The Children of Shadow, Ch. 2
Sunday, January 7, 2007

Post-BDM Mal meets up with his long lost girlfriend from Shadow. Love triangle between Mal/Inara/OC.


Its up a week and a half later than I said, but its finally done.

Since this is my first Firefly fanfic, please comment so I know what I'm doing right.

What Joss created is his and the rest is mine.


Chapter 2: Where the Past Meets the Present Inara was confused. One moment Mal was leaning in to kiss her, and the next moment he was walking across the room to talk to another woman. She quietly fumed a bit until she saw the way they stood there and talked to each other. Mal smiled at the mysterious woman and hugged her the way old acquaintances greet each other after long partings. Inara started to make her way across the room. “I heard that you captain a Firefly now. Serenity, right?” Inara heard from the woman as she came closer to the two people. “Yeah! Funny, you’ve heard about me, but I haven’t heard an utterance of you. I thought you… ” Mal trailed off. A forlorn look came across the woman’s face. “Yeah,” she said quietly. “Well, I’ve spent most of my time confined to small circles.” “Hello,” said Inara stepping beside him. Mal turned to the companion. “Oh, Inara. This is Annaleigh Men, we grew up together on Shadow. Annaleigh this is Inara Serra, she used to rent a shuttle from me.” “Nice to meet you,” said Annaleigh, holding a hand out to Inara smiling. “You too,” she said warmly, shaking Annaleigh’s hand. Annaleigh’s shake was firm. Her hand felt calloused, but the nails were trimmed and manicured. “I was just about to tell him that I heard about his little run-in with Adelai Niska,” said Annaleigh. “I can’t believe you escaped the clutches of that maniac. How did you manage to pull that off?” “I sweet-talked him.” “Haha! Right! Did he treat you to dinner and a movie?” “No, he reenacted the works of Shan Yu.” “How charming! Was there a volcano?” He laughed. “No, but he did cut off my ear. That didn’t make my crew very happy.” “Cut off your ear? I see two perfectly formed ears on your head. Can I get a good look at it?” she asked. This surprised Mal a bit. Eleven years ago, Annaleigh would have been squeamish at the thought of any kind of severed body part, now she was asking to see his ear. She’s changed some, he thought. “Sure,” he said, bending his left ear towards her. She examined it for a bit. “Oh, I see. Impressive. There’s barely a scar. Whoever reattached it must be a genius surgeon.” “He is.” “Who was it?” she asked “I have a medic on my ship. You still readin’ the greats?” he said smiling, steering the subject away from the fugitives he kept on board. “Not as much as I’d like. I’ve been desperately missing Shakespeare and Confucius lately. Life’s been really busy for me.” “What kind of work are you up to?” “Whatever job I can get. Right now I’m working with horses on a community ranch on Malachi. These are some of the people I work with,” she said gesturing to the four men who sat at the table with her. “This is Ethan Edwards, John Melville, Mark Fen, and Jin Lee. We’re headed back to Malachi now to catch dinner at the ranch. If you like, you can join us for some real food. I suppose it will be a good change from all that protein you’re probably eatin’ on your boat,” she said handing Mal a business card from her pocket. “Our ranch is at those coordinates.” “Thank you, Annaleigh,” he said taking the card and smiling. “We’ll be there.” On the top of the card there was a small capture photo of a herd of horses galloping across a grassy field with a setting sun behind it. Below the capture read:

Rose Hill Community Ranch Annaleigh Men Horse Trainer 39.3° N 76.6° W, Malachi

“Annaleigh, we better get back to the Rio Bravo and go before we’re left with scrapings,” said Ethan. “I’ve gotta fly. Mal, I hate to go so quickly,” said Annaleigh. She hugged him again. “It’s good to see you again. We have so much to catch up on,” she whispered into his ear. “We do,” he said. Inara couldn’t help but notice a sparkle in Annaleigh’s eyes. The strange woman in the long, black coat turned to walk towards the exit with the rest of her people. She also saw that the boots Annaleigh wore were Alliance military issue. She looked back at Mal who still had a big smile on his face. “Is that your old girlfriend?” she asked. “Yeah, how did’ja know?” “The look on your face.” The expression Inara had on her own face was less than amused. “I thought she was dead.” “I understand. Do you still love her?” “Wha… why do you ask?” “Because if you do, then there is no use for me here. When we get back to the training house, I’m not going to pick up my things. Instead I’ll stay there, and you can settle down with your obsequious darling.” She turned on her heel and left. Mal didn’t like how that went, and he wondered himself how this all was to pan out. He paid the bartender and walked back to the ship slowly, thinking of a way to keep Inara with him on the ship. I’m not going to settle down with Annaleigh, he thought. At least, I don’t think I am. Not anymore. He passed a vender selling little statues of Buddha carved out of creamy green jade. Despite being expensive, he bought one hoping that Inara would take it as a peace offering. As Mal got in sight of the ship, the mule made a fast slide into the ship cargo bay. This doesn’t look good, he thought and ran towards the ship. “Sir,” said Zoe as he came up the ramp. “Ming Yue got a bulletin while we were at his store. The bounty for Simon and River has tripled.” “Were you identified?” he asked. “No,” said his first mate. “He had us leave as quickly as possible.” Mal nodded and turned to Simon who was helping Jayne unload supplies from the mule. “That means you and your sister are best confined to the ship for now.” “I’ll tell her,” said Simon understandingly. “Kaylee, are we fueled up?” said Mal, turning to look up at her as she came down the stairs. “Yes, sir,” she said. “All on board?” “Yup… Inara came on board a few minutes ago. She’s in Shuttle One.” Kaylee didn’t speak to her as she came back on board, but Inara’s fuming expression and the sound of her stomping feet was enough to even make Jayne steer clear of her way. Kaylee gave Mal a look that said, Nice going, slick. He ignored her. The fear of having Alliance on their tail was a bit more pressing at the moment than Kaylee’s judgment on him. “Then set course for Malachi,” he said handing Zoe the business card. “Head for these coordinates.” “Do you think that’s a good idea,” she asked. “It’s too close to hide.” “We’ll be safe at a community ranch,” he said. “We haven’t been sighted yet.” “Annaleigh Men,” she read from the card. “Its not--” “It is. I don’t know how, but it’s her.” * * * Malachi was the third moon of Beaumonde. Zoe was right to be concerned due to close location, but Mal knew that community ranches were safe. They were usually founded by shepherds who lead congregations from the core planets to the border. The idea was to build up a workable economy on a large farm or ranch, all the while changing lives and saving souls. These ranches were headed by a council that included one or more shepherds. The council usually welcomed those seeking refuge because, after all, to turn away anyone in need would be un-Christian-like, even if they were hiding from the Alliance. It would be a perfect place to hide for now. It took an hour to get to the moon. The ranch was a spectacle to see. Nestled just south at the foot of a high desert mountain range, the main village stretched at least a mile in diameter from the corrals on the west end to the spaceship hanger on the east end with an assortment of houses and stores in between. A river came out of the mountains and flowed directly through the middle of the village. There were two differences a community ranch held over your average rim-world town: one was the separate men and women’s dorms that the single adult members of the community lived in and the other was the Great Hall were the community gathered for evening meals and other public events. Perhaps the one event in the community that isn’t held here is the Sunday service, which is held at the church. Other than these things, normal work and trade continued as a normal border world town. The tens of thousands of acres surrounding the village were peppered with grazing cattle. Several acres closest to the coral were fenced off for two dozen fine horses. South of the village, land was cleared and sectioned off for various types of crops of corn, gourds, wheat, etc. encompassed by an elaborate irrigation system, and a large greenhouse stood close to one side of the field. These crops were only large enough to sustain the community and not for trade. Mal was highly impressed. Most community ranches didn’t turn out as well as this one. It wasn’t as green as his mother’s ranch on Shadow, but with all the wild vegetation growing despite the brown desert ground, it was a close second to home. He could see why Annaleigh settled here, it was ideal. Mal could have half a mind to settle here if he didn’t prefer the freedom Serenity provided. “This place is so beautiful,” said Kaylee as she looked out over the ranch from the bridge of the ship. “How long do you suppose we’ll be here, sir?” asked Zoe. “I don’t know,” said Mal as he made the approach to land. “We’ll see.” “The fortress walls are tall,” said River who sat in the co-pilot seat. “The king’s knights wear many masks.” “What?” asked Mal. “You’ll see,” she said. “River, if we’re all in danger then you need to tell me, and we’ll fly away from this rock without ever touching dirt.” “As long as Simon and I stay on the ship, we’ll all be safe.” “If you say so,” he said. He wasn’t about to doubt the reader, not with her track record. Mal set the ship in a marked-off parking area by the hanger. Within the hanger was a smaller transport ship labeled Rio Bravo. Annaleigh stood by it speaking to a man dressed in shepherd’s clothing while the four men he saw on Beaumonde began unloading cargo. “We’ll bring ya something to eat,” Kaylee said to River. “I’d like some strawberry pie,” said the waif of a girl. “Strawberry?” Kaylee’s eyes lit with glee. Mal hit the com. “All who want some real food for dinner meet by the cargo bay door.” “I’ll make sure Simon knows he has to stay,” said Kaylee exiting the bridge. As Mal made his way down, he stopped by Inara’s shuttle. He looked in, and saw she was packing her things into her trunk. “You coming?” he asked. She didn’t look at him. “No,” she said dryly. He stood by the door for a moment, and then added, “I’ll send Kaylee with some food.” He left. As he gathered with Jayne, Zoe, and Kaylee on the cargo bay floor, Kaylee noted that Inara wasn’t present. Mal opened the air-lock, and he was greeted by another hug from Annaleigh. “This is Shepherd Richards,” she said introducing him to the man in the gray shirt. He was an older man who looked like he could have been Book’s brother if it weren’t for the fact that the man standing here was white. Shepherd Richards was in his early 60’s. He had a kind face, and had shoulder length hair tied back in a pony tail. “It’s a pleasure meeting you, sir,” Mal said extending his hand out to the older man. Mal hoped the man wasn’t going to start any sermons while he was here. “You too, captain,” said the shepherd. “This is my crew.” Mal gestured to the people behind him. “They’re good people.” “Mal, is this Zoe?” Annaleigh asked walking up to the stoic woman. “Yes, it is,” he said with a smile. “He spoke about you in his messages he sent back home on Shadow,” Annaleigh said shaking Zoe’s hand. “It’s nice to finally meet you.” “Nice to finally meet you too,” Zoe said, glancing in surprise at the captain. Jayne who was standing a few feet behind Zoe stepped in. “I’m Jayne Cobb,” he said holding his and out to the woman in the black coat. “Jayne Cobb,” she said shaking his hand. “Nice name.” Her tone was ambiguous. “Uh… thanks,” he said. He couldn’t make up his mind if that was truly a compliment or insult. The way the black coat hung on the beautiful woman reminded Jayne of an old Earth-That-Was movie he once saw as a kid. A similar coat was worn by a girl who couldn’t be touched for some reason. She was saved by a guy who was like a wolf, including retractable claws. He remembered wanting to be like the wolf character. What was the name of that movie? he thought. All he could remember was that it was mostly about mutants. Either way, he liked that coat on Annaleigh, and his mind mused on what all was underneath. Zoe, on the other hand, caught a glance at Annaleigh’s boots, and her guard went up. She decided to play it cool until she knew more about her. “I’m Kaylee,” said the mechanic in her classical warmness, shaking Annaleigh’s hand. “It’s nice to meet you,” said the other woman. “Everyone, please. Come join us for our evening meal,” said the shepherd with a warm smile. * * * The crew was shocked by the bountiful feast that was laid out on a buffet table. It included roasted chicken, glazed ham, corn on the cob, steamed broccoli, bean casserole, stuffing, a variety of fresh fruits (including fresh strawberries), and a half a dozen pies and cakes, including the strawberry pie that River foresaw. The buffet seemed to go on and on. Not all of the crew could name all of the dishes in front of them, but their mouths watered none-the-less. Since it was a lovely summer evening, the crew and Annaleigh sat at a table outside of the Great Hall as the sun began to set in the west. There, the crew found themselves learning a lot about Mal’s past on Shadow from the friendly woman. “How do you know the captain?” Kaylee asked. “My mother moved me and my baby brother to Shadow after my dad died when I was five,” Annaleigh began. “She wanted a change of scenery. Mama Reynolds was looking for a school teacher for the ranch. My mother was a history professor at the University of Londinium, so she fit the position quite nicely.” “I ended up reading things my mother had never heard of before: Sophocles, Henry David Thoreau, Samuel Taylor Coleridge,” added Mal. “Yeah. And without me tutoring you, you would have failed half of my mother’s exams,” said Annaleigh. “As long as I live,” he replied. “I will never forget that production of Hamlet your mother put on in lieu of a test, and Darshan playing the queen in that dress,” he said. “Hahaha! And, I’ll never forget the first time I saw that dress!” Both he and Annaleigh laughed leaving the other three people in the dark. “What’s so funny?” asked Jayne. “Mal and Darshan—he was a friend of ours—made a bet on whether this unborn calf was going to be male or female without using any scans,” said Annaleigh. “No one but them knew what the conditions were if one or the other were to lose. The calf is born a bull, and Mal loses. So, the next day, Mal walks out of his house wearing this pi gu-ugly cotton dress! It had the ugliest pattern that I had ever seen!” she continued. “It was striped in red, orange, and green.” They all laughed at the thought of Mal in any kind of dress. “That explains a lot,” said Zoe, thinking of the job on Triumph. “He wore the dress the entire day, including when he rode his horse,” added Annaleigh. “It was windy, so… well, you can imagine.” “That was one interesting day,” Mal recalled with a smirk. “Did you wear any pants underneath?” asked Kaylee. “Nope,” he said proudly. “You didn’t wear much of anything under that dress as I recall,” said Annaleigh. They all laughed again. “Do you know how Mal got that tattoo on his hip?” asked Kaylee. “He won’t say.” “Nor will I,” said Annaleigh. “That is one story that will remain untold.” She looked over at Mal with a smirk and she winked at him. He grinned back. “By the way, in what kinda state where you in for them to see your tattoo?” “One where I wasn’t wearing much of anything at all,” said Mal, still grinning. “How did that happen?” she inquired further, giggling. “I was left in the desert by this woman who tried to con us all out of the spoils of a job.” “By his wife, Saffron!” added Jayne with a mouth full of sweet potato. “Wife?” exclaimed Annaleigh. “You got married?” “Well… not really,” Mal answered. “That was part of her earlier scam to steal Serenity from me and leave us all for dead.” “Huh,” said Annaleigh intrigued. “Was this woman about 5’ 8”, had strawberry blonde hair, tends to wear short skirts, and fights like the devil?” asked Annaleigh. “Yeah, you met her?” Mal asked. “Yup. Some call her the ‘Black Widow’ because she tends to marry her marks and leave them for dead. Next time you meet the missus, I recommend disposing of her. She’s a danger to everyone.” Mal paused for a moment. The Annaleigh he knew back on Shadow had good morals and would have never recommended killing someone. Of course, he never would have done the same until he left for the war. He determined that, like him, life over the past eleven years hadn’t been easy on Annaleigh, and some things about her have changed. * * * The sun set below the horizon, and it became pitch black. Two shadowy figures, a man and a woman, scaled the side of the mountains on the east side of town near the hanger. The woman carried infrared goggles with her. They stopped when they were in clear sight of Serenity. The woman turned the goggles on, lifted them to her eyes, and peered through them. “There are three people on board in the kitchen area,” she said. “Look like two women and a man. They’re talking to each other and drinking something hot. Could be the doctor, the companion, and the girl.” “There are people approaching the Firefly,” said the man spotting a torchlight with his naked eye. The woman adjusted the line-of-sight of the goggles on the people walking. “Yeah,” she said. “Looks like the first mate, the mechanic, and that big guy. They’re carrying plates of food. Probably dinner for the people on board.” She turned the line-of-sight back on the ship. She saw the person who she believed may be River pause and look strait at their hidden location in the mountains as if the girl could see them though the hull of the ship and the thickness of the night. This frightened the shadowy woman. She lowered the goggles from her eyes in disbelief, her breath became shallow. She stared at the Firefly, and handed the man the goggles. He took them and observed the people on board. “Are you sure it’s the Tam girl?” asked the man. “I’m not completely sure,” she said. “But, I think so. We need full visual confirmation before we make a move.” * * * After Kaylee, Zoe, and Jayne left for the ship with dinner for the others, Mal and Annaleigh were left alone, talking. They sat around long after the majority of the community left the Great Hall. “So, how exactly did you end up here?” he asked. “I was working at a boot factory on Beaumonde,” she began. “I hated it. That’s how I got these shiny Alliance boots I’m wearing. They’re great for cleaning out horse muck from the stalls.” Mal laughed. “About six months ago,” she continued. “I heard that Rose Hill was looking for a horse trainer from a friend who lives here. I jumped at the chance. It’s completely different than my life on Beaumonde. Peaceful. Open sky. Breathable air. I can work with horses, and people treat me like I’m a human being… How about you? How did you end up captain of a Firefly?” “After the war, Zoe and I stuck together. We worked for a buddy of mine I met in the war named Monty. After saving up enough money, I bought Serenity and I’ve been my own boss since then.” “I like Fireflies. I’ve spent a little time on one myself. They’re good ships. You can’t tell just by looking at them, but they are.” Mal chuckled in agreement. “Is your mechanic any good?” she asked. “Yeah, Kaylee’s a real find. She knows ship engines like a fawn knows how to walk after it’s first born.” “And, what about this Inara? Where is she, and do you usually rent your shuttle out to companions?” she said, raising a teasing eyebrow. “How did you know she was a companion?” he asked, remembering he never told her Inara’s occupation. “I’ve done a lot of traveling around the galaxy in the past ten years, Mal. I’ve learned a great deal about the ‘verse. Better than Mama coulda taught me back home. Now, answer my questions.” “She’s on the ship tonight. And no, she was the only companion I ever had any business dealings with.” “Why did she leave?” she asked, her tone becoming serious. “Did you fall in love?” “I don’t think that’s any of your gorram business,” he said, taking a drink from his glass. “Okay, I won’t press the matter. But, you do realize that companions can’t have lovers.” “Yeah, I know.” He paused a moment. He hesitated to ask her something, then he thought, To hell with it, I’ve gotta know. “Annaleigh, what happened that day on Shadow?” “The day it was razed by the Alliance?” “Yeah.” She looked down into her own drink. She had hoped he wouldn’t ask. “I was in town with your mother to complain to the Independents stationed there. The Alliance stole the whole herd from us the day before. Killed most of the hands in the process, including my mother and Joey. We hadn’t even reached the office when the bombs started dropping in on us from the sky. We ducked into the closest building. It was the Shimmering House. They had a small transport nearby. We tried to get as many people onto that transport as we could. To think: good Christian people like us were saved by a bunch of whores!” She laughed a bit, allowing her eyes to meet Mal’s. Her eyes were starting to water. His expression was solemn. She batted the tears away, and then continued. “I did become close friends with one of those girls, Cassie. She’s here on Malachi with her husband and two kids, no longer a whore. She told me about the job here. You met her husband, Mark, on Beaumonde.” He nodded. She took a deep breath to continue, she had to continue. “Anyways, we got off the planet as fast as we could while avoiding fire from the Alliance fighters. We made it all the way to Saint Albans like a lot of other survivors. The people there tried to help us, only what they could give us where slums because they were so poor themselves. No running water, to speak of, and the electricity didn’t work half the time. A lot of people got real sick. A lot them died.” Her eyes drifted down to her drink, not wanting to say anything more. After a moment, Mal pushed her to continue. “What happened? Where’s my mother?” he asked. “She got sick, too. There was no medicine to help her, only a shepherd to pray over her. … She died,” she said quietly. Tears rolled down her cheeks. She allowed her eyes to meet Mal’s again. His eyes were filling with tears as well. After all he had been through, the great Captain Malcolm Reynolds of the Firefly Serenity who, among many other things, fought at the Battle of Serenity Valley. He, who saw the horrors of Miranda, fought Alliance and Reavers, and nearly died to broadwave the truth. He, a man who never cried, had tears coming down his cheeks. They both dried their faces with their hands. “She gave me something to give to you if I ever saw you again.” She fingered inside of her shirt collar until she produced a gold chain, felt around for the latch, and pulled it off from around her neck to reveal a gold locket. He recognized it. For as long as he could remember, his mother wore it and never took it off. One of his earliest memories was of this locket. His mother was rocking him to sleep on the front porch of their house. His tiny fingers had grasped the golden pendant in his small hand as he drifted off to sleep. He could clearly recall the sound of crickets in the background and his mother humming a lullaby. Now, it seemed so tiny as it nestled in the palm of his large hand. He ran a finger over the surface of it to feel the texture of the engraved floral pattern. He opened it. There were two pictures inside. On the right side was a photo of him as a baby with his parents, on the left was a photo of him as a teenager. He closed it. The engagement ring Mal had given Annaleigh was also on the chain. He looked at it carefully, then he read the inscription on the inside of the band. It read, “To Katharine, from James. Forever yours.” Those were his parents’ names inside of the ring. These two pieces of jewelry were the only record he had of his parents. “I’m giving you the ring back,” she said. “I’m a different person now. I doubt I would make a good wife anymore. The war was bad on me, not that I don’t reckon it was bad on you, too. But, those things truly belong to you anyhow. I suppose I was just meant to hold onto them for a spell. “But, just because I’m giving that ring back to you doesn’t mean I don’t love you anymore,” she continued. “I mean I’m not in love with you. But I’ve moved on, and you’re practically the only family I have left, anyhow. So, I want you to come back here as much as you can.” “I will,” he said. “I promise. Thanks.” * * * Later after Mal left for the night, Annaleigh went to the basement of the church where Shepherd Richards had an office. She knew he was expecting her. Once she was there, she knocked on the door. “Come in,” he said. She opened it, and entered the room. “Good evening, shepherd.” “Hello. Please, sit down,” he said gesturing to the chair opposite of him. “How was dinner with your old friend?” “Oh, it was good. Judging from the three I’ve met, he certainly has quite a motley crew working for him.” “Transport ships usually do,” he said. “I spoke to Cassie and Doyle earlier. As I ordered, they have scouted Serenity. They can’t confirm that River Tam is on board via inferred goggles, but there was a young woman aboard. We need to confirm that it is River Tam before we can move. Do you think it will be possible for you to get aboard the Firefly Serenity before they leave here?” “Sir, I’m certain I can get aboard tomorrow,” she said. He grinned at her. “Of all the soldiers I’ve had under my command, you’ve been the only one to get the job done beyond expectation and without failure.” She smiled at him. “Thank you, sir.” “That will be all. Good night, colonel,” he said. “Good night, general.” She rose from her chair and saluted him, then exited the office.


Monday, January 8, 2007 8:14 AM


I was loving this up until realising that Annaleigh was not only working for Mal'e enemy, the Alliance, but ready to betray her friend and give up River and Simon to the bad guys. I'm thinking Zoe will smell a rat, she already spotted the boots and was on her guard while Mal just swallowed the thin tale Annaleigh gave him to account for having them on her feet. I was disappointed with Inara's initial reaction, she is smarter than that and I would have expected her to hide her reaction to possible competition and find out as much about Annaleigh as possible before getting all uppity and talking of leaving (again). Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Monday, January 8, 2007 5:35 PM


Interesting turn of events, I must say. Mal's gonna feel really crappy when he discovers the truth...presumably after he and Inara have had a fight where Inara slangs Annaleigh and Mal defends her:(

Gotta say though...Inara's observation of the Alliance jump boots was a brilliant move, since it's an important piece of information...but unlike Zoe, we're not really sure how to take Inara's discovery. Should we automatically think "setup" and eagerly wait Annaleigh's comeuppance, or is she what she seems and she just has a pair of stolen Purplebelly combat boots?

For me, in hindsight, the realization Annaleigh's not all she says was her recognition of Saffron and how she's able to offer up what is presumably the Alliance law enforcement alias for Saffron...something only a Fed or someone with access to law enforcement records could know;)


Tuesday, January 9, 2007 5:36 AM


That whore!
Kill her off.


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