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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Maya. Post-BDM. Jayne talks to Mallory, and finds out more about what's going on in Cason's Point, while Mal makes acquaintance with a young gunman. NEW CHAPTER - I'm back, folks!
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1946 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
“Mal, you wanna ...” Jayne turned in the saddle to glance at his captain.
“You want me to stay outside?”
“For a while. It’s been a long gorram time since I saw Mallory, and if she’s on her own out here ...” The big man’s voice died away.
“It’s okay. I understand.” Mal dismounted, tying his horse to the fencepost. “Shout if you want me.”
Jayne almost smiled. “Yeah.” Urging his horse towards the small farmhouse, he kept his hands well away from the weapons at his waist.
The woman had taken a step back, her hands clasped in front of her now, what looked like a tea towel pressed against her breasts. Then her expression changed. Her mouth opened, closed, then she finally managed to get out, “Jayne?”
He nodded, swinging his leg over the horse’s head and dropping to the ground. “Hey, Mallory.”
“It’s been a long time.”
“Could say that,” Jayne said, chuckling a little as he studied her.
She was pretty much as he remembered, although her long blonde hair was fixed up in a messy bun, a mass of loose curls around her ears. As he stepped forward, though, he could see fine lines at the corner of her eyes, and her figure was sleeker, less buxom than before. Still, it had been years, more’n a decade since they’d last spoken, and he was sure he’d changed too.
“What the diyu are you doing here?” she asked, her eyes narrowing.
“Aw, come on. You know why.”
“He wouldn’t want you here.”
“Yeah, well, that ain't up to him. Not no more.”
“And you’re still an idiot.”
He shrugged, a wry smile gracing his strong features. “Maybe I ain’t changed as much as I thought.” He looked past her into the dark rectangle of the doorway. “So ... you gonna make me stand out here? Or are you gonna be hospitable?”
“I don’t think we’ve got anything to say to each other, do you?”
“You might not. But I got a few questions.”
She glared at him, but he could see the moment she gave in. “Fine. I guess I could make you some coffee.” She looked past him, towards Mal. “Your friend want to come in?”
“No. He’ll stay outside.”
“Long as you’re sure.”
“Come inside then.”
Jayne glanced at Mal, who nodded faintly, then strode past her to the open doorway as if she might change her mind at any moment. Ducking his head slightly to get under the low lintel, his tracker’s nose picked up the scent of washing soap, flowers, a hint of slightly stale perfume and a brief undertone of fresh bread.
She stepped inside after him, but left the door open.
“You can close it. I won’t bite,” Jayne said softly.
“Nope, I don’t think I will.”
“You don’t trust me?”
“Not one little bit.”
“I guess that’s about right,” he said ruefully.
She glared at him. “Jayne, it’s been a hell of a long time. And you weren’t exactly law abiding last time I saw you.”
“No, I guess not. But I ain’t gonna attack you.”
“Don’t take offence, but I’m not in the mood to take your word for it. And if the door’s open least if you take it into your mind to try, your man out there’d stop you.”
“He looks an honourable sort.”
“Mallory, you ain’t exactly the best judge of character,” Jayne pointed out. “Look at Indigo. Look at me.”
“Which is why I’m leaving the door open.”
“Understood.” He glanced around the small room. “Nice place.”
“Have to say, girl, it ain’t like I imagined.”
“Yeah, well, times change.”
He nodded, studying his surroundings now his eyes had adjusted. About the size of the kitchen on Serenity, this appeared to be the main living area. A big iron range dominated the back wall, a couple of high backed chairs either side, while an old table sat dead centre of the room, still holding the remains of a breakfast set for two. But what could have been something austere was livened by bright rugs on the wooden floor, and a chest of drawers against the right hand wall was covered with captures, small figurines and a jug of late summer flowers. Even the large stone sink under the front window had half a dozen small pots of herbs waiting for use on the sill.
“So ... what you been doing with yourself?” he asked, anything to fill the silence.
“Living. Just about.”
“At least you got out of the business.”
Her eyebrow arched. “Did I?”
“Hell of a long way for a feller to come if he wanted some female company, ‘specially with Addie’s still open in town. No offence, Mallory, but you ain’t exactly in the first flush to be that much in demand.”
She stared at him, then dissolved into laughter. “Gorram you, Jayne. Always did call a spade a spade.”
“Never did see the need to be any different.”
“No, I suppose you didn’t.” She backed up towards the sink. “But you’re right. I got out. Truth is, I got married, Jayne.”
“That’s good,” he said approvingly. “Who to?”
“Malloy. Malloy.” His eyebrows drew together as he pondered the past. “I seem to recall a feller by that name worked in the livery stable.”
“Yeah. That’s him.”
He couldn’t resist taking a small dig. “So you’re Mallory Malloy?”
“Now don’t you start that, Jayne Cobb. I wasn’t thinking on what name I was gonna end up with when I married him.”
He acknowledged the truth of the matter by the slightest of shrugs. “Why did yah?”
“He asked.” Mallory spoke simply, as if it was obvious.
“So he’s ... what, out hunting?”
Jayne nodded towards the table. “Two for breakfast?”
“Oh. No. That’s my ...” She stopped. “Jayne, why are you here?”
“Indigo.” Now it was his turn to sound like the answer was obvious.
“There’s nothing to tell. I'm sure Addie gave you everything you needed.”
Jayne wondered at the slight bitterness in her voice when she spoke of the older woman, but decided to ignore it, at least for the moment. “Not everything. Not why someone decided to shoot him in the back. Or who.”
“Indigo ... upset a lot of folks over the years. He should never’ve come back to Cason’s Point. Then there wouldn’t have been a problem. But as to who shot him ... why should I know?”
“Because it ain’t that big a place.”
“And nobody talks.”
“And she sent you here.” She laughed again, but this time it was a brittle sound like ice cracking. “That woman needs to keep her opinions to herself.”
Jayne’s eyebrows rose a hair. “You and her used to be friends.”
“That was a long time ago as well.” She busied herself stacking the plates and bowls on the table.
“Mallory ... I need to know what happened.”
“I told you – I’ve got nothing to say.” She carried them to the sink, dropping them into the water and ignoring the splash of suds onto her dress.
“I think there is. Addie said he’d been here. That morning.”
She span on her heel to glare at him. “That’s right. He was. All night. That what you wanted to hear?”
“I’m not your keeper –”
“No, you're not,” she spat.
“But I thought we were friends too.”
“Friends?” She pushed at her hair with the back of her hand as if to move it out of her face. “Friends? Jayne, you paid me to sleep with you.”
He felt a flash of anger but held it in check. “I never heard you complain.”
“Do you think I would’ve? I was a whore! Whores don’t complain. They open their legs, hope it’s over soon and say thank you after.”
He growled, low in his throat, then saw her complexion pale. Closing his eyes briefly, he nodded slowly. “Yeah. You’re right. I’ve got no call on you. I paid for everything I ever took.” He reached into his pocket and withdrew two coins. “So here. Payment. You tell me what happened to Indigo.”
“That’s all you care about.”
The laugh came out as a grunt. “Hell, Mallory, I wouldn’t be on this forsaken planet otherwise.”
She stared, then as if her strings were cut she dropped into one of the chairs at the table. “You’re right.” She shook her head. “You’re right. You didn’t belong here, and you left. And I shouldn’t be angry at you, not when it’s ...” Her voice faded away.
“When it’s Indigo you’re really mad at?”
She swallowed. “Maybe you ain’t as stupid as you used to be.”
“Nah. Pretty much the same.” He sat down slowly opposite her. “So, you wanna tell me?”
“I figure there’s more’n just him over the last twelve years, but ... let’s start with him.”
“It’s what you paid for.” She picked up the two coins, turning them over in her palm, rubbing them together as if they might magically procreate. Then she tossed them back to Jayne. “Keep ‘em.”
“There’s nothing to tell. Honestly. Indigo came out here once in a while when he was here, but that was it. Just being friends. And I don't know who shot him. I wasn’t there.”
“Don't you have any idea?”
“Sure. I could give you half a dozen names, but I’m guessing they’ve pretty much all occurred to you.”
“Saw the Tanners in town.”
“Yeah, well, that’s two. Three if you count Medea.”
“I’d kinda hoped she was dead,” Jayne admitted.
“It’s gonna take a lot to lay her six feet under.” Mallory laughed. “And don’t think I haven't pondered it.”
“So she hasn’t softened over the years?”
“Nope. If anything she’s got worse.”
“Is that possible?”
“Wouldn’t’ve thought so, but she’s so sharp and hard I’m surprised she hasn’t cut herself to ribbons.”
“You think she was behind Indigo’s death?”
“I –” Whatever she was about to say was interrupted as Mal’s voice carried through the open door.
“What?” the big man yelled back.
“I ... uh ... need some help here.”
“Why?” Jayne called, but got no answer. He glanced at Mallory, who shrugged. Withholding the sigh he stood up and crossed to the threshold to look out, then chuckled out loud.
“It ain’t funny, Jayne,” Mal complained.
“You gotta admit, if it were the other way round you’d be pissing yourself laughing.” He crossed his arms. “Just let me enjoy it for a while.”
Mal was standing next to his horse with his back to the fence, hands up at shoulder level, staring down the barrel of a rifle. Held by a kid. “Jayne ...”
The ex-merc recognised the threatening tone, seeing the septic vat looming disgustingly large in his future, and said over his shoulder, “Mallory, I think you need to deal with this.”
The boy, not more than ten or so, the weapon almost bigger than he was, glanced over towards the house. “Ma?” he called, his voice high, scared. “You okay?”
“It’s okay, Josh.” Mallory hurried outside.
“Only you left the door open.”
“And this feller’s got a gun.”
“Josh, honestly. Put the rifle down.” She closed the distance to him, putting her hand on his shoulder.
The boy, Josh, lowered the rifle, but his blue eyes never left Mal.
“Yours?” Jayne asked quietly.
“This is my son. Joshua.” She looked proud, and Jayne felt a frisson of unease trickle down his spine.
“And ... uh ... how old is ...” He couldn’t quite finish.
“Don’t worry. He’s not yours.”
Josh shot the big man a glare so fiery Jayne was surprised he didn’t burst into flames. “My dad’s dead,” the boy said. “Buried in the town cemetery.”
Mal put his hands down. “Sorry, son.”
The gaze turned on him instead. “Not your son.”
“Nope, you’re not. My boy’s a mite younger than you, but he’s protected his own Ma in the past.”
The glare flickered. “He has?”
“That he has. His name’s Ethan. Him and his sister ... we all live on my boat.”
“You’ve got a ship?” The blue eyes had widened.
“She’s called Serenity.”
“And you’ve got a crew?”
“Yeah. This big ape here’s one of ‘em.” Mal smiled.
Josh giggled, stifling it quickly as it wasn’t a manly thing to do.
Jayne couldn’t help but be in awe. Mal had always been like this, able to talk with Core-bred and Rim folk alike, if the fancy took him. Still, seeing it work with a kid close up ...
“Josh, I need some water,” Mallory said softly.
Her son dragged his attention away from the interesting stranger. “Ma?”
“Ma, I think maybe I should stick around –”
“Sorry, Ma.” He ran to pick up a bucket from the stack by the front door, his gait slightly ungainly as if he’d put on a spurt of growth but still hadn’t got his extra height under control. The rifle he propped carefully against the wall before heading down a beaten track past the house.
“His Pa?” Jayne asked quietly.
“Terry ... he got himself killed.” Mallory brushed her hands down her dress.
“Except Terry wasn’t his father.”
Mallory glanced towards where Josh had disappeared. “A’course he was.”
“Nah. Far as I recall, Terry was dark.” He glanced at Mal. “Dark as Zoe,” he added. “There’s no way he’d’ve had a kid that pale. And those blue eyes ...”
Mal stirred uneasily. “Jayne, are you suggesting –”
“Not suggesting a gorram thing.” Maybe, if he was older than he looked ... He looked at Mallory. “I ain’t gonna hold anything against you if you found some man to keep you warm when your husband couldn’t.”
She shook her head, a strand of hair falling down to her shoulders. “It ain’t like that.”
“I told you, he’s not yours, Jayne. He’s only nine. You do the math.”
The math. Had to be the one subject he was crap at. Okay, maybe not the only, but ... Jayne, shut up and do the math, he berated himself, trying to concentrate. So ... Josh was nine, which meant even if his birthday was coming up to be ten next week then that meant ... that meant ...
Mal sighed. “Jayne, you were already on board Serenity by the time Josh was born.”
“And the last time I saw Mallory was ...” He nodded, relieved at the same time as very slightly disappointed.
Mallory crossed her arms. “See?”
“Yeah.” He gazed at her. “And when did you marry Terry?”
“Maybe you ain’t as stupid as you look.” Mallory shook her head. “I ain’t nothing, Jayne. Just a whore. I was lucky Terry wanted me, otherwise I’d still be spreading ‘em in some back room somewhere. But you know the funny thing? I think maybe he did love me. Oh, he thought it’d be fun to have a whore on tap, all the tricks he figured I knew, but I think he did love me. And Josh, too.”
“’Cept Josh wasn’t his.”
“No. He knew I was already pregnant, but he still took us both on.”
“And Josh’s father? Wasn’t he wanting his son?”
For a second Jayne thought he’d misheard, then he blinked. “Troy Tanner? Troy Tanner’s Josh’s dad?”
Mallory blushed. “What if he was?”
“Was?” For a plain, straightforward man he was a damn good tracker, and this was like pouncing on a slightly bent grass stem. “Was, Mallory?”
The blush deepened until it flamed across her face. “Was. Yes. He’s dead too.”
“Jayne.” Mal’s voice was warning, but neither listened to him.
“How’d that happen?” Jayne asked.
“An accident.” Mallory went to lean on the corral, staring at her reddened hands. “He went riding one day, didn’t come back. His brothers went out to look, found him near the old Alliance camp. They said it looked like he was thrown from his horse, broke his neck.”
“How long had you been with him?”
“I wasn’t with him.” She turned, her back against the crossbar. “Not the way you mean. He set me up in a room at Addie’s, kept me just for himself. Shit, I wasn’t going to complain. I actually had nights to myself, and he was ... he was okay.” She rubbed at her face. “Better’n his brothers.”
“That wouldn’t be hard.”
“I told him I was expecting just a week before he died.”
Standing back, Mal let the conversation continue, not interfering. If anything, he was fascinated by Jayne’s attitude. In a few short years the man had changed from a killer with no more sense of propriety or honour than the guns he carried, into someone who actually cared on occasion about other people. Not often, and it was mostly the work of a ninety pound woman who’d dug so deep below the surface that his shell could never heal over again, but just once in a while Mal could see the man Jayne would have become if he hadn’t killed his father’s murderer when he was fifteen.
“What did he say?” Jayne asked, surprisingly gently.
“He was pleased.” She put her head back and stared into the cool blue sky. “Started talking about maybe we should get hitched. I told him, don’t be stupid. His Ma would never allow it. She’d kill him before she’d ever let him get tied to a whore. He wasn’t going to leave it alone, even told Medea.”
“I bet she was pleased as punch.”
“According to Troy he thought she was going to have a heart attack.” She sighed then looked back at him. “Week later he died, and I was on my own again, knocked up and not knowing what the hell to do. When Terry asked me to marry him, it was like a lifeline.”
“And Medea didn’t try and take Josh off you?”
“I’d’ve killed her if she had.” She stood straighter. “The truth is she doesn’t want to know. When Terry died she paid for this place, but that’s it. She made it more’n plain that it was on condition I never made a claim on the Tanner estate. She doesn’t even talk to us when we meet on the street.”
“And Josh thinks Terry was his Pa.”
“He was my husband. And for all his faults he was good to Josh.”
“He’s gonna ask. One day. Ask how come he don't look like the pictures.”
Her chin stuck out in the way he remembered. “I don’t have any.”
Jayne exhaled loudly. “Mallory, I know you won't believe me, but you should tell him. If Josh loved him he won’t care if they’re not blood.”
Fire flashed in her eyes. “I think I know my son better than you, Jayne.”
“Guess you do.” He paused a second. “When did he die? Terry, I mean.”
“Three years ago. Left us with nothing. We didn't have any choice but accept Medea’s offer.”
“How did it happen?”
“He ... got shot.”
“Lot of that about.”
“After a poker game. Someone thought he’d been cheating.”
“Probably. He thought he was better than he was.” She took a hesitant step towards him. “Just ... don't tell Josh about Troy. It won’t do him any good.”
“Mallory ...” Jayne could see she was adamant about it, and ... well, it wasn’t any of his affair, not really. “Sure. Won’t say a word.”
“Thanks.” She nodded gratefully, then plastered a smile on her face as Josh came back around the corner.
“Got it, Ma,” he said, struggling with a full pail of water.
“Good boy,” she said absently. “Take it into the kitchen, will you?”
“Sure thing, Ma.” He disappeared inside the house.
“You gotta get water from the well?” Jayne asked, surprised.
Mallory shrugged. “The pump went last week, and it’s gonna cost more’n I've got to spare to fix right now.”
“That ain’t right.”
“No, it ain’t.” He walked towards her. “You know, the mechanic on our boat’s pretty gorram good. Maybe I can ask her to come and take a look, maybe fix it for you.”
Once again Mallory’s face tightened up. “Jayne, none of this is to do with you. Me and Josh, we’re getting along okay. You don’t need to be involved. Go on back to your ship and don’t think on us anymore.”
His blue eyes hardened even as he chuckled. “Mallory, I wasn’t thinking about you at all. Not until I found out about Indigo.”
“And you’ve done what you think is your duty. That’s shiny. Thanks. Now go.”
“Shit, Jayne! I don't need you or your pity!”
The big man gazed at her, then nodded. “Yeah. You’re right. I don’t owe you a damn thing.”
Mal stirred uneasily. “Jayne ...”
“Don’t sweat it, Cap.” Jayne shook his head. “I guess I was trying too hard. Just wanting to help a friend.” He turned away, striding for his horse. “Why don’t you ask Medea for some cashey-money to mend the pump? It ain’t like she’s not got some spare lying around.”
“I'm not going cap in hand to that harpy,” Mallory snapped back. “I don’t want charity!”
“Oddly enough, I wasn’t offering it.” He swung up into the saddle. “Just a helping hand to someone I used to know.” Digging his heels into his mount’s sides, he pulled on the reins. “Bye, Mallory.” He galloped through the gates, mud kicking up from the horse’s hooves.
Mal was slower, taking his time, giving Mallory space to gather her wits. As he arranged the leather straps in his hands, feeling them sit naturally into grooves that had been worn when he was young, he looked over at her. “I’ll ask Kaylee to stop by, see if she can’t get that pump of yours going again.”
“You don’t have to do that.” She smoothed her dress down over her thighs.
“I know. And if it smacks of charity, think of it as me not wanting Josh there to be carrying buckets of water in the dark.” He nodded towards the young boy standing in the doorway before wheeling his horse around and following his ex-merc.
“Ma?” Josh ran out into the cold air to his mother, wrapping his arms around her.
Mallory glanced down into his face, seeing Troy’s features staring back at her, then shook her head. “I don’t know, bao bao,” she admitted, holding him tightly. “I just don’t know.”
Up in the hills above, hidden among the scrubby bushes and leafless trees, light glinted from the sight of a high powered rifle, focussed unerringly on the small house.
to be continued
Wednesday, January 19, 2011 9:49 AM
Wednesday, January 19, 2011 2:00 PM
Wednesday, January 19, 2011 3:08 PM
Wednesday, January 19, 2011 4:02 PM
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