BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

GUILDSISTER

Blue Sun Job, Part 32: Revelations
Friday, October 22, 2004

Mal and Book talk about some Big Damned Things.


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 3935    RATING: 10    SERIES: FIREFLY


Blue Sun Job, Part 32: Revelations

More difficult subject matter dealt with in this chapter. No Jayne, so not much on the comic relief.
Advisory: Some uncensored English cussing.

A bit of somewhat elaborate web coding/structure on this chapter. I’m referring to a lot of moments that took place previously in this story, and in Truthsome, and so have put back-links in to those moments, if you want to refresh yourself on them (things that took place 30-odd chapters earlier and were written months ago). Each link--in yellow--will take you to the specific place in the previous story. Use your back button to return here, or follow the 'return to chapter 32' links--they'll take you back to the place in this chapter you left off.


Blue Sun Job
Sequel to the
Truthsome series (link is to part 1)
Part 1: Plans and Schemes
Part 2: Into the Lion’s Den
Part 3: Going Smooth
Part 4: Return to the Core
Part 5: Life That Was
Part 6: More Life That Was
Part 7: ...and Robberies That Were
Part 8: Zoe’s Tale
Part 9: More of Zoe’s Tale
Part 10: Going In
Part 11: Home Again...
Part 12: Waiting
Part 13: Bushwhacked Revisited
Part 14: Two By Two
Part 15: Give the Devil His Due
Part 16: The Edge
Part 17: Going Through the Motions
Part 18: Never Leave
Part 19: The Bottom


Part 20: Countdown
Part 21: PS1467
Part 22: X1823
Part 23: Fallout
Part 24: The Wrong Side of Normal
Part 25: In Trouble
Part 26: Interactions
Part 27: Caught
Part 28: A Preacher, A Whore, and a Thief…
Part 29: …And the Thief Said…
Part 30: All Kinds of Wrong
Part 31: The Heart of the Matter



Chinese:

No critical dialog using actual Chinese characters, just exclamatory expressions

他妈的 = ta ma duh = f*ck (used for all variations)
狗屎 = go-se = crap


Blue Sun Job, Part 32: Revelations
靑日 Job: Revelations

“Mine.”

Shepherd Book stared open-mouthed at Mal. “I think I need to sit down.”

“You are sitting,” Mal said. Well, if he’d ever hoped to confound the preacher, he’d sure as hell just accomplished it.

“Well, that’s good then,” Book said vaguely. “I think you need to sit down, too.”

Pushing himself away from the door, Mal crossed the shuttle to the pilot’s seat. He felt a mite unsteady himself. The preacher’s eyes tracked him unblinkingly. Settling into the seat, Mal had to break away from the preacher’s gaze. Man looked to be in shock.

Mal fidgeted with the armrest. Flicked a couple controls. Looked out at the stars. He cast a sideways glance at Book. Still staring wide-eyed in shock.

Chuckling humorlessly, Mal said, “Yup. That’s ‘bout how I looked when I got the news dropped on me.”

Book shook himself top to bottom and rubbed his hands over his face as if he could change the way the way the ‘verse shaped up if he could just get it back into proper focus. “Jesus God Almighty,” Book whispered.

“Treading a little close to blasphemy there, preacher,” Mal said quietly. “Regretting takin’ on this job of getting us fixed up?” Mal asked in a nudging, but not nasty, way. He smiled blandly. “You thought we were just ordinary shell-shock screwed up. Didn’t you?”

With a not-quite laugh, Book shook his head. “Son, you have managed to astonish me before. And more than once. But this...” He paused, seeming at a loss for words again. “When…? How…?”

Mal scoffed and looked back out into the Black. “Well, the ‘when’ is nigh onto sixteen years gone by now.” He didn’t stop a short sigh. He could count it down to the hour with no more than a moment’s thought. “The ‘how’ is… well, just what you’d ‘spect--a couple dumb kids with no notion in their heads that the fun and games could turn awfully damned serious and consequential in the space of a heartbeat.”

Rubbing his eyes again, Book said with a strained attempt at humor, “I guess I don’t need to ask if Wash knows. I mean, you are still alive.” Book gave a pained smile. Mal matched it. “But who else does?”

Mal shook his head. “Until last night me and Zoe were the only two living souls in the ‘verse who knew. And we’ve not spoken on it, not really, for… well, nigh onto sixteen years.”

“Suppose those two dumb, innocent kids are still in us somewhere?”

Zoe laughed. “We were certainly dumb. Don’t know how innocent.”

“And did we ever pay a price for it,” he said with a sigh. Zoe’s face clouded. “Hey,” Mal said, shaking her arm to break her away from the sad reverie. They had more than enough grief in their lives without courting more. Best not to dwell on sorrows over long past.

Mal shook himself. All these years. Stray comments but no direct words between them, not since he’d told her in an Independent’s base hospital “All’s forgiven and forgotten. Let the dead bury themselves and move on.” He’d believed that then. Believed a lot of things that turned out not to be so. No matter what you did or how far you ran, your history always came along for the ride. Zoe’d been going on about avoidance and denial last night. Had she been trying to work herself up to talking on this? Maybe. If she couldn’t make herself talk on it with Mal, weren’t no way in hell she’d manage it with Wash. All was forgiven between Mal and Zoe, certainly, but forgotten…? Never leave, the phrase ran unbidden through his mind.

“And last night? Surely not Wash…”

“No. Simon. Doctors can tell if a woman has… you know,” Mal trailed off. Hell, he couldn’t even say it straight out his ownself. No wonder Zoe couldn’t either. “Asked me outright about it.”

Book scowled. “But Simon doesn’t know the details. I mean, that you…”

“Don’t think so,” Mal said. He rolled his eyes. “He did get quite the eye and ear-full last night, though. Wouldn’t doubt his imagination is working overtime on it.”

“Well, he won’t say anything,” Book said. “I mean, he’s a doctor and understands confidentiality.” He studied Mal closely. “Why’d you decide to tell me?”

Mal took a long time answering. None of it means a damned thing. For all that drew he and Zoe together, there always remained that one thing that kept them permanently apart.

None of it means a damn thing. She’d said that to Mal once and later he’d turned around and said it to her; had come to believe it. Everything had a meaning, he’d once told her. A meaning, a purpose, a season for each thing. He didn’t believe that any more. Didn’t believe in a lot of things any more. Goodness and mercy. Zoe felt responsible for some of it. But, then, none of it meant a damn thing, did it?

Closing her eyes, Zoe backtracked, edging away from the black hole of memory around which she now tread. It was the place, the One Thing, that stood squarely and permanently between her and Mal, the thing that separated them even as it created an unbreakable weld joining them for all time.

He started and rejected several explanations before settling with, “Wash. Wash and Zoe. Mostly Zoe.” Turning to stare out into the darkness beyond the shuttle’s windows, Mal wondered why it was so gorram hard to talk on. It was so long ago and far away. History, ancient and lost. A brief glimmer of a something that flared and faded into nothingness fast as a shooting star, and left nothing behind but the burned-in memory. Did Zoe ever think about the lost one? Ever grieve?

The preacher waited patiently; must understand what a struggle it was for Mal to force out the words. “Zoe…” Mal said haltingly, “um… she and, uh, Wash… well, Zoe, at least, wants to have another child. And… you know what happened here with finding out about this lost one just this week. Zoe, she’s making out like it wasn’t anything. Trying to make Wash believe it… And, you know… I mean, I know, it ain’t that way at all.” She’d been worrying on him last night when she found out about this lost almost-baby. Wouldn’t take the comforting herself. And they all thought he was the crazy one…

Mal stopped, trying to grasp the cold control that lately seemed just a hairsbreadth out of reach. With a sigh he swung the seat away, facing the shuttle’s controls and the Black directly. He heard the preacher shift, then felt his hand clasp on Mal’s arm. Though he knew the preacher meant it to steady him, the touch had the opposite effect. Mal squeezed his eyes tightly closed. Book let go.

“Delusions,” Book whispered, “are such useful things.” Quoting Wash’s words, spoken only minutes before. “That’s what made you decide to tell me.”

“I heard Zoe tonight,” Mal said, opening his eyes to stare back out into space, “finally talk on something she’s been deluding herself over all these years.” He flicked a sideways glance at Book. “You did something. Accomplished something, I figure. And it weren’t nothing.” Mal turned away again. “Hell… I should kick her and Wash off this boat. Cut ‘em loose. Set ‘em free. I’m just part of the problem. Maybe I’m the whole gorram problem.”

The recollections of that first time with Zoe, sweet though they were, brought no peace. It had all gone to hell by and by and maybe she was right that a mentioning of it at all to Wash would only bring more heartache to one and all. Weren’t like there was anyone else left alive to spill the tale. Not a living soul. Only ashes and dust.

“No,” Book said sharply.

Mal scowled over at him. “ ‘No’ to which part?”

“Well, you are part of the problem, no doubt about that,” Book said. “But the heart of the matter wouldn’t be solved by Zoe and Wash leaving. They take that with them. Zoe carries this with her just as you do. And it’s become clear to me that Zoe needs you every bit as much as you need her.”

“I don’t need…” Mal started to protest, then saw the look Book gave him. “Yeah, all right,” Mal finished in a sullen mutter. But Zoe don’t need me. Not any more.

“Wash is another life. Another lifetime. He’s bright, and fun, and happy and he makes me feel positively joyous and shiny. Don’t need a dead and buried history blackening the shininess.”

“Yeah?” Mal said quietly. He was part and parcel of that history. Zoe didn’t seem to comprehend just what she’d said to him there. Or maybe she did. “I think you’re making a mistake. Some of that history is gonna come up and bite you one of these days and Wash may not forgive you for keeping it from him.”

Both turned away, staring out through the windows, each lost in thoughts. Book, Mal reckoned, was working the problem, trying to see a way through to make the black core of history not utterly tarnish the little bit of shiny he and Zoe had managed to find in their lives. For himself, Mal couldn’t help but remember… a time, a place, a moment in the ‘verse when life and the future had looked to be shaping up a whole different way than it ultimately turned out.

“It was a daughter,” Book said suddenly, very, very softly. Mal froze. “You had a daughter.”

“How…?” The word barely had any sound behind it.

“River,” Book said with a trace of a smile.

Mal squinted at him. He’d had the notion there, up on the bridge, that River’d read his mind on the subject.

“River said…?” Mal swallowed hard.

“No,” Book said quickly. “It’s not anything she said, or the--possible--mind reading we think she does.” He cocked an eyebrow at Mal. “It was you got me thinking on it. A while ago, when you finally told us you were from Shadow, and how it had been destroyed.” Mal turned abruptly away but kept listening. “I got to thinking later on how you’d never said a word, not even a hint, about family you must have lost there.” The gorram preacher must know how his words hurt, but he kept on, in a low gentle voice that stabbed deeper than harsh, cruel words ever could. “I thought on how you call Kaylee your ‘little sister’. And how you took on River… a damaged, hurting, helpless little girl, and how you protect her--at enormous risk to yourself--like a daughter. Trying to save her like the daughter you couldn’t save.”

Mal took in and let out a slow, ragged breath. He scrubbed both hands over his face. “Sometimes I don’t like you much, preacher,” he said.

Chuckling warmly, Book said, “Oh, you don’t like me very much most of the time. I remind you of too many things you lost or have come to hate. Or of who you might yourself be, were circumstances different. It ever strike you what a perverse quirk in your nature it is that you keep me on here anyhow?”

With a dark glare at the preacher, Mal demanded coldly. “Where’d you learn to interrogate a suspect like this? At that abbey of yours, or elsewhere? Huh? You could teach Commander Harken a thing or two.”

Mal was a little surprised, and a little not, when Book laughed, warm and deeply. “I do enjoy it so, captain, when you launch one of these diversionary attacks of yours.”

“Hmmph. Perverse much yourself?” Mal muttered.

“Can you tell me about it?” Book asked softly. “About the child you and Zoe lost?”

Mal threw his hands up. “I did. Ain’t no more to tell about it. Just thought you ought to know the facts of the matter. For Zoe’s sake.” He stood up. “I think I’m done talkin’ on the subject.” Mal more than half expected the preacher to call out to stop him as he crossed the shuttle to the door. But there was only silence. It was the faint tremor in his hand as he grasped the latch that halted Mal.

Zoe’s hand on the latch of the door trembled slightly. It was the only sign about her that showed she was hurtin’, Mal thought as he looked at her hard set features. Tough gal. Actin’ like it didn’t rip her apart inside. Like it didn’t mean an absolute thing…

The wave of remembered feeling swept over Mal, like to drown him so powerful was it. His hand clenched the latch tightly, unable to do anything else.

Book’s hands firmly clasping his shoulders eased him away from the door and guided him back to the pilot’s seat. Mal sank down, struggling to blank out the feelings, the images, to still the trembling. Eyes closed, he panted shallowly.

“Gorramit, preacher,” he managed after a minute or so, “I don’t know what’s wrong with me. Shouldn’t be like this.”

“That was a flashback, wasn’t it?” Book asked, his voice even and low. Mal appreciated that the preacher didn’t put any worry in his tone; didn’t think he could take that just now. Had enough worry goin’ on for his ownself without anyone else’s in the mix.

Mal nodded. “You know…?”

Book sat down again opposite Mal. “Yes. Seen plenty.” He shrugged. “Had a few.” Mal cast him a sideways glance. Book gave him a flat smile. “Told you before I’d understand.”

Still fighting to steady his breathing and racing heart, Mal said, “It’s been years… it shouldn’t be like this,” he repeated. “Shouldn’t be this bad. Maybe I am crazy. Going crazy. Crazier.” He dropped his face into his hands and panted.

“You had a bad moment there at dinner, too, didn’t you?” Book asked quietly.

Mal nodded. “It was, um… In the brig, in Harken’s cruiser, after he got done with me. I was, um, hallucinating, from the sleep deprivation and the drugs and all. Seeing things. I mean, I knew it was an hallucination--I wasn’t that far gone. But it was… the food they left, like what Jayne served up tonight. Grey lumps… Anyhow, in the brig there I was seeing it… blood oozing, burnt flesh…” He shook himself. “Then there’s River tonight building this little landscape out of the 狗屎… making this little valley out of it. And the shape…”

“Serenity Valley?” Book asked in a whisper.

“Yeah.” Mal took a shuddering breath. “An exact map. That little girl’s spooky sometimes.” He paused and reconsidered. “Or I am. 他妈的. Maybe River was just making random shapes and it was just me seeing it as Serenity. Zoe did tell me in no uncertain terms my memory was screwed up on at least one point. Finally going well and truly off the gorram cliff.”

Mal’s hand brushed the small pill bottle in his pocket. He’d forgotten it. Pulling it out, he stared at it. Book made a ‘gimme’ gesture. Mal handed the bottle over.

“Zoe’s notion,” Mal said. “She wasn’t gonna leave me alone last night until I had some sleeping pills. Simon gave me those.”

“These aren’t sleeping pills,” Book said, handing the bottle back. His lips twitched in a hint of a smile Mal could tell he was hard-put to contain. “They’re tranquillizers. Antipsychotic smoothers. Putting you to sleep is just a beneficial side-effect.”

Mal scowled. “Simon’s an asshole.”

Book chuckled. “Simon’s smarter than you give him credit for. He knows--medically, chemically--what was done to you on that cruiser. I was there when he was running the blood tests, trying to figure it out. And I know what was done physically and mentally. I got one of the MPs to tell me what they were doing to you, even though I couldn’t stop it. Then I listened to the recording.” Book shook his head slowly. “What’s going on with you, captain--Mal--isn’t just you. It’s not just ‘in your head’ as you may be thinking. The images and memories may be coming from past traumas you’ve never really gotten over, but the triggers… the reactions you’re having, that’s because of things--injuries, actually--that were inflicted on you physically, mentally, and chemically, this last week.” Book gestured to the bottle. “Go ahead, take one. A half, actually. It’ll help.”

Mal regarded the bottle. “Feels all kinds of wrong.”

“Like you should be stronger?” Book asked. Mal nodded without looking up. “I haven’t noticed any reluctance on your part to use painkillers or such as needed when you’ve been shot or otherwise hurt.” Book shrugged. “Think of this as the same.”

While the preacher fetched him a small tumbler of water from the shuttle’s tap, Mal carefully snapped one of the small tablets in half, gulping it down before he lost his nerve. Simon messing with his head like he did River… Creepifying every which way. But then, there was what Simon said about the blood tests having results like River’s. Eewww…

As the Shepherd was clearly waiting for the drug to take effect in him before badgering him with more traipsings through the bleak landscape of the past, Mal spent the time filling Book in on his notions about River, her blue-hand guys, and Blue Sun.

“Damn,” Book murmured, uncharacteristically cussing. “I think you’re on to something.” Studying Book, Mal wasn’t seeing a preacher at the moment, but someone else in those deep eyes. Book glanced up. “With your permission, captain, when we arrive at the Sanctuary I’d like to share some of this intel with some people there.”

Mal’s eyes widened a touch. “Gonna pray over it?” he asked ironically but had a fair hunch that wasn’t at all what the Shepherd was talkin’ about. “What the hell kinda place is this you’re taking us to?”

Book smiled. “You’ll find out soon enough. Just remember, there’s often more to things than meets the eye.”

“Yeah,” Mal said shortly. “Said that myself once about a mine field. Still ended up with folks getting’ blowed up.” He looked out the shuttle’s windows. Wash must be at the piloting. The ship was blasting back to slow as they entered the Sanctuary world’s solar system. The system’s star grew perceptibly larger and brighter than the rest of the starfield. “Well… be landing in a couple hours. Guess I can wait.”

“How are you feeling?” Book asked, studying him closely.

Mal considered it before answering. Not unworried, but like the worrisomeness had been picked up and set off to the side where it didn’t have to bother anyone. Calm, though not in a ready-to-wrestle-a-grizzly-bear deluded calm way. Clear-headed enough. That was okay. Didn’t like the notion of having any situations blow up on them with him too muddle-headed to deal with it.

“Fine,” Mal finally said, sounding slightly puzzled. He felt about half a step off to the left of himself. It was a curious sensation. He suddenly grinned. “Last time I swallowed any of them pills I got to sleep with Inara.”

With a chuckle, Book echoed, “Sleep.”

“Yeah,” Mal relented to the exact definition of the word. “Just sleep.” After a moment, he added, blurting it out, “She reminds me of Zoe. Before.”

“What was Zoe like? When you knew her on Shadow?” The preacher’s quiet voice let Mal draw back into the memories without the stark harshness of the feelings getting in the way. “Can you tell me about the daughter you two shared?”

* * *


Long ago, on Shadow…

Mal pulled up his horse so abruptly the animal reared and snorted. Shushing it, Mal scanned the sky. He’d heard the crack of a ship breaking atmo. Against the twilight sky he finally spotted the tail of flame as the ship backed down toward earth. Landing near the ranch…

Zoe.

With a grin, Mal kicked his horse into a gallop.

The ramp was down and various of the crew wandering about by the time Mal arrived. He jumped off his horse and strode toward the ship.

Then he saw her. Zoe walked… no waddled down the ramp.

“Holy 他妈的 shit!” Mal said the words aloud for the very first time in his life.

Part 33: Light and Shadow

COMMENTS

Friday, October 22, 2004 5:49 PM

JEBBYPAL


LMAO!! That was a scene ender worthy of Joss himself! Nice reflective chapter letting people catch their breath before launching into more new heartache. I like the repore between Mal and Book alot.

Saturday, October 23, 2004 1:17 AM

KISPEXI2


Oh my - how to do this justice? So much pain, so much insight and then a comic ending to save me from total misery. Guildsister does it again!

I've been trying to work out why this bit was so affecting -“Mal wondered why it was so gorram hard to talk on. It was so long ago and far away” - and have come to the the conclusion it's the cunning use of plain unflowery words and a matter-of-fact style to convey huge emotional turmoil. “

History, ancient and lost. A brief glimmer of a something that flared and faded into nothingness fast as a shooting star, and left nothing behind but the burned-in memory. “ A recurrent theme throughout this entire story and it doesn't get any less poignant. Actually it gets more poignant.

“I don’t need…” Mal started to protest, then saw the look Book gave him. “Yeah, all right,” Mal finished in a sullen mutter. But Zoe don’t need me. Not any more. - Argh! Again so very much said in so few words. Beautiful.

I loved the way you explain Mal's protectiveness towards River as making up for his failure to save his daughter. And I think there was a neat bit of foreshadowing that revelation in the “sixteen years ago”. Those three words made me think immediately of River.

But the very most brilliant (going a bit incoherent with enthusiam here!) about this chapter was this bit:
“Yeah.” Mal took a shuddering breath. “An exact map. That little girl’s spooky sometimes.” He paused and reconsidered. “Or I am. Maybe River was just making random shapes and it was just me seeing it as Serenity.”
The idea that each person might be reading their own thoughts and feelings into the things River says and does is mind-blowing! That is just so smart and thought-provoking. And it adds a whole new layer to my understanding of Firefly.(And I'm going to try very hard not to steal the idea *g*)

Saturday, October 23, 2004 2:53 AM

RELFEXIVE


Fantastic stuff.

Saturday, October 23, 2004 6:36 AM

AMDOBELL


Absolutely adored this to little itty bitty pieces. I have loved every part of this series and this part just pulls at so many gorram strings, love the way you have Book so knowingly and gently easing the past out of Mal in a way that Mal cannot do for himself. It is all so twisted up inside him, so dark and painful and his is more than a little lost with the ache of it. Beautifully written and awesome how you tied in little flashbacks to earlier chapters as the past comes out bit by agonised bit. You are just brilliant and I cannot give enough praise for how much enjoyment this series is giving me. Can't wait for the next gorram part, but I don't ruttin' well want it to end either. Shinyness personified is what you are! Ali D :~)
Can I hug Mal now?

Saturday, November 13, 2004 1:11 AM

YOUNGSPIRIT


So very very amazing.

I've sat here at my computer for the last... well, at least 2 hours, probably closer to 3... and just been spellbound by this amazing story. And I haven't even managed to go back to your "Troublesome" series yet!

Please keep up the fantastic work! I look forward to reading more.


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