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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
Maya. Post-BDM. Addie confesses, the Tanners come to a realisation, and Mal has a plan. NEW CHAPTER (action and violence coming very soon!)
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 1198 RATING: 10 SERIES: FIREFLY
“Are the Tanners here?” Mal asked, his eyes flicking upwards as if he could see through the ceiling.
“No,” Addie said, her own gaze still on Indigo. “They don’t come here except to annoy me. They tend to do their drinking over at Vic Carroway’s place. He lets them get away with pretty much anything they want.”
“How come they met Pederson here, then? Seeing as he’s a slaver and all.”
Her gaze narrowed slightly. “How’d you know him?”
“I’ve been around. You’d be surprised the lowlifes and nefarious individuals I’ve had to deal with in the past. And present, for that matter.”
“I think he’s talking about me,” Indigo put in.
“Well, not just you.” Mal looked back at Addie. “And you didn’t answer my question.”
The diminutive woman glanced at the stairs. “Look, I’m cold. Can’t we go someplace more comfortable and talk about this?”
Mal thought for a moment then nodded. “The kitchen, then,” he said. “And we’ll still be buying some of your fine beer.” He pointed at Jayne and Indigo then at the stack of barrels before following Addie.
The warmth of the now empty kitchen was in such considerable contrast to the cellar that Mal divested himself of his scarf and coat, watching Freya go to the door into the main part of the saloon and peer through.
“Anything I need to know about?” he asked quietly.
“A man and a woman having an early lunch, two young boys trying to get Charlie to serve them with drinks ... that’s it.” She let the door close. “No Tanners.”
“I told you they don’t drink in here,” Addie said peevishly, pouring herself a cup of coffee from the pot sitting ready on the table and draining half of it in one gulp.
“That you did. And I notice you still ain't answered my question.”
She glared at him, then sighed heavily. “I think you know the answer already.” Shaking her head she added, “Indigo’s got a big mouth.”
Stepping into the kitchen the man himself put down the barrel he was carrying and said, “There are things going on here, Addie. Things that have to be dealt with.”
“That are none of our affair.”
“Now you know that’s not true.”
“Well, up until about a day ago they surely weren’t any of yours!” A flash of spirit sharpened her words and brought high colour to her cheeks. “You never worried about it before!”
“No. You’re right. I didn’t. And I wouldn’t now but for these people here.”
“Then I damn them to hell for it!” She shook her head and asked, “Why the diyu couldn’t you just leave?” She dropped heavily into one of the old wooden chairs that groaned slightly. “Take Sara and go?”
“How?” Indigo asked simply.
“Well, you sure as anything didn’t make it easy.” Addie refilled her coffee cup with a trembling hand then interlaced her fingers around it, trying to get some comfort.
Jayne deposited his barrel next to the other. “Addie, you lied to me,” he said surprisingly gently.
“Harrison didn’t send me that slip. You did.” It was something had been worrying at him for a while, something that seemed obvious now he said it out loud.
Mal looked surprised and glanced at Freya who nodded fractionally.
Jayne and the other woman glared at each other for several seconds, then Addie gave in. “He wouldn’t go,” she protested. “I figured, if you came here, managed to catch him, you could make him leave before they filled that plot out in the cemetery.”
“Then why didn’t you just tell me?”
“I don’t know!” The exasperation was turning to anger. “Self preservation, maybe.”
“Is that why you’re supplying the slavers with food and the like?” Mal asked.
The redness in Addie’s cheeks deepened to an unpleasant level. “Pretty much.”
“Addie ...” Jayne was surprised but couldn’t honestly condemn her, not with some ... okay, lots of the things he’d done in the past. In fact, most of the things he’d been mixed up in before he joined Serenity’s crew.
Addie’s chin came up defiantly. “You don’t know what it’s like. You ain’t been around. Medea’s got pretty much the whole town under her thumb, sewn up tighter’n a virgin’s purse. And if you say no, she can make it gorram hard to earn a crust. Her sons are worse – they can make it hard for you to take a breath. I didn’t have a choice.”
“But helping the slavers?”
“I just dropped off supplies!” Her anger was burning brightly, but it wasn’t clear whether it was at herself or him. “I didn’t know it was kids until Indigo turned up looking for Sara.”
“And still you didn’t do anything.” Freya spoke, her words dropping into the warm kitchen like ice.
“I helped Indigo. What else could I do? Call the Alliance? You think the Tanners wouldn’t find out it was me split on ‘em?” Addie swallowed. “I’d be filling that empty grave before the ether cooled.”
Jayne sighed. “Who paid for the work here, Addie?”
She glared at him. “Why?”
Addie seemed to deflate. “A person has to get along. And if I wasn’t here the girls’d have to go work for Vic, and you know how he treats ‘em. Wes offered, and you don’t say no to a Tanner.”
“Bought and paid for.”
“How’s that any different to you?” she countered with the last of her defiance.
“Not at all. Not even a bit.” Jayne settled his belt a little more comfortably. “You need to tell us the layout of the place. Where they keep their cargo.”
“No. Jayne, leave it. Coupla days time they’ll be gone, and this’ll all be just a memory.”
“Until next time,” Freya said. “And the next. And the next, until it will be our children.”
“Look, I was telling the truth,” Addie said, perhaps hoping talking woman to woman might get her sincerity across better. “I had no idea they were dealing in children. But by that point I was in too deep. And Cutter being in their pockets, if Wes decided to make me pay back what he put into the place I’d be out on my ear before I could even beg.”
“I know. I know!” Her anger peaked and she threw the delicate coffee cup against the wall where it shattered into fragments. “Damn,” she muttered. “That was one of a set.”
Freya sat down next to her, taking her hand. “Then tell us what we need to know.”
“So what? You can go in and get yourselves killed?” Addie blinked back tears. “No. Not for you. Not even for kids.”
For a long moment she felt as if someone else was in her mind, like an angel sitting on her shoulder persuading her to do the right thing. Then she was alone again, and realised her imagination was running away with her. But still ... “What do you need to know?”
“Where are they holding their ... cargo?” Freya asked.
“At the camp. But I don't know where – I don’t go inside.”
“Where do you deliver the supplies to?”
“The ship. Theirs. It’s parked in the foothills behind the camp. There’s an old mine where they blasted out a load of rocks, and the entrance is just big enough to get a ship inside.”
Mal watched his wife, happy to leave her asking the questions, and noticing she was softly rubbing her thumb along Addie’s finger, a technique Inara had once shown her as a calming measure. It seemed to be working, because the older woman was visibly relaxing, although how much of that was the touch outside or inside was debatable.
I’m not doing anything, he heard in his mind, the words having a sharpness to them that he couldn’t help smiling slightly over. Addie wants to talk.
I’m sure she does, ai ren.
“How long are they staying?” Freya went on as if nothing had passed between her and her husband.
“I took enough for a couple of days. They’re never here for more than a week, so I guess they’ll be gone before long.”
“How many of them are there?”
Addie shook her head faintly. “I don’t know for sure. I’ve only really seen half a dozen of ‘em, but I think there’s more. Pederson is the captain, their leader, then there’s McDonald, Chin Lo, Rafferty –”
Freya interrupted. “I don’t need to know their names. Just a rough idea.”
“Maybe twelve. Could be more. I mean, they have to guard the ... their ...” Addie gave up trying to find a suitable word. “I took a lot of food, and I doubt they give them more than survival rations, so I’d guess at perhaps fifteen.”
Fifteen. More than Mal had hoped for, but not surprising.
“Do they use the girls at Vic’s?” Freya asked.
“Sometimes. I stopped them coming here after they ...” She shook her head, pushing away the memories. “Like I said, Vic lets ‘em do pretty much what they want.”
“Are they regular visits?”
“No. As and when. No way you can set a watch by them, and besides I’ve only noticed one or two at a time going in there.”
“Thank you.” Freya stood up. “You’ve been very helpful.”
“Are you leaving?” Addie asked, getting quickly to her own feet.
“We have to get back to the ship, yes,” Mal said, shrugging into his coat and picking up his scarf.
“No. I mean Ithaca.”
“Let’s just say this’ll probably be the last you see of us.”
“I’d be happier if I didn’t think that meant I’d be taking flowers to the cemetery to lay on your grave.”
“Me too.” He turned to the other two men. “Get that beer out into the mule,” he ordered.
Indigo nodded, then smiled at Addie. “Another day, hey?”
“Just go,” she said, but her sad smile gave her away. “You’re cluttering up my kitchen.”
He chuckled and lifted the barrel onto his shoulder. “See you around, Addie.” He strode out into the day.
Jayne, just dipping his head slightly at Addie, picked up the other barrel and followed his old friend.
Mal reached into his back pocket and brought out a thin roll of currency. “How much?”
Addie waved her hand. “No. Take it. Enjoy it. And make sure you’re all alive when you do.”
“That's always the plan,” Mal assured her, peeling off a couple of notes and laying them on the table. “And I prefer to pay something.”
“Then that ain’t enough.”
Mal smiled a little. “It’s all there is.”
“You know, I can't help thinking you’re as big a hwoon dahn as Indigo.”
“Addie, you have no idea. But thanks anyway.”
“What for? Giving you enough rope so you can get yourself hanged?” She shooed them away from her. “Go. Go on. Or I’ll be calling Cutter McCoy myself.”
He grinned, his considerable charm showing through for once. “Right.”
Outside in the crisp, cold air, Indigo heaved the first barrel into the mule. As it hit the floor and made the yellow vehicle rock slightly on its cushion, a different movement caught the corner of his eye and he span on his heel, his hand flapping uselessly by his empty hip. Nothing. Nobody. Except he was sure ...
“Come on,” Jayne said, hefting the second barrel in to join the first. “We don’t have time to be sight-seeing.”
“No. Yeah, sure.” He climbed up and settled in the footwell again, even less comfortably than before because of the beer, and wondered if his imagination had been playing with him.
The doors of Vic Carroway’s place slammed back and a man in a thick winter coat staggered inside. “I need a drink.” His small eyes scanned the place as he strode unsteadily to the counter and banged on it. “Give me a whisky.”
The barman put down his rag. “Hold your horses.”
“Just ... a double. No, Riley, make it a triple.”
Brad Tanner, tossing his hand into the middle of the table in disgust, called out, “What’s up, Brewster? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
“I have.” He grabbed the glass from Riley’s hand almost before he’d finished pouring, ignoring the liquid that surged over the edge. Lifting it to his lips he threw the entire contents down his throat, barely grimacing at the burn.
Wes collected his winnings. “Yeah? What kinda ghost?”
Brad fumbled one of the few coins left in front of him. “MacCready?”
“Yeah.” Brewster signalled for another. “Again,” he ordered.
Wes shot his brother a warning look. “Where did you see him?”
“Outside the back of Adelaide’s. Standing there like he was alive and well, and not mouldering six feet under.”
“Just now.” Brewster lifted the refilled glass and the alcohol followed the first. “Thought I was seeing things.”
“You probably were,” Wes said, nevertheless looking sharply to one of his men sitting at another table, causing him to stand and slip out of the door into the snow.
“I’m telling you what I saw!” Brewster banged the empty glass on the counter, glaring at the barman. “Again,” he ordered.
Riley glanced at Wes, who nodded, and a third whisky was swallowed without it touching the sides.
“Wes ...” Brad began, but was silenced by a wave of his brother’s hand.
“I think Brewster needs to rest a while, don’t you?” Wes asked, his eyes flicking to the man standing at the back of the saloon, the dark green waistcoat and silver bands around his sleeves indicating he worked there. “Vic, don’t you think he would like a little female company?”
Carroway, used to being ordered around in his own place, at least by these two, nodded. “Come on,” he said, beckoning one of the girls lounging by the stairs. “Take Brewster and make him ... comfortable.”
She scowled at him but did what she was told, taking the worried man by the arm and leading him towards the bedrooms.
Conversations started up again, somewhat muted at first, but enough to cover Brad’s whisper to his brother. “You think he’s right?”
“No. The man’s dead.”
“Yeah, well, it wouldn’t be a ghost if –”
“You tell me, Brad, you shot him.”
“He’s dead.” He grunted. “Poking around where he wasn’t asked, he shouldn’t have been surprised. But you still sent Monroe to take a look.”
“It wouldn’t be prudent not to. But I don’t expect him to find anything.”
Brad shifted uncomfortably on his seat. “Wes ...”
“There’s no such thing as ghosts.”
“You don’t know that.”
“Of course I do.”
“I shot Indigo. I killed him, I know I did. Hell, there was a burial!”
“And I’m sure if we went and dug up that grave all we’d find is a rotting corpse.”
Monroe sidled back in, heading for their table and whispering in Wes’s ear.
“Well?” Brad insisted, as soon as the other man had gone back to his comrades.
“No body. No ghost. Nothing.”
“I don’t believe it.”
Wes smiled coldly. “You’d rather believe in a dead man walking?”
“I’d rather go check.”
“Fine. You do that. Go and dig. Just don’t carry earth back into the house – you know how Ma’d react.”
“Maybe we should talk to her.” Brad went to stand up, but his brother pulled him viciously back into his seat.
“No!” Wes hissed. “She don’t need to know a damn thing.” He shook his head, his mind running fast. “You know, we didn’t have any trouble until that ship came to town.”
“You mean the Firefly?” Brad was surprised. “Why do you think they’re involved?”
“Well, if you hadn’t shot their pilot they’d be gone by now.”
“I didn’t shoot him.”
“Cutter said –”
“I don’t care what he said. I didn’t shoot him.”
“I assumed it was you, so close to the camp and all. Like Indigo.”
“Nope. Not me.”
“I checked with the men, and Pederson’s boys. They denied it too.” Wes tapped his fingernails on the wooden table top, a slow rhythm that was just wrong for a heartbeat. “I wonder ...”
“What?” Brad grabbed his hand, stopping the noise. “What?”
“Brewster was probably seeing things, but if he wasn’t, and I don’t believe in ghosts, the only explanation is that MacCready isn't dead.”
“I shot him!”
“Did you wait around until he wasn’t breathing?”
“No, but –”
“Did you see the corpse before they buried it?”
“No. But they had a funeral, and everything!”
“Not that difficult to arrange.”
Brad rubbed his knuckles across his forehead. “You really think he’s alive?”
“Wes, we’ve got cargo out there! Will have for another three days. You think MacCready’s gonna wait that long ‘fore he comes to kill us?”
“He hasn’t so far.”
“He didn’t have help before. And he knows about Troy ...”
“Another reason we don’t want to go bleating to Ma. She’d skin us for him.” Wes sat back, tapping his fingers on the arm of the chair. “This needs to be finished, now.”
Brad swallowed hard, trying to clear the lump in his throat. “Wes, MacCready’s gorram good. And he’s got Cobb. Buddha knows what the rest of that crew are like, but not a one of ‘em looked like they were unacquainted with firearms.”
“Then we don’t get involved. Besides, it would be better for us if we were seen to be somewhere else, somewhere ... prominent.” He came to a decision, and a tight, vicious smile crossed his lips as he signalled to Carroway to join them.
“What now?” the saloon owner churlishly.
“Get Pederson from wherever he is, whichever girl he’s currently enjoying. I’ve got a job for him.”
Mal was quiet all the way back to Serenity, but as the hovermule approached the Firefly he shook his head. “It’s just like you said, Frey. The whole damn town’s sick. They know what’s going on up at the camp, but they won’t do a gorram thing to stop it.”
“So were we, when we went to war. But we did because it was the right thing to do.”
“We still lost, Mal.” Her tone was gentle.
“Doesn’t mean we were wrong.” He jerked his head back towards the town. “These folks, though ... they just let it happen. Medea Tanner tells ‘em to look the other way, and they can’t turn their heads fast enough.”
“They know it’s wrong, at least most of them do. Addie is mortally ashamed that she’s involved the way she is.”
“Ashamed she got caught, you mean.”
“No. She wishes she hadn’t, and that’s why she helped Indigo when she did, why she sent Jayne that slip.”
“But they ain’t gonna come out and help us, are they?”
“You mean fight? No. Fear makes cowards of us all.”
“I thought that was conscience.”
“Quoting Hamlet again?”
“Something like that.”
As the hover mule settled onto the deck of the cargo bay she studied his face. “You’ve got the plan.”
“Yes.” He turned off the engine. “Jayne.”
“Weapon up. Whatever you can carry. And give Indigo a gun.”
The man in the footwell sat up. “Can I have my Sharps back?”
Mal nodded, then glanced up to the catwalk.
River stood, her coat open to show the tight, dark grey bodysuit she was wearing. Her bandoleers were slung across her chest, and she held her favourite rifle. “Now?” she asked.
to be continued
Saturday, January 28, 2012 9:50 AM
Saturday, January 28, 2012 3:31 PM
Saturday, January 28, 2012 7:56 PM
Sunday, January 29, 2012 6:58 AM
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