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BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL
"Frank Reynolds has a 'gift' for Mal. The Captain has a deadline to make. Zoe knows something is not right but cannot put her finger on it."
CATEGORY: FICTION TIMES READ: 2544 RATING: 9 SERIES: FIREFLY
TITLE: "KITH AND KIN"
AUTHOR: Alison M. DOBELL
PAIRING: No specific pairing.
STATUS: New. SEQUEL to "NO CHOICE"
ARCHIVE: Yes. Just let me know where.
SUMMARY: "Frank Reynolds has a 'gft' for Mal. The
Captain has a deadline to make. Zoe knows something is
not right but cannot put her finger on it."
The usual disclaimers apply. The characters and 'Firefly'
are the property and gift of Joss Whedon and Mutant Enemy.
No infringement of copyright is intended.
"KITH AND KIN"
A "Firefly" story
Written by Alison M. DOBELL
* * * * *
He had been reluctant to go inside. It was stupid. Made no kind of sense at all but suddenly he just wanted to stay outside. In the last of the light, head unbowed before a foreign sky. In the open air where the wide open spaces and the wind could find him. Maybe the air wasn't as clean and bracing as on Shadow but it wasn't recycled and the walls did not close in on him. Only the ones around his heart. Memories tormented him with their own harsh shadows. Heart burning to match his flaming skin. The heat flashing through him at odd moments reminding him of his promise. One more step and he would forget it all and no way could he bring that kind of hell down on top of them. Not before and definitely not now.
Zoe was worried about him. Frank Reynolds hugged him tight, rocked him gently. Knew this was hard for him and wished with all his might he could save him from this but it was life. Red in tooth and claw and a million times harder to endure. That's what his boy had done. Endured. Strong as a rock, like his father. But also like his father Mal had his breaking point. Frank's eyes were dry of tears as he held him. All cried out. Remembered how he had carried his brother John on his back for almost three days before he would accept that he was dead. Gorrammit it wasn't supposed to be like this. Where was his happy ending? Yet despite all that had happened to them he could not find it in himself to rail against God. Because in the end God had saved Malcolm, and saving Mal had saved him. Had made an end to the madness of impossible grief, something that held one less nightmare. He was unaware of Zoe joining them until she gently touched her Uncle's arm. Wash and the others quietly gathering round in concern but not close enough to touch. Trying not to crowd them but wanting to get the Captain back on board Serenity.
Jayne looked at the Preacher and watched the little huddle slowly come up the ramp not understanding what all the fuss was about. Kaylee had managed to clutch one of the Captain's hands, frightened by the soulful vacant look in his eyes. Frank had given the girl a smile but it would not stay there. The same sad eyes looked back at her. Being so gifted with fixing things she knew how to recognise a thing that was broken. Made it harder to accept when it was someone she loved. But they would fix this. They had to. Because this was the Captain and whether they admitted it or not they all relied on him to keep them safe, keep Serenity flying. She could fix the engines but it was the Captain who fixed the crew. Who now would fix him? She looked at his Uncle and gave a tentative smile, willing him to abandon his own dark pain to help his nephew. The look that flashed back filled her with a hope that made her think this man was capable of anything. The tentative smile became stronger, more true, and her grip on the Captain's hand became assured. Zoe leaned in to whisper something in Mal's ear before stepping back. Kaylee could not hear what it was but saw him nod slightly.
As soon as they were on board Book hit the button to close and seal the door. Jayne looked a mite perplexed. "Why's the Cap so upset? His Uncle's alive ain't he?"
The Preacher nodded solemnly. Picking up on the grief that was reaching him so keenly as the little group passed. "His Uncle's alive Jayne but everybody else died."
Jayne tore his eyes from the scene and looked at Book. "Everybody?"
He nodded. "Uh huh. Mother, father, brother, neighbours and friends. Near as I can tell from what Zoe said, all the folks Mal grew up with are gone - not a natural death among them. Whole family wiped out to the last generation."
The big man ground his teeth together. "*Tamade hundan*, gorram Alliance dogs!"
"This is gonna be a hard time for the Captain, Jayne."
Jayne grunted and looked back at the now closed ramp. "What about the cargo?"
They were now the only two left in the cargo hold. The others had all gone up to the commons. The Preacher wanted to join them but was waiting for Jayne.
"Yeah, we got us a whole mess of crates to deliver. Anderson said he'd have 'em dropped off to us within an hour of gettin' back."
"I'm sure a small delay will make no difference."
Jayne was about to argue then shrugged instead. After all, Anderson seemed like a right nice gentlemanly fella. All that fine food and all. Not to mention the drink and the geisha get up. His thoughts paused and in his mind he leered at the memory. He had made a pretty fine looking woman in that get up. A flush rose up his neck when he realised the Preacher was staring strangely at him. "Um, better go see what the Cap wants to do."
The Preacher put a hand on his arm. "Best give the Captain a few minutes first before bringing up business, Jayne."
"Okay, but don't blame me if he gets worse than a bear with a sore head about it later."
When they got to the commons room they saw the others all seated round the big table. The Captain sat slumped in his chair, seemingly listening to everything his Uncle was telling him but hardly raising his head and not making eye contact with any of them. He was a study in pain and sorrow. Contained for so long that the sudden release seemed unnatural. The damn had burst and he was drowning. The water closing above his head and taking him with it. Dragging him down to the cold dark depths. Not struggling now. Voices coming to him from watery depths where the tears of a lost world rippled back to him like prophetic echoes singing their siren songs of doom. Hands, voices, faces reaching out to him. All of them trying to connect, to find what was lost. To hang on and never let go. He just stared down at the oak grain of the heavy table and opened his hands. Staring at the gaps between his fingers as if his whole life was running through them like the sands of time. Everything and everyone he had ever loved turned to ash, the sand blackening between his fingers as it fell in a parody of mortal remains. The grave formless, the prayers that rose in his memory a mockery from a God who did not care. All lost and for what? Nothing but the vainglory of war. He was so still, not speaking or adding anything to the quiet but intense voice of his Uncle. The last grain of sand on the beach was talking to him and it was only right that he listen.
Zoe and Wash exchanged worried looks, hands clasped together. Kaylee sat next to Simon but River was not present. Now she came to think of it River had made herself scarce after watching the Captain and Jayne come back. Perhaps the emotion of what was coming had overwhelmed her? Kaylee vowed that she would go and find River later and make sure she was alright. The Preacher made some coffee, enough for everyone. His ears stretched to hear what Frank Reynolds was saying to the Captain. Everybody else so hushed you could have heard a pin drop. Jayne was silent. His eyes solemn as he watched the others closely. He frowned suddenly, catching the glint of something shiny in Frank Reynolds' hands. Frank's deep voice softened.
"This maybe isn't the time to tell you, son, but you know your mama would have said let's get all the shocks over in one packet then we can soonest recover our common sense."
The Captain did not respond. Frank Reynolds bit back a pained sigh. Mal sat at the head of the table, to his Uncle's immediate left. Zoe to Uncle Frank's right with Wash next to her. Opposite them was Simon Tam commandeering the chair Kaylee had been aiming for. The concern on his face telling her he wanted to be close enough to monitor the Captain in case he needed him professionally. Not that Simon expected to be asked. It should be a requirement of all crew to have a crystal ball as standard so they would automatically know what the Captain wanted of them. And even more importantly, needed.
Shepherd Book made the coffee strong, hot and black. He placed a mug in front of the Captain then placed a brief hand on his shoulder. "Drink your coffee, Captain."
The Captain gave a tiny nod and put his hands obediently round the mug but did not take a sip. Not yet. It was as if the words were still in transit to his brain and he was waiting for the time lag to catch up with his ears. All the time in the 'verse. Not much made sense but Book hoped that would change soon. The man was in shock and needed a boost to his system. Simon was thinking the same thing but stayed silent. His eyes flicking from the Captain's pale face to that of Frank Reynolds. Hoping that whatever else the man had to say it would not propel the Captain even further into his grief. Opening up old wounds was never pretty. Sometimes it was best to just let them heal.
"Son," Uncle Frank paused to accept a mug from the Preacher and took a long sip. The bitter liquid scalded the back of his throat and egged on his courage. He only wanted to have this gorram conversation once. One sided though it might me. "Mal, look at me son."
Slowly Mal looked up. Frank Reynolds took hold of the Captain's hands and removed them from the mug. He turned the hands over and very gently placed the object he had been holding in the Captain's right palm then placed his other hand over it. It was a round silvery gun metal pendant on a matching chain. Plain and unadorned it was the size of an old silver dollar and a quarter inch thick. The Captain searched his Uncle's eyes for some kind of explanation. "What is it?"
His Uncle put his hands over Mal's so the two of them were now cradling the object between two sets of hands. "Remember I told you I couldn't find nothin' of Davey?"
Mal blinked. Close to collapsing at the sound of his brother's name. He bit his lip. Didn't see Zoe catch her breath and Wash's arm tighten around her. "What of it, *shushu*? We know what happened to Davey."
Frank nodded. Suddenly not so sure this was a good idea. "I know son but you were always closer to Davey than any other soul living an' I thought you should have somethin'. They call this kind of thing a reliquary though it's not one in the strictest sense. I placed soil in it from the field where he died and when I got back to Shadow and found the house I added ashes from there too." Something to carry with him for his brother and his mama. Only the meaning of it was unspoken. Mal wasn't stupid he would know what he meant. He broke off at the slide of tears breaking on the Captain's face. Rested his forehead against Mal's and put a hand around his neck to hold the boy close. "*Duibuqi*, Mal. I'm so gorram sorry 'bout everythin'."
After that the room slowly began to fill with sound. Small quiet conversations, the soft rising tones easing the tension and breaking the intensity of emotion that had been building up to almost unbearable levels. Kaylee looked at Simon, saw that he was still concerned but beginning to relax. He smiled back at her. "It'll be alright Kaylee," He whispered gently.
She nodded but couldn't quite form the words. Simon linked his hand in hers, gave a little squeeze, then released it. Her tentative smile back was welcome. They were halfway through an impromptu meal when River appeared. Simon smiled at her and she gave him a smile back before her head tilted with an odd faraway look in her eyes. Simon put his fork down, tensing, ready to go to her if need be. The others turned their heads to see what he was looking at. Jayne scowled, annoyed at the girl for bringing her crazy ways to the table and spoiling good food. Well. It was food anyway. The good part was relative. The Captain had not seen her yet. He was talking animatedly to his Uncle, relieving memories from years gone by on Shadow. Zoe chipping in every now and then. Around his neck hung the reliquary. Mal heard a gasp, turned to see what was wrong and locked eyes with River. She looked stricken. Her eyes flew from him to his Uncle then she darted forward and snatched at the reliquary around the Captain's neck. With one yank she snapped the chain and held it up, her face contorting with anger as she shook it at Frank Reynolds in accusation. "Your grief not his!"
Simon rose from his chair, alarmed and distressed. "River, please. Calm down!"
The Captain had gone white. "River?"
She turned to him, anger deflected. Her look was gentle as if she could see straight through to his soul. Read the very content of his heart. Touch his deepest sorrows. She moved closer to him, throwing an occasional look towards his Uncle to warn the man to stay back. He was stunned and not sure what the hell to make of this. Simon was moving slowly, not wanting to spook River. She ignored him. Eyes only for the Captain. She tossed the reliquary back over her shoulder without looking as if it was a piece of *gos se* that had soiled her fingers. Frank Reynolds caught it and held his breath. Upset but unable to speak for a moment. River had no such impediment. She looked hard at the Captain, willing him to understand. "He isn't there."
"It's just a reliquary River. Soil from Davey's field. Ash from mama's house."
She shook her head sadly, seeing all his pain and wanting to fold it inside herself so it would not touch him. So that he could heal. But that wasn't the way of things. "No, he isn't there."
He frowned in his struggle for understanding. His voice gentle as it always was when she was like this. "Not there?"
"No. The field, empty, other people's ghosts." She placed a hand lightly over his heart, hardly touching him at all but he felt it anyway. Right through to the soles of his feet. So cold now. It held the fire at bay but she saw it. Saw him. "Not yours."
"River, it's a symbol. That's all. No need to take on so."
"It's a lie."
Some light gasps went around the room but the Captain and River were oblivious. "Mama's house..." He could not complete his sentence.
"The house doesn't matter." She explained softly. As she would to a child. "She knows, she's with you." River smiled so sweetly it broke his heart. "Never left you. Loves you."
"And Davey?" He forced out quietly, words rough with emotion.
She shook her head sadly. "Not there. Can't see, the mist is too deep."
He went to say something but she moved her hand from his chest to touch his lips.
"Sands running out." She warned softly.
His eyes widened. He had to go. Was running out of time. His eyes thanked her. She knew, understood. Reached for his hands and began to tug him to his feet. Simon got to her and put his hands on her shoulders to pull her away. She ignored him. Poor Simon. He did not understand but he would soon. Her focus was firmly fixed on the Captain. "No time, no time, go."
The Captain nodded and looked down the table to where Jayne sat. "Come on Jayne we got cargo to load and a deadline to meet."
Mouth half full Jayne managed an impressive scowl. "I'm eatin' Cap, can't it wait?"
"No," Said Mal urgently. "You heard what Anderson said. We don't make the drop we don't get paid, *dong ma*?"
Grumbling the big man got to his feet, shoving food in his mouth as if it was going out of fashion. Frank Reynolds stood up, not understanding the urgency in his nephew's voice. He could tell most of the others were equally baffled by the Captain's sudden change though Zoe looked more relieved than alarmed. Glad to have the Captain back from that dark place he had momentarily descended to. She gave Wash's hand a squeeze and jumped to her feet. "I'll help you, Jayne. Where's the drop point, Captain?"
He told her then looked at his Uncle. "*Shushu*, sorry to break up the meal but work's a waitin'. Made a deal and can't break my word on it."
His Uncle nodded. "I'll help, son."
Mal shook his head. "No, *shushu*. I got something more pressin' I need to ask of you." He paused. "A favour you could say."
Frank Reynolds' eyebrows rose. "Anythin' son, you don't even have to ask."
"I will anyway seein' as how you ain't gonna like it." He paused and looked around the table making brief but firm eye contact with all of them. "I want you take Kaylee, Simon, River and Inara when she gets back aboard your ship. Stay in orbit and wait for our com when we return."
Kaylee opened her mouth to protest but something in the Captain's look made her shut her mouth. It did nothing to still the alarm rising inside her. Zoe frowned at Mal. "Captain, is there something you aren't telling us? Something that happened with Anderson?"
He would not look at her. One look and she would know. Not what was wrong just the sense of it and that was more information that it was good to divulge. Mal could afford no more delays. He could feel himself heating up inside, the perspiration leaking through his pores. He looked at his pilot. "Wash, you still here?"
The pilot hurried to his feet, gave Zoe a quick kiss on the cheek and raced for the bridge. Simon was staring at the Captain with his mouth open. River now quiet and leaning in against him as he held a protective arm around her. "Captain, what do you think you're doing?"
"My job Simon. Now you do yours and go with Uncle Frank. Look after River."
His Uncle was looking hard at him, trying to fathom out what the hell had just changed. It had something to do with the crazy girl he was sure of it. Now Mal was asking him for his help but he knew what he was really trying to do was protect those he thought of as the most vulnerable, the women and the doctor. Why was the doctor vulnerable? Or was he expecting they would be needing his services?
"*Shushu*?" The Captain's quiet voice broke through his speculation. "You gonna help me?" He asked softly.
The silent plea in his eyes was too much for Frank Reynolds. It was as close to begging as Mal could bring himself and they both knew it. "Trusted you all my life, son, not gonna stop now though I don't know what in the nine hells is goin' on and I sorely don't wanna leave you no matter what might be snappin' at your heels."
Mal smiled, patted him on the shoulder then jerked his head towards Kaylee. "Come on, little Kaylee. Schedule's runnin' a mite tight. The sooner we're gone the sooner we'll be back."
She wanted to argue she really did but could see that the Captain's mind was set. Reluctantly she went with River and Simon. Frank Reynolds paused and dropped his voice. His words for the Captain and no one else. "I sense you're in some kind of trouble son so I won't add to it. But you call me on the wire if you need a little more muscle. My boat's called the Lightstar. Foolish kind of name but then so is Serenity. Guess we're both a mite too sentimental for our own good. Named it after the notion of having a star to light my way home."
The Captain smiled at that. He took a moment to commit his Uncle's face to memory. Frank Reynolds' next words surprised him.
"When this job is done, Mal, not fire nor brimstone will make me leave you again, *dong ma*?"
The Captain nodded and watched as he left the commons, Book going along to see him off the ship and help Jayne and Zoe load up their cargo. Mal paused only a moment then hurried to the bridge to get a wave off to Inara about the change in plans. He ignored the tell tale stirring in his gut and tried to figure out how long he had. The delay caused by his Uncle's sudden appearance could cost him dear but it was worth every second. At least River had not proclaimed any words of doom this time and that was something. He just wished he knew what the rest of her words meant.
The Preacher followed Frank Reynolds down the ramp, Kaylee walking uncertainly next to him. Her face troubled and her demeanour anxious. She looked at the Shepherd. "Is he gonna be alright, Shepherd?"
He smiled for her. Knew Simon and Frank Reynolds were listening for his reply. He was not too sure about River. "Yes, child. The Captain knows what he's doing." He looked at Frank. "I have to wonder though," He added softly. "Whether you know what you're doing."
Mr Reynolds expression tightened up. "What do you mean, Preacher?"
"Oh, I think you know what I mean. There was no need for that little display."
"What's between me and my nephew is none of your business."
"Perhaps not but it is surely God's."
He did not like what the Preacher appeared to be alluding to. "I would never hurt Mal. Not in thought, word or deed. I know the grief he carries - better than you. My aim was to bring it out into the open where it could heal. Not eat him up a mouthful at a time. Not that it's any of your gorram business what I was doing."
The quiet deadly steel in his voice did not affect Book. He gave a slow joyful smile, quietly stealing the other man's thunder. "Then we understand each other."
He was given a tight nod. River had pulled Simon to one side and was whispering urgently in his ear. Kaylee tried to make out what was being said but could not hear. Simon looked at River, their eyes locking on each other. He took a deep long breath, words hushed as he spoke to her gently. "Are you sure, *mei mei*?"
River nodded. Simon did not question her again, instead he gave her a gentle little smile and kissed her on the forehead. "Okay, River. You go with the others and I'll see you later."
Kaylee looked at him in alarm and grabbed his hand as he started to walk back to Serenity. "Hey, where you goin'?"
"I'm not coming with you, Kaylee. Go with River and Uncle Frank."
She looked from him to Mal's Uncle. Uncertain what to do. River decided for her, rushing up and grabbing Kaylee's hand then tugging her towards Mr Reynolds. He looked even more confused than he had back on Serenity. She could hardly blame him. Simon took a couple of steps back towards Shepherd Book but the Preacher did not query what he was doing nor did he seem surprised that the doctor was boarding Serenity. It was only when Kaylee got to the Lightstar and they were met by Frank Reynolds' small but loyal crew that it occurred to her to wonder just what the rutting hell was going on.
The crates were heavier than Mal had expected but he was not about to quibble over that. Instead he bent his back to help Jayne, one crate being simply too much even for a man of Jayne's brute strength. Suddenly thirty eight cases seemed like thirty seven too many. When they got to loading the last one he was ready to collapse in a heap and sleep for the rest of the week, all his muscles finding new ways to bunch up and hurt him. He was surprised to straighten up and find Simon Tam wiping sweat off his forehead with the sleeve of his shirt where he had been helping Zoe with the penultimate crate. Fortunately Mal had enough breath left for a question. "What are you doin' here, doc? Gonna miss your flight."
He flashed the Captain a grin. Mal looked at him mesmerised and waited for his explanation. "I changed my mind. With your record for getting into trouble Captain I thought you might need me here."
Jayne snorted. Mal was torn between the urge to bawl Simon out for disobeying a direct order or decking him. Then a third option came to mind but he was reluctant to speak on it. No sense in implying what River knew unless the boy mentioned it first. Seeing the Captain was not going to fight him over it the doctor relaxed a bit more. "Shouldn't we be taking off now, Captain?"
He battened down his irritation and the strong temptation to knock the good doctor flat on his ass. Zoe hid a little smile and decided to cut them all a little slack. "Can't take off with the ramp still down, doc. Even a greenhorn spacer knows that much."
The smile on Simon's face faltered a little and Mal let a smirk flicker across his face then had the Preacher close up after them. His good humour reasserting itself. He hit the com. "Wash, get us out of here. We got a drop to make on Destiny."
Inara Serra was more than a little mystified. Mal's wave over the cortex had been brief but intriguing. She was to meet with the Lightstar on completion of her business and dock with that vessel until Serenity returned from a job. That was unusual enough but it was the fact that the Captain's Uncle was going to be on that ship that had stunned her the most. His Uncle? She had never heard him talk about any Uncle Frank. Was sure she would have remembered. Come to think of it getting Mal to talk about any of his former life was harder than pulling teeth. Without anaesthetic. He never spoke about his family. No childhood anecdotes. She realised she knew even less about him that she thought. The opportunity to meet a close family member chased away the scowl that threatened to break out on her face at the sudden change in routine. Ordinarily she did not like surprises. She liked things smooth. Now she looked forward to meeting the man if only for the opportunity of finding out more about the Captain. Not that she would ever admit such a thing. A little smile quirked her lips. No need to be obvious about it. A Companion was nothing if not subtle.
Wash made good time to Destiny but found himself getting jittery with the way the Captain kept wandering in to the cockpit to check their journey time. He was tempted to snap at him and tell him to go and rest until they were due to land. He would give him the heads-up before the final descent. But one look at Mal's oddly tense expression shut him up. So it was with relief that he was able to announce their approach as the Captain entered his domain once more. Hearing the good news Mal just nodded, turned and walked out again. Wash looked at Zoe. "What was that all about?"
She shrugged but something that looked like concern skated on thin ice in her eyes. If the ice broke God help Mal. She would nail him to the floor and pin his ears back until he told her what the rutting hell was making him so gorram jumpy. "Must be the deadline."
He tilted his head. "You think so?"
She shook her head then shrugged again. "I don't know."
"Something about this doesn't feel right, *bao bei*."
Zoe ran a hand through his hair and kissed him lightly. He closed his eyes and drank in the beautiful sensation, almost dying when she moved away from him. His eyes opened quickly. "Where are you going?"
"Someone has to help with the unloading."
Her expression was unreadable but he knew what she was doing. He gave her a nod. "Just make sure no one finds you sticking your nose where it's not wanted, *xin gan*. I know you two go way back but the Captain can be mightly unamused if he thinks you're prying."
CHINESE GLOSSARY: (Mandarin - Pinyin)
*tamade hundan* = fucking bastard *shushu* = uncle *duibuqi* = sorry *gos se* = crap/dog shit *dong ma* = understand *mei mei* = little sister *bao bei* = precious/treasure
*xin gan* = sweetheart
Tuesday, August 05, 2003 11:53 AM
Tuesday, August 12, 2003 9:50 AM
Thursday, October 13, 2011 7:55 PM
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