BLUE SUN ROOM FAN FICTION - GENERAL

TAMSIBLING

Forward Motion - Part 6
Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Simon tries to determine the best way to help River, while Mal goes after another job and some more coin. But what will the blue-handed men have to say about that?


CATEGORY: FICTION    TIMES READ: 1954    RATING: 9    SERIES: FIREFLY

“Mei mei, what have you done?”

The dream was different now. River could still see the faces and the bodies of her family, surrounding her in puddles of their own blood. She could still make out Simon’s disgusted and horrified face. But she no longer felt any remorse for her actions.

She dropped the blood red blades to the ground, and instead of watching Simon walk away, she turned and left him, heading for a door on the far side of the room, bathed in light. A door through which stood two men, with blue-gloved hands, smiling benevolently and applauding her actions. She smiled back at them, a cold, calculating smile and listened with disinterest as Simon’s anguished cry reached her.

“River!”

Abruptly, River stopped mid-stride, immediately aware that something was wrong. She didn’t want to go to the blue-gloved men. They were mean and frightening and she remembered them vividly from her time at the Academy. But she couldn’t stop herself. They continued to draw closer and River frantically searched for an exit, any way out of this increasingly eerie dream. But there was nothing. Just four solid gray walls with no way out and the two men.

Turning fear-filled eyes on them, she watched in horror as they got close enough to touch her and laid their hands on her forearms. “Time to come with us,” one of them said, pulling her towards the door they had entered from.

She struggled with every fiber of her being, with every ounce of strength she could muster, but it wasn’t enough; it was never enough. She tried planting her feet, but they continued to drag her away, her feet inexorably sliding towards the open door and her inevitable fate.

“No, no, no, no …”

“River, sweetie, wake up.”

River came out of the dreamscape, but kept her eyes closed. The presence she felt in the room now was not the one she had expected and it took her a moment to bring it into focus. When realization dawned, and she had managed to slow her heart beat again, she said, “Where’s Simon?”

Kaylee answered, “Sleeping, finally.” Reaching out to stroke her hair back off her forehead, Kaylee asked, “Do you want me to get him?”

Finally allowing her eyelids to flutter open, River looked at Kaylee’s concerned expression and gave the girl a slight smile. “No, he needs his rest,” River told her. Plus, were Simon here, he’d just get more worried and she didn’t need that emotion anywhere near her right now. Kaylee was anxious enough for them all.

“That’s true,” Kaylee agreed, sitting next to the girl. “It took quite a bit of coaxing to get him to even consider it. He’s been running himself into the ground looking after you.”

River smiled again at the thought, knowing that her brother had not left her side until just a few hours ago. Despite her insistence that there was nothing he could do to help her, he was still trying. Poor Simon, always the doctor, always the boob.

Reaching out to take Kaylee’s hand, River said softly, “I’m sorry.” When Kaylee turned puzzled eyes on her, she elaborated. “For taking him away. Even if it was just for a little while. He doesn’t know any better.”

Kaylee squeezed her hand and said, “Don’t you worry none. He wasn’t ever going nowhere for good.”

“He loves you,” River stated without hesitation. She had been able to read that off her brother for months, months before Miranda. But he had been unable to process the emotion or some nonsense and so she had kept quiet, knowing it would work out in time. And now it had. He loved Kaylee and River had never seen him happier and that relieved her.

“I think he does,” Kaylee agreed, a goofy smile spreading across her face. “And I love him too, River. You know that, right?”

Smiling back at the girl, River reassured her, “Yes. You’re good for him, make him less tense, happy. Happier than he’s ever been before.” Meeting Kaylee’s gaze, River said sincerely, “Thank you.”

Kaylee blushed and gave her hand a final squeeze before returning it to the bed. “No need to be thanking anybody,” Kaylee told her. “You just gotta get better.”

River sighed, but didn’t say anything. Kaylee always believed the most positive, most optimistic thing imaginable. And while River knew her condition wasn’t one to be cured, she didn’t see any use in telling Kaylee it was hopeless. The girl would refuse to believe it anyway.

“I’ll try,” was all she said before she again closed her eyes and willed her nightmares to go away.

***

“They’ve entered atmo. We expect them to make landfall in about thirty minutes.”

“Good. Once you have the boy, signal us again as discussed and we will come to collect him.”

“You got it,” the older man said, his gruff exterior and scraggly mustache an accurate indication of his rough and tumble life. Glancing back into the screen, Harris met the cold gaze of the blue-handed agent and asked, “Now, we agreed. Once you get the Tam kid, you’ll leave the rest of the crew alone, right?”

Both blue-gloved agents exchanged a look that Harris could not read. They were morbid and creepifying and he hated it. Suppressing a shiver, he steeled himself to meet the gaze that stared back at him. “Of course, Mr. Harris. We just want the boy.”

***

“I’d like to go into town.”

Mal turned from where he was securing their last few items to the mule to regard the doctor. Unholstering his weapon and giving it a quick polish, Mal asked, “Is that so?”

Simon stepped forward, his arms over his chest and continued, “I realize this isn’t the most central planet we’ve visited in a while, but they have to have something in the way of medical supplies. I’ve been working on a few new remedies for River. There are supplies I need.”

Mal considered the doctor’s request. This being a non-core planet chances were it would not be crawling with Alliance. But Mal didn’t like the idea of leaving Kaylee, Inara and an unconscious River aboard, while he, Jayne and Zoe left with all the big guns and intimidation.

“Make a list. We’ll pick up what we can find while we’re out,” he said finally, not meeting the fiery look in Simon’s eyes.

The doctor looked as if he might protest and then seemed to think better of it. Turning he walked slowly from the cargo bay. “You should let him go.”

Mal jumped involuntarily at the sound of Inara’s soft voice. Looking up, he caught her red sheathed form in the spotlight of the bay’s lights. Smirking at her, he said, “Yeah, well, just cause the doc’s got cabin fever, don’t mean he gets to go gallivantin’ while we got a job to do.”

Inara had moved down the stairs as he spoke and when he turned again, she was standing in front of him. “He needs to do something Mal. More than just sitting and waiting and watching. He needs to feel useful.” She rested a delicate hand against his chest and Mal immediately covered it with his own.

“Look, I don’t want to leave you and Kaylee here all alone while we’re off on the job. I haven’t seen Harris for a long time, there’s no telling how this could go down.” The earnestness in his expression told Inara he was sincere. He was truly afraid, afraid something would happen he’d be unable to control.

“I don’t need a man to protect me,” she muttered, but didn’t fight him any further. Standing on her tiptoes she gave him a light kiss and whispered, “Be careful, Mal. Please.”

“I will,” he told her, squeezing her hand once as he watched her walk back towards the infirmary.

“Ready, sir?”

Mal turned to see Zoe and Jayne already strapped into the mule. Shaking off the feeling of dread that had curled itself around his gut, Mal strode toward the vehicle and hopped on. “Let’s do the job.”

***

“Mal, you old son of a gun, how you been?”

Harris wrapped the younger man in a giant hug, lifting him a few inches off the ground. Mal returned the embrace happy to see a friendly face after so many years apart.

“Zoe, that you?” Harris shoved Mal out of the way and headed for the taller woman, giving her the exact same squeeze he had bestowed upon Mal.

“Ah, now Harris, I always thought you liked me better,” Mal said with mock hurt in his voice as the older man swung Zoe around in a circle.

“How could I like your ugly mug more than this beautiful angel,” Harris retorted, fixing Zoe with a bright and mischievous grin.

“That’s enough, you two,” she chided, slapping at Harris’ arm playfully. A small smile had found its way to her face and Mal’s heart eased at seeing the expression on his friend’s face. It had been too long.

“And this here’s Jayne,” Mal said, by way of introduction. Harris took the merc’s offered hand and sized him up with a calculating eye.

“Ah, the muscle,” Harris declared and Mal clapped him on the back. “You got that right,” he whispered in his friend’s ear.

“Well, come on in, all ya,” Harris said, gesturing them through the door to his office. It was in the back room of an empty bar, but it was appointed well enough. A few chairs and a table sat in one corner, no doubt the site of many late night, cutthroat card games, while some easy chairs and what looked to be a folded up cot sat in another corner. Against the far wall sat an ostentatious desk that made Mal chuckle.

“What do you need all this foolery for,” he asked, grinning at his friend to let him know his intent. “This ain’t nothin’ like you.”

“Yeah, well, I’ve got responsibilities now, boy,” Harris said with a hint of seriousness to his voice. He gestured for them to sit as he circled the desk and reclined in his wingback leather chair. “When you’re in charge, you gotta look the part.”

Don’t I know it, Mal thought to himself, hiding the grimace that rose to his face. Glancing to Zoe, she shrugged slightly and said, “Well, sir, can’t say I’m surprised. A man of Harris’ age was bound to go soft sometime.”

“Oh that tongue is as sharp as ever,” Harris barked out between short laughs. Settling back and getting more comfortable, Harris regarded his friends for a few moments and finally said, “It is good to see you both.”

“You too, Harris,” Mal told him genuinely, relieved that so far everything had been cordial and amicable. It was so hard to tell these days what kind of reception he and his ship would get. “So, you got some work for us?”

“I just might,” he said, leaning forward and shuffling through a stack of data sheets. Finding the one he needed, he flipped through the stored info and finally pulled up the numbers. “Seems I got some food that is in desperate need on a planet a few days’ ride from here. What to run it?”

Mal gave Zoe a sidelong glance as he reached forward and took the sheet from his friend’s hand. When she shrugged imperceptibly, Mal studied the data and asked, “What’s the catch?”

Harris smirked and Mal remembered that look well. It was the look the other soldier had given before he dropped a live grenade in the Alliance’s fox hole during a fight. It was a look Mal had never thought he’d see again.

“Only about four Alliance cruisers and a dozen patrol ships.”

Jayne whistled softly through his teeth and rocked back in his chair. “Well, I guess we won’t be gettin’ paid after all,” he said, his voice a low growl.

Mal again read the expression in Zoe’s eyes and saw everything there he needed to know. Looking back to Harris, he said, “Sounds like my kind of stupid.”

***

River did not like this place. It was dark and scary, with too many strange sounds and smells. It held nothing that was familiar and the sight of the all-encompassing darkness around her made her skin crawl. She dug at her arms with her finger nails, cutting deep lines into her skin, hoping to make the tingly indication of danger go away. Even as the blood ran down her arms, she still only felt fear.

This was a place she had spent almost eighteen months trying to escape. A place she had been trying desperately to leave behind. But every time she followed the smallest sliver of light out the door, she was only met with another corner and another turn back into the darkness. This place was all she knew and it was all she dreaded.

It was her mind.

Screeching noises made her skin pimple with goose flesh and River whimpered involuntarily at the noise. Digging in harder, she raked her nails across her forearms opening fresh cuts and watching the blood run down her arms, past her fingers and to the floor. There were little red puddles all around her feet, puddles of her blood. It didn’t matter how much she spilt, her disease could not be bled out of her system. Her sickness was permanent.

COMMENTS

Wednesday, April 19, 2006 4:11 PM

LEIASKY


River is creeping me out here!

And - those blue handed men want Simon, huh? Hmm.....this could be fun...

Angst coming? I love angst!

So - Mal gonna take the job...?

Wednesday, April 19, 2006 8:22 PM

AMDOBELL


I really want to hit that Harris upside of his head. How can he possibly think dealing with those Hands of Blue will bring anything but pain and damnation on his friends and the Tams? And why is it that Harris sounds like a clone of Monty, right down to the whiskers and him lifting Mal off his feet in a bear hug? And River, oh poor poor River, I can't bear all the back to back sorrow crowding in on her without a single glimmer of hope. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Wednesday, April 19, 2006 8:26 PM

BLUEEYEDBRIGADIER


Well now...things are getting mighty interesting for the BDHs.

The Blue Hands want Simon, huh? Now why do I get the feeling it's more about succeeding with a slightly different model than used before (River) than baiting River....

BEB

Thursday, April 20, 2006 11:40 PM

LEIGHKOHL


I got lucky cause I have been out of town, so I got to read the series in one sitting! This is just great! I enjoyed your last series tremendously and this one lives up to that standard, can't wait for your next post!

Thursday, June 8, 2006 7:56 AM

RIVERISMYGODDESS


I am also lucky like Leigh, though when I get to the end of everything you have written I know I will be eager for more. I'll probably offer you cookies in exchange for posting more stories, though that hasn't worked for some other writers that I like.

Yay for someone making Zoe smile, even though he is a double-crossing hwoon dan.

You always have new ways of River hurting. :( I keep reading because you write it so well, and I have hope that after things get worse there is a chance they will get better.


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