The Hunt - Part IV
Thursday, February 15, 2007

Maya. Post-BDM. Mal is beside himself with worry over his son, and now Freya's gone missing too ... The angst goes up, and I'd love to know what you think!


“Miss Serra. How nice to see you again. And so soon.” If the serving man could have spoken with less sincerity, Inara wasn’t quite sure how.

“Miss Velez.”


“Where is she?”

The man clasped his hands in front of him as if he were truly sorry. “As I explained before, she is not here, and I am not empowered to tell you of her current whereabouts.”

“I’m figuring from all that fancy talk he ain’t gonna tell us,” Jayne said, moving forward out of the shadows. The serving man took an involuntary pace away.

“It seems so,” Inara agreed.

“Well, ain’t that dandy.” Jayne grinned and picked up a vase. “Hey, this is pretty.” He turned it over in his big hands, aware that several young women had stopped to watch him across the atrium.

The serving man paled. “Please be careful with that. It’s very valuable.”

Jayne looked over at him. “That so?” His hands opened and the vase fell to the marble floor, shattering into a thousand pieces. “Ain’t worth nothing now.” He took a step closer. “Pretty much like the piece of gos se I’m looking at right now.”

Jayne in full-on intimidating mode was too much for the serving man. He turned and ran towards his office, slamming the door and locking it behind him.

“Jayne …” Inara admonished gently. “That was worth more than Serenity.”

“It’s just a thing,” Jayne said, grinding a fragment of delicate porcelain into powder under his heel. “We’re talking Ethan here.”

Inara nodded. “Then shall we?” she asked, indicating he should go ahead of her.

He grinned. “You know, for a classy lady you’re sure got a good feel for being a crook.”

“It must be the company I keep.”

Jayne crossed to the door the serving man had rushed through. “Knock, knock,” he said, lifting his booted foot.


Mal climbed into the corridor, looking towards the galley, seeing Zoe and Jethro inside. He strode towards them.

Hank followed, having seen him leave the bunk, something in his hand. “What is it?” he asked, but he was ignored.

As Mal stepped down into the dining area, they both looked up.

“Kaylee said you were looking for Freya. Did you find her?” Zoe asked, her face strained, then stopped. The look in his eyes was something she’d never seen before. Or maybe once, when the angels came … “Sir?”

He held up the device and pressed play.

He’s alive. For now. You have something we want. Ruskin and Price. One hour.”

“Dear God,” Hank breathed.

Come alone,” the voice on the recorder said. “Or you will never see your son again.” There was a moment’s silence then a baby cried, interrupted in mid wail as the recording switched off.

Mal gripped the small machine so tightly in his hand that the edges cut into his palm. “Get the mule down,” he ordered, his voice low, almost inaudible.

Zoe nodded and ran out of the galley, ignoring the pain in her shoulder even when she almost collided with Simon on the way. “Come on,” she said.

“What’s going on?” the young doctor asked, following her down into the cargo bay.

“Freya’s gone.”


“Looking for Ethan.”

Cao ni ma.”

“Mal,” Hank said, watching his captain stand silently, anger pouring off him as if he were under a waterfall. “She’ll be okay. She’s Freya.”

“It’s a trap,” Mal muttered. “She knows it’s a damn trap and still she walks into it.”

“Mal, it said come alone, and she ain’t gonna jeopardise Ethan by us all going in like we would.”

“We’d have handled it! Together!”

“She’s not exactly sane at the moment, Mal,” Hank pointed out. “Not being a mother.” He shook his head. ”She went for Ethan. And you’d’ve the same.”

Mal lifted his head to glare at the pilot, about to let loose with all the rage inside him, then bit it back. “Yeah. You’re right. And I figure that’s why she didn’t tell me.”

“She did tell you. She left you the recorder.”

Jethro looked from one to the other. “Is there anything I can do?” he asked.

“I think praying would probably be a good idea,” Hank said quietly.

“And getting yourself a gun,” Mal added unexpectedly. “You’re coming with us.”


River watched the mule race off, Hank flying as fast as its engine would allow. She cradled the rifle in her arms, remembering Mal’s last words to her.

“Make sure no-one comes on board, albatross,” he’d said. “Whoever’s behind this is just as likely to be waiting for us to leave. Don’t want to have to be rescuing anyone else.”

“I’ll make sure,” she said, nodding solemnly. She didn’t add that he wouldn’t find her. She knew it was already in his heart.


The address on the recorder was in the old part of town, a shanty of buildings made up of bits of others, all held together with bailing wire and spit. There wasn't enough room for the mule, so they continued on foot, racing through the alleyways.

A child crying reached them from up ahead, and Mal put on a turn of speed that had him outrunning the others. Suddenly he went down on his knees in the dirt.

“Mal?” Zoe asked, using his given name in her agitation.

“He’s alive,” Mal said, turning enough so that they could see he had Ethan in his arms. He levered himself to his feet. “Find Freya.” Simon reached out to take the boy but Mal turned away from him, holding his son tight.

They fanned out, searching through the twists and turns, but there was no sign. Until Jethro called Mal’s name. He hurried to where he was standing, looking down at the drops of blood.

“I … I think it’s fresh,” the young man said.

Zoe grunted as she spied something in the gloom and went to pick it up. “Freya’s gun,” she said, holding it out.

Mal took it, cradling the well-worn grip in his hand, trying to feel any heat from it. “Hank,” he said quietly. “Get hold of Inara and Jayne. Tell them what’s happened. I don’t care what they have to do. Just bring that pofu of a Companion to Serenity.”


“It’s a private contract,” the serving man said, leaning back into his chair, staring at the gun pointing at his head. The door to his domain hung brokenly, and outside a number of young women in bright colours and men in saffron robes were congregated. “The Authorities will be here soon,” he added, a trifle belligerently. “Someone will have called them.”

“Then we don’t wanna waste time,” Jayne said. “’Sides, that don’t bode too well for you.”

Inara put her hand on the big man‘s arm, restraining him. “Who with?” she asked. “Who is the contract with?”

The man shook his head, clamping his mouth shut.

The com link on Jayne’s belt buzzed. “You mind?” he asked, not letting go of the serving man’s shirt. “Kinda got my hands full."

Inara unhooked the small device. “Yes?”

“You got her?” Hank asked without preamble.

“Nearly. We‘re -”

“Mal wants her here. Soon as you can.”

“Hank?” Inara felt the hair on her neck stand on end.

“Freya’s gone.”

“Frey?” Jayne said, his eyes not leaving the serving man’s terrified face.

“What? How?” Inara asked into the com.

“Went after Ethan. We think she’s been snatched.”

“Oh no …”

“Mal wants … just get her here.” The pilot signed off.

Jayne glanced over his shoulder at Inara, who shook her head slightly. “Shiny,” the big mercenary said through clenched teeth. “Then we can get back to the point.” He turned to look at the man in his grasp. “Who’s this contract with?”

“I don’t know!” The man almost screamed out the words.

“How about if I shoot ya? Maybe in the leg. Somewhere it ain’t gonna kill ya straightaway.” He flicked the safety off his gun. “Be mighty painful. Least until the next one goes in.” He ran the gun up and down the man’s body, as if trying to decide.

Inara shook her head. “Not yet. I’m sure he’s going to be co-operative.” She looked at the man. “Aren’t you?”

He nodded, looking like one of those Geisha dolls with a loose head. “I am. I do. But I don’t know who it’s with. Please, I don’t know.”

“Who does?” Jayne asked, pressing the barrel of his gun into his forehead. “You know, I ain’t in the mood for games. You got about ten seconds before I start doing what my gut’s tellin’ me to do, and you ain’t gonna like it.”

“He means it,” Inara said. “And I won’t be able to stop him. So perhaps we should try a different question. Much simpler. Where’s Sheydra Velez?”

The serving man swallowed, but his eyes darted to a door hidden in the shadows.

“Ya know, I’m beginning to get the feeling she’s here,” Jayne said.

“No!” the man protested. “She’s not!”

Jayne glared at him, then, with a speed that belied his size, he was at the door, slamming it back against the wall. He reached inside and dragged a woman from the room beyond.

“Inara!” Sheydra shouted. “Thank heavens! I thought it was someone coming to rob the House!”

Inara gazed at her erstwhile friend, her face openly hostile. “Jayne, bring her.”

The big man grinned evilly. “Wasn’t gonna leave her.” He gripped the Companion’s arm until she grimaced in pain. “You got an appointment,” he said quietly.


“He’s okay, Mal,” Simon said, wrapping Ethan back up in the blanket. “Just cold and hungry.”

“Why ain't he crying?” Mal asked, taking his son again.

“He knows something’s wrong,” River said from the doorway. “That his mother is missing.”

Mal turned to her. “Anything?”

“No.” River was upset. “I don’t think she’s here anymore.”

His heart stopped. “Not … here?”


He took a deep, shuddering breath. “Keep trying, albatross. You might be the only hope we got of finding her.”

“Please don’t rely on me,” she said, shaking a little. “I can’t …”

Simon stepped forward. “Mei-mei, can you take Ethan into Bethany’s room? Get him some milk? The captain and I have to talk.”

River nodded, sniffing. She reached out and took the baby from him, singing softly to him as she carried him away towards the guest quarters.

“Doc –“

“She’s trying, Mal. It’s just as hard for her as for everyone else.”

Mal glared at him. “It ain't your wife who’s been taken, doctor.”

“No. But she’s our friend.”

Serenity vibrated. “Shuttle’s back,” Mal said, turning and walking out of the infirmary. “Maybe now we can get this dealt with.”


“Any problems?” Mal asked as he ducked inside the shuttle’s door.

“Nope,” Jayne said, leaning on the bulkhead by the small bridge. “We left before the Feds got there.”

“Any chance they ID’d you?”

Jayne shrugged. “Probably. I ain’t exactly difficult to miss, and Inara –”

Mal turned to the doorway where most of his crew were waiting. “Hank, get us into the air. Not too far, but enough that they won’t find us.”

“Mal.” He hurried away.

The captain closed the door firmly. “Don’t need no witnesses for this,” he said softly, turning to the woman cowering on the bed.

“You’ll be prosecuted for this!” Sheydra promised. “Kidnapping is a capital offence!”

“That it is,” Mal said, sitting down on the edge of the counterpane. “So’s aiding and abetting, if my memory serves me right.”

“Aiding and … I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Really.” Mal leaned over. “Then it seems like we got the wrong person.” He looked up Inara and Jayne, sounding almost sincerely apologetic. “We got the wrong person here.”

“Shucks,” Jayne said. “Sorry ‘bout that.”

“So you don’t know who came on board my boat. Shot a member of my crew.” His voice dropped ten degrees in warmth as they felt Serenity take off.

Sheydra’s face blanched. “Your … no, I don’t know. I don’t know anything!”

“That is something of a pity.” Mal stood up. “’Cause if you did, it’d be the only thing stopping me turning you over to Jayne.” He looked at the big man. “She’s all yours.”

The Companion panicked. “Inara, please, tell him not to do this!”

Inara looked at her. “Why?”

“I didn’t do anything!”

“You told someone where we were, Sheydra. Where Serenity was. And they took Ethan.”

“My son,” Mal said softly, still gazing at her, his face expressionless, and far more terrifying than if he’d been ranting at her. “And now they’ve got Freya. My wife.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Well, I guess we’ll soon find out if you’re telling the truth.” He remembered another time when he’d told a prisoner that he’d given someone the job of finding out information, and the restriction he’d added quietly of only threatening. “Jayne.”

The big man drew his knife slowly, his eyes not leaving the woman in front of him. “Ya ain’t gonna tell me just to scare her?” he asked.


“Mal …” Inara said, afraid of him in that moment.

Sheydra scuttled back on the bed, staring at the light glinting from the blade. “Inara, if you let them do this you’ll never find your son!” she shrieked.

My …” Inara stared at her, then looked at Mal. “My son’s dead,” she said quietly.

“No, he’s not.” Sheydra pushed a lock of hair from her cheek, feeling the perspiration on her skin. “I know where he is.”

“My son was still-born,” Inara repeated. “You’re lying.”

“Don’t you think I’d come up with something more believable if I was?” She looked back at the knife in Jayne’s hand. “Please, don’t let him hurt me.”

Mal stood, looking from one woman to the other. Then he strode to the door, throwing it open. “River, get in here.”

The psychic slid inside. “Yes, captain.”

“You tell me. Is she lying or not?”

River gazed at the woman on the bed, her face fearful, her clothes and hair disarranged. The psychic put her head on one side.

“What … what are you doing?” Sheydra demanded. Then her brows drew together. “You’re …”

“She’s trying to sidetrack me,” River said quietly. “The uppermost thought in her mind is Inara’s child. But nothing of Ethan.”

“Is he … is my son …” Inara began.

“No,” Mal said firmly. “This first.”

Inara nodded slowly, holding her own distress in check.

River stood a moment longer, then a look almost like admiration crossed her features. “She doesn’t know where Freya is,” the young psychic confirmed. “But she’s trying to keep me out, to hide something else.” She looked into Mal’s blue eyes, now as hard as ice. “She knows a secret.”

“Knows what, albatross?” he asked, using his pet name for her without thinking.

River didn’t even look at Sheydra. “She’s good. A latent psychic. Building walls. But I can knock them down.” She paused. “If you want me to.”

“Do it.”

River glanced at Jethro just outside the door, then stood still, her hair hanging over her face, and Sheydra cried out, her hands pressed to her temples.

“Stop!” she shouted. “Please, stop!”

“Not until you tell me,” the girl said quietly.

“River …” Inara began, stepping forward, but Jayne pulled her back.

“You ain’t gonna,” he said, his voice only a murmur. Inara stared at him then looked back at Sheydra, her face contorted, wet patches marring her dress.

There was silence in the small shuttle apart from Sheydra’s breathing and occasional moans.

“Mal –” Jethro began.

“Stay out of this, Preacher.”

Then … “Wing,” River said quietly.

Mal looked up sharply. “Atherton Wing’s dead.”

“No. Not Atherton. Xavier.” She glared at the other woman. “She’s remembering a man called Xavier.”

“Atherton’s father?” Inara asked, remembering all the stories she’d heard about him.

“In her bed. In her. Telling her he would take his revenge on you. Whispering it as he –“

Sheydra surprised them all by jumping to her feet and slapping the girl across the mouth.

River didn’t move, not even to wipe the small trickle of blood that seeped from her lip. “She told him where Inara would be. And by definition Serenity.”

“Where’s Freya?” Mal asked, grabbing the woman by the arms, turning her to look at him, anger radiating from him. “Where’s my wife?”

“I don’t know!”

“She doesn’t,“ River confirmed, looking from one to the other, then took a sharp breath. She stared down at her hands, but they seemed normal.

“River?” Jayne asked, seeing the girl go so white he thought she was going to faint.

“I have to …” She backed up, pushing past Jethro in the doorway, almost falling over the sill as she turned and ran.

--- ---

The crack of her finger breaking was loud, and for a moment the shock was greater than the pain. Then it hit, and she opened her mouth to scream, only to bite it back.

“Do you know why you’re here?” the man in front of her asked.

She looked into his face, somehow familiar, although she was sure she’d never seen him before. “My son is safe,” she ground out. “That’s all that matters.”

“I don’t hurt children,” the man said as if he were repulsed by the thought. “I’m not a monster.”

“No?” Freya felt one of the thugs behind her take hold of her middle finger, jarring the broken one so it felt like it was on fire. “Then why are you –” She stopped, her eyes going wide as he snapped the bone.

“You can scream,” the man in front said. “No-one can hear you. And there’s going to be no grand rescue.” He motioned to his men to stop. “You won’t leave this room, Mrs Reynolds. Not alive.” He turned to leave.

“But … but what do you want?” Freya asked, trying to breathe.

“Nothing.” His words were almost as shocking as the pain. “Absolutely nothing.”

“Then why?”

He looked at her, his face calm, expressionless. “My name is Xavier Wing. Your husband killed my son. And when he finds your body, what’s been done to it, he will know how it feels.” He turned and left the room, the door closing solidly behind him.

He wasn’t even going to watch. What they were doing, what they were going to do, wasn’t part of it, Freya realised, a cold chill radiating from her heart and fighting the burning in her hand. He wasn’t going to watch because it wasn’t important, just that it happened. And that meant that there was no chance of reprieve, of compassion … of survival. As they broke her ring finger, the two gold bands still on it, she screamed.

to be continued


Friday, February 16, 2007 12:44 AM


This is absolutely awful, having Freya broken and killed by Wing's father. All to get back at Mal? If the man had any kind of backbone at all (a fact which obviously his odious son inherited) he would have gone after Mal himself and taken whatever retribution he felt was owed out of him. This is just sick but I am even more sickened by Sheydra. A woman who was supposed to be Inara's friend, a fellow Companion. What a horrible creature she is. Really. She deserves to spend eternity with Xaviar on some remote little moon with no atmo. Okay, with that out of my system I am so relieved that little Ethan is safe. Just don't kill off Freya, *dong ma*? Little boy needs his moma and Mal needs his wife. Ali D
You can't take the sky from me

Friday, February 16, 2007 6:35 AM


Oh yes, it seems the 'verse has only about 9 good people and they're all on Serenity ... Not hard to believe that Atherton's father would be just as cowardly as his son ... Ath had to learn it somewhere.

Although I am relieved that Ethan is safe, but I'm worried for both River, Inara and Freya ... this does not bode well for anyone.

Friday, February 16, 2007 7:38 AM


Oh...this was unbelievably superb! The level of brilliance here with how you just kept building on the angst and teasing us with the thought of even more? You are a proud disciple of our lord and master, Jane0904;D

It's funny...but I really wanna see Inara have a little vis-a-vis with Sheydra. Inara just completely letting go of her remaining Companion-based veneer from the effect of Sheydra's complicity and laying into Sheydra for what she has done, and Sheydra trying to defend herself. It would be a glorious sight to witness Inara's final separation from the Guild through this denouncement *evil smirk*

Oh...if Jethro could channel Book for a moment with Mal? That would so rock, cuz I get the feeling Mal needs to "educate" Jethro to the way of the world and how his predacessor was a lot more big-picture then Serenity's new crewmember;)



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“Did we …” “We did.” “Why?” As she raised an eyebrow at him he went on quickly, “I mean, we got a comfy bunk, not that far away. Is there any particular reason we’re in here instead?” “You don’t remember?” He concentrated for a moment, and the activities of a few hours previously burst onto him like a sunbeam. “Oh, right,” he acknowledged happily.

[Maya. Post-BDM. A little with each Serenity couple, but something goes bang. Read, enjoy, review!]

“Did we …” “We did.” “Why?” As she raised an eyebrow at him he went on quickly, “I mean, we got a comfy bunk, not that far away. Is there any particular reason we’re in here instead?” “You don’t remember?” He concentrated for a moment, and the activities of a few hours previously burst onto him like a sunbeam. “Oh, right,” he acknowledged happily.

[Maya. Post-BDM. A little with each Serenity couple, but something goes bang. Read, enjoy, review!]