Parting Gifts - Conclusion
Thursday, August 10, 2006

6th and Final, folks. Usual disclaimer: characters not named Tess are not mine, I'm not making any money off this...and comments are always welcome. Hope this puts a smile on your faces...well, at least by the end.


Kaylee spun around in Simon's small room, showing off the flirty little skirt of the dress Tess had given her. These were the few things that were practical for the engine room and yet showed off the right amount of leg. She was showing off for Simon, who had taken a break from sorting through the antique books that were now added to his collection. "These were some of my favorite dresses from when I was healthy," Tess had explained, handing them to Kaylee. "Wear them and feel as beautiful as you truly are." Simon, meanwhile, had been given free rein in Percy's library. Tess had smiled, claiming someone ought to enjoy the tattered, yellowing old pages the way Percy had. Simon had chosen a modest selection, but was now discovering Tess had secreted away some of the more rare copies in his mattress while the crew had slept in the vast house during their stay. Now, Simon took Kaylee's hand and admired her closely before kissing her deeply...and began the process of removing the dress from her person... * * * River sat on the couch outside the infirmary, gleefully admiring the way the light caught the crystals Tess had bequeathed her. They had been the only thing River had seen and wanted. Tess had been more than happy to pass them on to someone who had been so understanding and kind to her. River's mind flitted to the other thing she had been given - the deed to Tess's house on Shadow - she knew she was to hand it to Zoe once the baby was born...but only if Zoe wanted to have a stable set of walls and dirt under her child's feet. Otherwise, the deed would be passed on to the child, for a sense of roots. Tess had entrusted this task to River because Zoe was not ready to think of leaving Serenity...but River had known Zoe was thinking about planet-side stability anyway. She twisted the crystal earring in the light again and watched the light play across the floor... * * * Jayne ran a loving hand over the knife before placing it lovingly next to Vera. Percy had bought it for Tess when they had visited Ariel some years before while visiting the hospital for a new treatment. The polished ivory hilt had been carved into a twisting white flame. Tess had told him that the idea of a white flame erupting from a wound had given her the perfect mental picture of the feelings the needles gave her. She had told Percy of the image and he had searched high and low for someone to design it. The blade was silver, etched with gold leaves...that had been Percy's touch. He had wanted the pain to have some meaning...rebirth and growth. It had been the last thing he'd given her. "You'll get so much more use out of it that I ever will," Tess had smiled. Jayne knew better, but didn't have the heart to tell her. He named it Tess... * * * Zoe hummed softly as she folded and sorted the tiny gowns and jumpers. They smelled faintly of Tess's house. Tess had admitted to Zoe one night that she had found herself pregnant with Percy's child long before her blood's poison had been detected. She, like Zoe, had chosen to keep the child's gender a surprise and so had prepared for every event. Until the miscarriage, brought on by her illness, that was. She had told Percy she'd given away all the baby clothes, despite the fact she had hoped she might be able to conceive again. She had folded them and put them away. And now they belonged to Zoe. "Someone should have use of these old things," she'd laughed. Zoe had accepted the few things gratefully and had allowed Tess every possible moment to feel the babe kick. They had grown close...Zoe respected and admired Tess. She thought of the child within, now only a few days from the expected arrival. This child would have Wash's light-hearted sense of humor and, with any luck, a joyful spirit. "Hoban, if it's a boy," she murmured softly. "And, if it's a girl...Tess..." * * * Mal, after watching Shadow fall away from his life again, made sure the course for Bellerophon was set properly, switched over to autopilot and left the bridge. He had expected to feel a heaviness, a sadness clinging to him, as he had when he'd left his homeworld before. There had been a grave then, too, but with his mother, she had already been dead and buried for some time. There had been release with Tess's passing. And unlike his mother, Tess had died surrounded by peace and love. Despite her arguments and best efforts to send them off, Mal and the crew had remained on hand to keep her from over-exerting herself in what she called 'household chores.' Still, she had seemed tired and drained more with each passing day until finally her body had let go. Mal knew the pain had kept her from sleeping comfortably, and so she had wandered the property at all hours, often taking one of the crew's offers for company. Many nights, Mal himself would be the one to carry her back to the house. He had even seen Jayne tenderly lift his Baby Girl and cradle her in his arms as they returned. Zoe, Kaylee, Inara and River would remain close by, where they could call for help when needed. Simon had done his best to keep the pain at bay, but Tess was never one for needles. When she was finally committed to remaining in bed, she had called Inara to her bedside. They had spoken for hours before Mal was allowed in. Inara had said nothing of Tess's words. Tess only asked Mal to remain nearby. He held her hand during her last breath. Mal found Inara in the shuttle bay, wearing the soft pink gown he loved on her. She always seemed to wear it when he was in pain, and the sight always warmed his heart...almost lessening the hurt by seeing her look so beautiful. He didn't know she saw the way his eyes lingered that much longer on her when she wore it. He didn't know she wore it for him. She was standing on the upper deck, staring at nothing, looking for all the world as though she was trying to remember where she was going. He cleared his throat to get her attention. "Mal," she said, obviously startled. "I was just..." "Wanted you to know we're on our way to Bellerophon," he said, trying to spare her flustered words. "Tess asked us to handle the estate-selling and whatnot there. I believe she asked you to contact the right people." "Yes," Inara answered, recovering her calm. "She gave me a list of people Percy had been in business with. I'm glad she trusts us so well. After all, she only met most of us but a few weeks ago." "She was a good judge of character," Mal nodded. "Well, 'cept where it came to Jayne." Inara smiled warmly and visibly relaxed. "She was a pleasure to have around," Inara admitted. Mal watched her intently. He could see the smile start to fade and desperately wanted to pull her into his arms. He spoke instead. "Yeah, well, it was a real pleasure to wake up and find all my gear missing and replaced by cotton prairie dresses," he grunted, watching Inara's eyes light up with the memory. She looked to him with that dazzling smile of hers. "We did think you looked quite flattering in the lilac one you chose," she laughed. "I think it brought out your eyes." "See, this is why I never told any a'you about Tess," he said, rolling his eyes. "I knew she'd somehow convince you to play tricks, same way she convinced me." "Although childish pranks and sneaking about is not normally my habit," Inara conceded, "It was a rare joy to experience." "You looked quite at home, though, I must say," Mal chuckled. Inara and Tess had laughed for hours while Mal had conducted himself as though nothing was out of the ordinary. It had been worth it, if only to see the two women sharing in the joy. "So did you in that lilac dress," Inara remarked casually, her eyes glittering. Mal couldn't bear it anymore. He took her hand in his and turned it palm up. With his other hand, he placed his mother's locket in Inara's palm and closed her fingers over it. "This belongs to you," he said tightly. "I don't understand," she responded slowly. He still kept his hand on hers, keeping the locket tightly within her grasp. "'Nara," he began roughly, searching for the right words. "I... I don't belong in your world and I can't ask you to try to feel at home in mine, but...I need you near me. I need you near me t'help me see where I been and...what I have that's good in me." He still held her hands in his as he stared into her wide eyes. "Mal," she began. He cut her off. "There's no way we can ever have what some do," he admitted gruffly. "But why can't we have it here, where it don't matter? Here, between you an' me an' Serenity..." He saw the unshed tears glittering in her eyes, as she let his words soak into her skin and mind and heart. He lifted one hand to her face, to touch her cheek and she turned to it, closing her eyes as she did so. She let her lips brush against his callused palm with the faintest of kisses. He pulled her to him. "Here," he whispered. "To hell with Serenity, jus' between you an' me is good enough." Their lips met. He let go of her hand and pulled her even closer to him. She wrapped her arms around him in return, clutching the locket in her hand as she did so... * * * Jayne found River smiling as the crystal played with the light. "Where's the Cap'n?" he asked. "Where he belongs," River answered.


Thursday, August 10, 2006 1:04 PM


very lovely little series. tess was a great original character, and it's always nice to learn more about mal's past. looking forward to your future endeavors....

Thursday, August 10, 2006 1:14 PM


It brought a smile to my face and an awwww to my heart. I'm glad you didn't drag out Tess' death, but rather just summed up what happened and how it affected them all ... although I would LOVE to know exactly what Tess told Inara - secrets about Mal I've no doubt, but still ...

Loved it - more please!

Thursday, August 10, 2006 1:27 PM


Absolutely lovely ending though I really didn't want for Tess to die but the way you handled it made her passing more a blessing on those that loved her than a burden of care. And thank you so much for that lovely little ending for Mal and Inara and River's apt comment that the Captain was where he belonged. Shiny, Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Thursday, August 10, 2006 1:31 PM


i'm so glad you all liked it!"future endeavors"? "more"? aw, crikey! now i have to keep at this, don't i?!

Thursday, August 10, 2006 1:48 PM


Oh, this was the best chapter by far. I'm glad you summed up the gifts Tess gave them all in short little paragraphs. I love that Jayne named the weapon Tess. That was SO perfectly in character for him.

I loved all the gifts that were given to the crew. And I'm glad you just summed up the death instead of dragging it out. And I'm glad you didn't change what you already had written even though all of us loved Tess and didn't want her to die.

The end was just perfect as well.

I hope you continue to write because this was an excellent first story.

Thursday, August 10, 2006 3:22 PM


Your ending is simply beautiful. It remindes me of M/I after Nandi's death in the cargo bay(when Mal makes his first attempt at a truce.)You've successfully brought them to the same place, but at a different time and with different circumstances, and that makes all the difference.

Love the place of all the words Mal can't say. Thank heaven for moms!

Thursday, August 10, 2006 4:06 PM


*sigh* that was really fitting and nice. i enjoyed this series very much, thanks for writing it!

Friday, August 11, 2006 1:03 PM


thanks for the comments, everyone! you make me smile!

Saturday, August 12, 2006 4:16 PM


Definitely have to give you props for how you handled Tess' passing, kacidilla...letting the crew have their happy memories through the gifts she bestowed on the BDHs really fit how you've written this series:)

Gotta admit though...thought you were gonna have Mal break off any chance of him hooking up with Inara with his gesture of giving Inara his mother's locket. Glad they got a happy moment in each other's arms in the end;)


Thursday, September 28, 2006 1:20 AM


Loved it especially when Mal gave Inara the locket

Friday, September 7, 2007 7:10 AM


I finally found this series and enjoyed it very much! I agree with one of the comments after a previous chapter that it definitely gets better as it goes along - almost like you were warming up to the story and the characters. I especially like how you handled Mal and Inara's interaction when they were asleep together and then at the end -- it's just like Mal to rush through saying what he needs to say. After all, the last time he let Inara get a word in , she said she was leaving! He couldn't let that happen again, right? Nice bit of work there.

Thanks for sharing this!



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