on. A faint noise reached her ears above the sound of the news programme playing. Crossing to the large sofa she looked down, and had to smile.
Freya had fallen asleep, probably watching one of the soaps that were her guilty pleasure, her head resting on her pillowed arms, snoring very slightly. There was very likely going to be a damp patch on the expensive brocade cushion before long.
Heading for the suite door, she wasn’t all that surprised to hear Freya’s voice behind her.
“Are you okay?”
Inara turned. She should have known the other woman would have heard, no matter how quiet she was. “I’m fine. Go back to sleep,” she whispered.
“Why are you up?” Freya struggled to sit up.
“I can’t sleep. I thought I’d go for a walk.”
“Want some company?”
“No. Go back to sleep.”
“If you’re sure.”
“Bring back some snacks.” Freya snuggled back down, asleep again almost immediately.
Inara smiled again, slipping out into the corridor and closing the door silently. She started to explore, letting her feet take her where they will.
The halls were quiet except for the occasional steward, and she had to keep letting them know that yes, she was fine, no, she didn’t want anything, yes, she knew there was food available throughout the night, yes, she knew where it was, and no, she was happy to walk unescorted.
After the fifth such encounter, she had the wild notion to go to one of the several gyms on board, and work off the wakefulness, but with her luck there would be a personal trainer still on duty, who would make her do far more than she anticipated. So it was with very little regret that she turned into the Starlight Lounge, accepting a beautifully made individual pot of coffee and an exquisite pastry, before sitting at a table and staring out into the black.
There were only two other couples in the large room, but neither was admiring the scenery. One pair was very young and obviously in love, so wrapped up in each other a gun could have gone off and they wouldn’t even have twitched.
The other couple were older, the man balding, shoulders stooped, the woman grey-haired and comfortable looking. They smiled and nodded at her before going back to chatting quietly, heads close. It was only when she looked again that she realised they were holding hands. It was odd, but Inara realised it was the gentle intimacy between them rather than the young couple that was the most reassuring. That’s how I want us to be, she thought. Sam and me. Growing old gracefully together. Or possibly disgracefully. She hid a grin in the coffee cup, taking a sip of the fragrant liquid, staring out at the hard pinpricks spread across the infinite.
Mal always said it soothed him, sitting on the bridge and looking out at the stars, knowing it was always there, barely changing from decade to decade, the outward show of what he called freedom. For as long as she’d known him, he’d never shirked taking his turn on watch, often joined by River, and later by Freya, just sitting companionably, only thoughts being shared. This, perhaps, more than anything, had marked a sea-change in the man, the ability he now had to let the all too often present anger drift away from him, and just … be. No wonder she’d loved him.
Thinking of Mal made her remember Freya’s request.
She lifted a hand and a waiter appeared as if by magic.
“Could I have a selection of the pastries?” she asked.
“Of course, Madam.” Probably nothing phased him, certainly not being asked by a beautiful woman for cakes at this time of night. “Would you like me to have it delivered to your suite?”
“No, no. Just enough for a plate. I’ll take it with me.”
He inclined his head just once, and nodded to the serving man, who set about choosing the most succulent of delicacies, laying them thickly on a small platter.
“That’s lovely. Thank you.” Inara gave him one of her most seductive smiles, and he blushed.
She really shouldn’t, she knew. It wasn’t fair. But occasionally, just once in a while, it was nice to see she still had the touch, the ability to make a man weak at the knees. Oh, she did it with Sam too, but his knees were affected because he loved her. So she tried it, sometimes, to keep her hand in.
Carrying the tray out of the Lounge, she wandered along the corridor, her thoughts on her lover, wondering what he was doing, perhaps thinking of her. They’d had a conversation only the day before, but on an open Cortex link they felt the need to be circumspect, so their words were somewhat stilted, just in case anyone was listening in. Not for the first time she felt jealous of Freya’s talent, able to talk to Mal and say what she wanted, sure nobody was eavesdropping. Except perhaps River. Or Bethie, whose education was far in advance of her years.
Ah. That was awkward. This corridor didn’t look anything like the ones she’d come down. She looked up and down, searching for one of the many information boards. No, wait. That was … yes, the Presidential Suite. So she’d missed her turning, that was all. Laughing a little in relief, she went back the way she’d come, glancing down at the plate in her hands. Damn, there was a gap. She must have dropped one.
“Gos se,” she whispered, looking back. Ah, there it was. Right outside the Presidential Suite. Hurrying back she went down elegantly onto her heels, picking it up with two fingers and laying it back on the plate. She’d make sure that one went into the bin before anyone had the chance to …
The door next to her opened.
“I just want to walk,” a woman’s voice said. “I keep telling you, I don’t need anyone to come with me. Oh, sorry.”
Inara looked up, seeing first the flat sandals, the cream dress to mid-calf, then the bulge of late pregnancy at an otherwise slim waist, then up, past a well-endowed chest to … Her mouth dropped open and she almost fell back. “Saffron?”
There was a pause.
“Diyu,” the red head swore.
to be continued
Monday, January 18, 2010 9:54 AM
Monday, January 18, 2010 10:01 AM
Monday, January 18, 2010 7:22 PM
Tuesday, January 19, 2010 7:37 AM
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