BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

JANE0904

Indigo - Part XVII
Saturday, May 14, 2011

Maya. Post-BDM. Hank wakes up, and Mal has an unwelcome visitor. NEW CHAPTER


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1521    RATING: 10    SERIES: FIREFLY

Everyone was there – the rest of the ship had to be deserted. Even the kids were clustered on the old yellow sofa, ostensibly reading a story book, but it lay on Bethie’s lap, untouched. Kaylee was staring through the infirmary window with Freya at her side, while Jayne and River were by the door, standing so close there wasn’t even daylight between them. Zoe was of course next to her husband, holding his hand while Simon fussed.

“Thought you said he was awake?” Mal asked somewhat peevishly.

River turned her dark eyes on him, reading his soul. “He is. He just doesn’t know it.”

Mal raised an eyebrow at her but didn’t comment. Instead he stepped over the sill into the blue room. “Doc?” he asked. “Your sis right?”

Simon paused, only half his attention on his captain. “Well, his vitals are improving a little, his brainwaves ...” He looked up. “I don’t know. She usually is.”

“So Hank’s being his normal enthusiastic self?”

Simon grabbed his old-fashioned stethoscope and was about to make some, quite possibly damaging, remark when the man on the medbed groaned.

He wanted to tell whoever was shouting to shut up. They were way too loud, and his hangover was way too advanced. He wanted the elephant on his chest to get up too, but he didn’t know the language. Half the time it was difficult to make himself understood anyway, so pachyderm was probably beyond him. Still, maybe if he groaned loudly enough they might take the hint.

Okay. Silence. That was good. Now maybe he could get some sleep, and when he woke up ... Gorramit, they were at it again. Shouting. Making his ears ring. And something ice cold burning just above his navel. He shivered, or tried to, and made a mental note to berate whoever had bought the last round – it must have been off. Except he had the idea alcohol had not been involved, particularly as the hangover seemed to be centred around his belly.

This was going to take more thought. If they’d only shut up.

“Hank? Hank. I know you can hear me. Open your eyes.”

Simon lifted the stethoscope from Hank’s chest and looked up into Zoe’s face. “Keep talking to him,” he advised. “His heart beat’s getting stronger.” He glanced at the monitor. “And his brain activity is almost normal.”

“Almost. Huh. That’d be about his baseline, doctor,” Mal said.

“Not quite.” Simon replaced the stethoscope, for once preferring to use his ears than rely on any of his machines. “Zoe.”

Serenity’s first mate nodded. “Hank, if you don’t open your eyes you’re going to have to fight the captain for the couch, because you will not be in my bed for a long, long time.”

There was a long pause, and she was about to speak again, when Hank’s lips moved.

“Your bed? Not ours?” His voice was crackly, pale, and sounding like he needed his vocal cords oiled.

Zoe leaned forwards even more. “Hank?”

Ta mah duh. Hurts.”

Simon was immediately busy with a hypo, injecting it into the IV hanging from the rack. “Lie still,” he ordered.

“I was ... thinking of ... going dancing,” Hank ground out, then felt something like liquid bliss enter his veins, damping down the agony in his belly.

“Oh? Who with?” Mal asked, moving closer to the medbed. “Anyone I know?”

“Considering ... asking Frey.”

Outside in the common area the woman in question hugged Kaylee as the young mechanic rubbed at the tears on her face.

“You think about it again and I'm gonna be the one shooting you,” Mal advised.

“Okay.” Hank let his head roll to his right. “Hey,” he whispered.

“Hey yourself.” Zoe stroked his forehead. “Idiot.”

“Why, what did I do?”

“You weren’t listening to me.”

“Oh. Sorry ‘bout that.” He licked dry lips, then was surprised to find Mal at his side holding a cup with a straw. He sipped, feeling the water ease his throat even more beautifully than the painkiller dripping into his veins. “Thanks.”

“You’re welcome.”

Simon pushed Mal out of the way, checking the sensors on Hank’s chest. “I do have work to do.”

Mal glared at him. “Just ask next time, doc.”

Hank stirred uneasily on the medbed. “What happened about me?” His grey gaze flicked from face to face. “Am I dying? Is that why you all look so grim?”

Mal and Zoe exchanged a glance, but it was the captain who said, “Simon, I conjure we’ll let you field that one.”

“As it happens, no.” The young man ran his practised eye once more over his instruments. “You’re improving, so as long as you don’t do anything really stupid – like some people on this ship – you should be fine.”

“Hey, are you casting aspersions on my character?” Mal demanded, his voice covering Zoe’s sigh of relief.

“Heaven forfend.” If Simon’s tone could wither Mal would have been nothing but a husk.

“Hey, if you two are gonna fight, at least wait until I’m well enough to referee,” Hank said, trying to smile.

“That will be a while,” Simon admitted, much more gently. “You’re not out of the woods yet, but I think we can see a path.”

“So River’s gonna get her wish and be my stand-in?”

“I should imagine so. Although her and Freya might have to play Tall Card for the privilege.”

The grin came easier this time. “Well, tell ‘em both not to get too comfy. And nobody’s told me yet what happened.”

Zoe pressed his untidy brown hair back again. “You got shot, bao bei. In the belly.”

“Shot?” Hank lifted his head to stare at the bandages wrapping his middle, then looked around. “Wasn’t Jayne, was it?”

“No, it was not!” the ex-merc insisted from out in the common area.

“In this particular case, no,” Mal confirmed. “Don’t you remember?”

“Honestly? No. Least not much.”

“Can you tell me what you do recall?”

Even Simon was impressed by Mal’s soothing tone, and inwardly chastised himself for being so. No matter his captain’s occasional tendencies to abrasiveness, obstinacy, even loud-mouthed obnoxiousness, when one of his crew was hurt he could be very gentle indeed.

A glance towards Freya, though, suggested his mind wasn’t entirely his own.

You too? he thought resignedly.

Freya just smiled.

Hank was fingering at the dressing on his belly, at least until Zoe moved his hand away. “I remember talking to Jayne about killing cute little deer,” the pilot mused. “Deciding to take a walk, and heading towards the old Alliance camp ...” He stopped, his forehead creasing. “Did I get there?”

Mal nodded. “From what I could see. As to overlooking, although I couldn’t tell if you were going or coming back.”

“I ... don’t remember. Although there’s a ... an impression of grey buildings?”

“Sounds like it.”

“I thought it was a dream.”

“Did you see anyone?”

“You mean who was determined to separate me from the land of the living?” Hank shook his head slightly. “No. If I did it’s just a blank.”

“Whoever it was would’ve been standing in front of you.”

“No. Sorry.”

“Don’t be,” Zoe put in. “You were wearing your armour. It saved your life.”

His mouth twitched. “Anything for you, honey.”

She leaned over him and touched her lips to his, an action so tender if the watchers hadn’t known Zoe to be capable of such emotion they’d have been severely uncomfortable.

As it was, Simon was the first to speak. “And I think that’s enough. Everyone who isn’t medically qualified needs to leave.”

“Not going anywhere, Simon,” Zoe said quietly.

“No, well, not you, obviously.”

“I'm thinking he means me,” Mal said. He looked at his pilot. “Just you rest up,” he ordered. “And no talking back to your doctor.”

“Would I?” Hank joked.

“Yeah, I think you might. Only remember he’s in charge of the pain control.”

“Not sure I could forget that.” He shifted slightly, and grimaced. “Give me the drugs, doc.”

“Not yet.”

“Sadist.”

“First in my class.”

Mal internalised a chuckle. It looked like maybe Hank was going to be okay after all. “We’ll be around if you need us.” He turned to the door.

“I think someone helped me.”

Mal almost span on his heel. “What?”

Hank’s face was creased, confused. “I think ... someone helped me,” he repeated.

“Who?”

“I have no idea.” Hank was reaching for the memories, but they ran faster than him. “Just ... someone. I think.”

Mal swiftly went over the pool of blood where they’d found Hank, the scuffed ground, his own search for the original scene and finding the bullet ... Considering his own knowledge of battle wounds, he knew a man could walk for a mile or more with a hole in him big enough to put a fist through, but this was no battle, and Hank no wounded soldier. “I have the notion maybe you’re right,” he murmured. “Opens up a whole new kettle o’ fish, though.”

Hank looked relieved. “I thought I might have been hallucinating.”

“Any impression on who?”

“Okay, enough.” Simon was much more forceful this time. “Hank doesn’t need to be interrogated.”

Mal fixed him with his ice blue eyes. “Hell, Simon, if this was an interrogation I’d’ve got out the feathers and chains. Just ask Frey.”

“You know, I really don’t think I want to.” Simon looked pained, just at the idea.

“Maybe you’re right.”

“Daddy?”

All the adults in the room looked towards the doorway.

“Hey, Ben,” Hank said, just about able to lift his head enough off the medbed to see his son without it pulling on his belly too much. “How you doing?”

The little boy didn’t answer at first, just ran to his mother to be picked up so he could look his father directly in the face. “You’re not dying?” he asked, touching Hank’s cheek.

Hank swallowed, and more than one eye had to blink hard. “No, son. Not dying. Your aunts and uncles did a good job.”

“Gorram right,” Ben whispered, laying his head next to his father’s, and nobody felt the urge to tell him off for cussing.

Mal stepped back, allowing the little family time together. Leaving the infirmary he smiled briefly at Freya and Kaylee, then looked at Jayne. “Cargo bay,” he ordered. “Five minutes.”

---

Mal stood in the opening in the cargo bay doors and breathed in the fresh air as he stared out at Cason’s Point. It was cold, and he could feel goosebumps erupting on his exposed skin, but he wasn’t about to go and get his coat. A little chill wasn’t going to hurt him, and maybe it would clear his mind enough so he could think straight, although right now all that was in his mind was the fact that the skies were still grey, leaden, and from the smell of tin in the air he was pretty sure Kaylee was right – snow before nightfall. Might only be a covering, but he wouldn’t be surprised to see the town painted in its wedding gown by breakfast.

Okay, now he knew he was catching sentimentality from his wife.

Movement outside had him laying his hand lightly on the gun at his hip, and when he realised who it was he was still disinclined to move it.

“Sheriff McCoy,” he said. “What a surprise.”

Cutter McCoy, bundled in a thick blue overcoat that looked suspiciously like an Alliance army castoff, his hat thrust firmly on his head, nodded. “Just thought I’d drop by, see how your man was doing.”

“I only saw you a couple of hours ago.”

McCoy smiled, although it was more akin to a crocodile eyeing his lunch than being friendly. “Doing my job. And maybe I wasn't as ... diligent as I should have been.”

“As it happens, it looks like Hank’s on the mend.”

“That’s good. So it means you’ll be leaving soon?”

Mal allowed the slightest curve to his lips. “Well, now, that’s an interesting point. Seeing as he’s my pilot.”

“And nobody else on this thing can fly?”

Glad that Kaylee wasn’t listening, otherwise McCoy would have got the sharp end of her tongue for calling Serenity a ‘thing’, Mal just shrugged. “I ain’t too bad, but my mechanic says there’s a touch of work to be done before we can take off safely. ‘Less you want us crashing onto Cason’s Point.”

“I’d rather you didn’t.” Obviously realising Mal wasn’t about to invite him inside McCoy thrust his leather gloved hands into his pockets. “Did your pilot remember who shot him?”

“Oddly enough, no. Although my medic says that’s about normal. Traumatic event and all that.”

“Of course.”

“Mind, he might. Given enough time.”

“Right.” McCoy sniffed loudly. “Of course, without some kind of description it’s going to be almost impossible to find out who was responsible.”

“Oh, I know that.”

The double meaning wasn’t lost on the sheriff. “Are you accusing someone specific, Reynolds?”

“I wouldn’t dream of it. And it’s Captain Reynolds.”

“Sure it is.” McCoy looked around what he could see of the cargo bay, and the smirk on his face indicated quite clearly what he thought of Mal’s pride and joy. His gaze coming back to the man in front of him, he went on, “Well?”

“Well ... what?”

A dog barked in the depths of the ship, getting louder until a brown blur flew from the common area, the clatter of claws on the metal floor stopping just short of the outer door as Fiddler let rip with a volley, the sound bouncing off the walls.

Mal leaned down and scooped up the little dog, just as Bethie almost fell down into the bay.

“Fiddler,” she called. “Come back here.” She ran to Mal. “Sorry,” she said. “He got out.”

“You know the rules,” Mal said, handing the dog over. “He stays in your room while we’re on the ground, especially here. If you can’t keep ‘em, we might have to revisit the arrangement.”

Bethie’s eyes widened. “Uncle Mal ...”

“Go on back, now.”

She swallowed, about to argue, but something tickling at her mind made her say, almost meekly, “Yes, Uncle Mal,” and hurry away back towards the common area.

Mal made a mental note to apologise to her later, but now wasn’t the time.

“You got kids on board,” McCoy commented.

“That we do. Not the only ship that does.”

“No. Most of ‘em have a base somewhere, though. So they can get schooling.”

“My wife handles all that.” Mal idly hooked his thumbs into his gunbelt.

“She’s a teacher?”

“Among other things.”

“I guess crew like yours would have to do pretty much everything.”

“That’s true.”

“And you’re proud of them.”

“Surely am.”

McCoy was having to work at the conversation. “Your kids taken their exams?”

“They’re not old enough. Not yet.” Mal shrugged, but felt the hair on the back of his neck trying to stand, and he wondered if maybe he was catching being psychic from Freya after all, like some kind of precognitive STD.

“Looked about six, maybe near seven. Alliance directives say children need to start being tested from the age of four.”

“Does it? That’s unfortunate.”

“I'm sure Ms Thackeray at the school would be glad to arrange something.”

“Well, I doubt we’ll be here long enough.”

“I thought you said you couldn’t leave yet?”

“Then not long enough for arrangements to be made.”

“I can talk to her if you like. Make it a special.”

“No. But thanks.”

McCoy huffed silently through his nose, the pale cloud dissipating almost immediately. “Yeah, well, that’s something we can discuss.”

“If there’s time.” Mal wasn’t going to give an inch.

“Mal.” It was Jayne, stepping into the bay. “Short stub said we had a visitor.” He strode to the door.

McCoy’s eyes flickered with recognition. “Jayne Cobb.”

“Cutter.”

“I heard tell you were on this boat.”

“Word gets around.”

“Not planning on doing anything stupid, were you?”

Jayne crossed his arms, making the muscles stand proud. “Depends on what you might call stupid. I just came to say goodbye, and now a friend of mine’s gone and got himself shot.”

“Jayne.” Mal’s voice was low, but there was a wealth of warning in it.

“’S okay, cap,” the big man said. “Me and Cutter go way back.”

“That we do,” the sheriff agreed, then looked at Mal. “And if you’d take my advice, you wouldn’t be trusting this man as far as you could throw him.”

“Feeling’s more’n mutual,” Jayne said.

“And I might just be checking on the Cortex, see if there aren't any outstanding warrants on him right now. Just to be sociable.” McCoy was grim. “You best be leaving soon as you can, Captain Reynolds. We’ve got a nice quiet town, and I don’t intend to let people just passing through make trouble.”

“And the man who shot my pilot? What about him?”

“You can be sure I’ll be on the lookout for him, and if I find him you’ll be the first to know.” McCoy touched the brim of his hat then turned on his heel, walking away.

Mal watched him for a minute, then stepped inside, closing the heavy door against the cold. “Nice friends you have, Jayne.”

“Used to be. Least I thought so. ‘Til he was the one sold me out to the Alliance.”

For a moment Mal wasn’t quite sure what he meant, then it clicked. “The job? The one where you sold out your companions?”

Jayne shifted his feet a little, then looked up defiantly. “I was maybe a different man back then. But Cutter ain’t changed. I always did figure he was the one went to the Fed post after me, told ‘em I’d given ‘em the wrong time. Prob’ly got the sheriff’s job on the back of it.”

“You’d told him the details? What you were planning to do?”

Now there was no doubt the big ex-merc looked ashamed. “Yeah, well, I was drunk. Seemed to spend a lot of my time like staring at the bottom of a whiskey bottle ‘round then. Wouldn’t even listen to Indigo when he told me not to trust the hwoon dahn.”

“Seems like Indigo was right.”

“Yeah.” Jayne narrowed his eyes. “Thing is, Mal, Bethie said he wasn’t here on his own account.”

Mal felt anger flare through him, and he took it out on the man in front of him. “Gorramit, when’re those kids going to learn it ain’t safe to peek?”

“She said it was Medea sent him. That it was right at the front of his mind.”

“Why doesn’t that surprise me?”

“And that it wasn’t one of the Tanner boys that shot Hank.”

Now Jayne had Mal’s full attention. “You sure?”

“Seems like they were home with mama at the time.”

“Shit.” Mal took a deep breath, holding it for several heartbeats before expelling it slowly. “Just how many enemies have you got on this rock, Jayne?”

“Hey, maybe it was someone took exception to Hank, you ever thought of that?”

“I've thought of a million possibilities, but now none of them seem to be any more likely than the others.”

“Except maybe that it was fairies that done it.”

“Except that one.” Mal moved his jaw around, thinking.

“You don’t figure it was Cutter himself, do you?” Jayne asked.

“No. Not really. I think Bethie would’ve seen that.” He was still intensely annoyed at the little girl, but knew most of it was because he felt hogtied, unable to see things clearly. Instead he reached into his back pocket. “Jayne, go get some supplies,” he said, handing out a few notes. “Anything fresh.”

“Larder ain’t that empty, Mal.”

“No. But I want you to keep your ears open. See what folks are talking about.”

A slow smile spread across the big man’s features, but it could hardly be called pleasant. “You got an idea?”

“Like I said, I’ve been thinking.”

“Yeah, I heard the noise.”

Resisting the urge to ponder on the pot calling the kettle black, Mal just said, “I got an itch about this whole thing, like maybe there’s more going on than seems to be on the surface. Why would someone shoot Hank?”

“Hell, I’ve wanted to enough over the years.”

“Over and above you.”

Jayne shrugged. “No ruttin’ idea, Mal.”

“Exactly. He wasn’t doing anything he shouldn’t. Shit, he wasn’t even close enough to the camp to be within any off limits area, even if there was one.”

Ah. “You’re thinking he came on something he shouldn’t have.”

“Seems to be the only excuse I can see. Apart from the totally natural feeling of wanting to shoot Hank, of course.”

“A’course.” Jayne nodded and took the proffered notes. “Anyone in particular you think I might want to talk to?”

“Whoever you chose. You know this town more’n me.”

“Maybe I’ll go take a drink at Addie’s. And go see old Mordecai.”

“Mordecai?”

“Mordecai Hampton. The feller looks after the cemetery.”

“I wouldn’t’a thought he’d have had many folks talking to him. In his line of work.”

“You’d be amazed at the kinda thing I’ve heard hanging around graveyards.”

“I'm sure I would, Jayne. I’m sure I would.” Mal didn’t move, though, and after a few seconds the big man spoke again.

“What is it?”

“You think Mallory might’ve had something to do with it?” Mal asked slowly. “She did have your pal’s stuff, at least according to Addie – maybe the Sharps was amongst his belongings.”

Jayne pondered, his brows drawn down into a single unbroken line. “I don’t know. Truth is, Indigo could’ve gone back for the gun. He wasn't too keen on us leaving it as it was. But Mallory was in the house all the time. Zoe’dve seen if she’d made a break for it.”

“Even out the back?”

Jayne pictured the small house, the landscape surrounding it ... He shrugged. “Maybe. It would’ve taken some skill, and she’d’ve still been a long way from where Hank was ... and how would she know?”

“I’m just thinking aloud, Jayne. What about the boy?”

“Josh?” He was about to protest, but the image of Mal being held up by the kid holding a rifle shifted into focus. “Why? I mean, why’d he want to do it?”

“Protecting his Ma?”

“I doubt he’d have the guts. And he’d’ve puked ‘em up after if he had.”

“Kids can surprise you.”

“Oh, I know. There was one time ...” Jayne’s voice trailed off. “Anyway, Mallory said he was in school.”

“You never bunked off?”

Jayne shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot. “Maybe once. Or twice.” He could still feel the paddling his mother had given him when she found out.

Mal had to hide the smile. Sometimes understanding Jayne was like reading a book. In big letters. “Yeah, well, I did too.”

Jayne gave a rueful little smile. “’Sides, Hank said someone helped him. The boy’s maybe sixty pounds wringing wet, if that. And Hank’s no lightweight.”

Mal. It was Freya’s voice in his head, and from the look on Jayne’s face he knew he’d ‘heard’ too. Ai ren?

Hank’s remembered something else.

What? Frey? “Better go see,” Jayne said, stomping towards the common area.

to be continued

COMMENTS

Saturday, May 14, 2011 10:29 AM

AMDOBELL


Oooh, what has Hank remembered? I have a really deepening dislike of that useless and rotten Sheriff. Hope he comes to a sticky end. So happy Hank is on the mend, hope all our crew keep their eyes peeled wide. Shiny as ever and looking forward to more, Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Sunday, May 15, 2011 11:09 AM

KATESFRIEND


Boy, get distracted by the real world for a little while and come back to a double bonus of new chapters! Loved your peevish Mal, your cranky Jayne, loving Zoe and this wonderful multilayered mystery you are brewing up underneath it all. I think your Castle mystery writing experience is giving you good practice for this creative style. It suits you very well.

Monday, May 16, 2011 10:34 AM

ANGELLEMARCS


Interesting... the mystery is killing me. :) Please write more... soon.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011 4:40 PM

RIVERTAM1


I like, I like, I like!!!


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