Aftermath - Part IV
Monday, February 26, 2007

Maya. Post-BDM. Freya starts her physio, and Mal talks to Jethro (or possibly the other way around) ... but the angst is still riding high. Please feedback, and thanks to all that do!


She’d eaten some, but not all of the eggs he’d got Kaylee to make. All the while he was feeding her he was talking, nonsense mostly, just keeping the silence at bay.

“’Course, if I’d cooked ‘em it’d just be a mess in the bottom of the pan,” Mal admitted, smiling. “But Kaylee’s a fine cook. What she can do with a –”

“I hate this,” Freya said suddenly. “You having to feed me.”

“You want to do it yourself?” he asked, holding out the fork. “I’m sure I wouldn’t mind. Be able to get to my own breakfast before it congeals into something we might use to fix a bulkhead leak.”

She lifted her hand, trying to grip the fork and feeling it slip from her fingers back onto the plate. “Run tse de shang dee,” she muttered, trying again, and again it falling back.

“Never mind,” Mal said softly. “Tomorrow.”

Freya let him dress her, his hands gentle, doing for her what she couldn’t do for herself, and making her feel even more useless.

“Why are you doing this?” she asked, looking down to the top of his dark head as he put the soft shoes Inara had given her onto her feet. She hated him seeing them, the way they looked now.

He looked up in surprise. “You need to get dressed. Feel normal.”

“I ain’t normal, Mal.”

He sat next to her, putting his arm round her carefully, so lightly she could hardly feel him. “You are, Frey. You’re my wife.”

“No, I’m not. I don’t work properly any more. I can’t even pick up my son …”

“I said I’d bring him in.”

She looked into his blue eyes, hardly hearing him. “And what I’ve done to you …”

“To me?”

“It would be better if –”

“No!” Mal’s voice was loud, sudden, violent. “Don’t ever … ever say that again.” He wanted to take hold of her shoulders, shake some sense into her, but knowing he couldn’t. Instead he had to content himself with sitting next to her, pressing as much of himself against her as he could. “Freya, I love you. Please don’t. It wasn't your fault. I wish I could make you believe that.”

“Sure.” She didn’t look at him. “I believe you.” She glanced across at the crutches leaning against the wall. “I want to try again.”

“Not yet. And not today.”

“You‘ve got some work to do first,” Simon said, leaning in the doorway. “Feeling up to it?”

“Up to what?” Freya asked.

“You want to walk. So we’re going to start doing some exercises.” He looked at Mal. “Do you want to give us a while?”

“No,” Mal said, standing up. “I think I ought to stay.”

Simon shook his head. “Not a good idea.”

“Doc, you ain’t giving me orders on my boat again, are you?”

The young man didn’t respond, just walked away from the room, forcing Mal to follow. When they were outside the infirmary he stopped. “Mal, this isn’t going to be pleasant,” he finally said. “Certainly not the first time. I have to see how much she can take, and it’s … it will be painful.”

“You’re going to hurt her?” Mal could feel the hair on his neck begin to rise.

“Only as far as I have to. After that I’ll know what needs to be done, how far I can take it and how fast.” He stepped closer. “Mal, if she wants to walk, there’s no choice.”

“All the more reason I should stay.”

“All the more reason you shouldn’t. She blames herself for this anyway. How do you think she’s going to feel if you have to watch her hurting again?”

“They teach you how to be a pain in the ass at MedAcad?” Mal asked, glaring at him.

“Top of my class.”

Mal’s gaze didn’t waver, but at last he said, “How long do you need, doc?”

“An hour. Maybe more.”

“An …” Mal stopped. “Just let me know when you’re done. I’ll go find something else to do.” He glanced towards his temporary home, then headed up the stairs towards the galley.


“Cap? Everything okay?” Kaylee asked, putting the last of the breakfast things away.

“Sure.” He sat down in his chair. “Wasn’t it supposed to be Jayne’s turn to clean up?”

“We swopped,” Kaylee said. “He’s gonna cook tonight instead. Still got some of that meat left from Boros we need to eat, so he’s gonna do a barbeque.”

“Great,” Mal replied without enthusiasm. “Last time he did that the whole boat stank for a week.”

“Nah, I got that fixed, Cap’n,” Kaylee said, wiping her hands on a cloth and grinning. “I boosted the atmo cleaners. Shouldn’t do more’n’ wet our appetites.”

“See that it doesn’t.” Mal looked down at his hands.

“You sure you’re okay? Only it don’t look like everything’s okay.”

“Your husband’s working on Freya,” Mal admitted. “Threw me out.”

“Oh.” Kaylee came out from behind the counter. “Want some company for a while?” she asked. “I was gonna scrub the air filters ready for tonight, but if you need someone to talk to …”

He looked up at her, seeing the beautiful young woman she’d become since he first took her on board. “You get to work. Ain’t paying you to sit with a mean old man like me.”

“You ain’t mean. And you ain’t old, neither.” She slid into the chair next to him.

“Next you’ll be saying I ain’t a man,” Mal joked, but not feeling very funny.

“Wouldn’t dare,” she grinned. “Not from what Freya’s said.” He looked so surprised she laughed. “It’s all right. She don’t give details. Just that you know how to satisfy her.”

“Kaylee!” Now Mal was shocked.

“You think we don’t talk about it? All girls together? When ‘Nara makes that jasmine tea and we sit in her shuttle and …” Her face fell. “Well, we used to. Ain’t done it lately. Not what with …” She waved a hand towards the infirmary.

“You will again,” Mal said. “And I’m sure Freya will be more than ready to pass on a few of my more intriguing peccadilloes.”

Kaylee managed a smile, knowing he was trying to cheer her up. “Already has, Cap’n.” She put her head on one side and regarded him. “Never took you for the kind to be into bondage, though. Cross-dressing, yeah. But –”

“Go!” Mal ordered, pointing towards his engine room. “And take your smutty mind with you!”

“Aye aye, Captain,” Kaylee said, jumping to her feet and scampering off.

He watched her go, a slight smile on his face. She sure was a little minx. And Bethany looked to be inheriting just that same streak of mischief. Thinking of Bethany made him think of Ethan, and Freya. How she’d refused to let him bring their son in, yet a few minutes later she was wishing she could hold him.

He couldn’t hear anything from below, but that didn’t mean that Simon wasn’t … He swallowed hard. Gorramit, but he needed –

“Captain?” It was Jethro stepping down into the kitchen area. “River said you needed Ethan?”

Mal realised the young man had his son in his arms, and his lips twitched, just a little. “Thanks,” he said, standing up and taking Ethan, holding him close. He sat back, aware the young man was standing watching him. “And tell River she’s supposed to be eavesdropping on Freya, not me.”

“I will.” Jethro didn’t leave, however, but sat down instead.

“Something I can help you with, son?” Mal asked, not looking at him, just gazing into Ethan’s blue eyes.

“I wondered if you’d like to talk,” Jethro said slowly.

“Not that much.”

“Only I’ve heard tell you’ve been praying.”

Mal sat still for a moment, then shrugged. “Seems like people should maybe be keeping certain things to themselves.”

Jethro didn’t seem to have heard, as he went on, “And that seems strange to me as I was led to believe you weren’t a religious man.”

“Ain’t no atheists on the battlefield, Preacher,” Mal said quietly.


“Nothing. Just something I said once. To a man I knew.”

“Shepherd Book?”

Mal looked up, suddenly wary. “How’d you know about him?”

“River told me. And Zoe’s mentioned him. You don’t, though.”

“He was my crew.”

“He was your friend.”

“That too.”

“And you miss him?”

Mal almost laughed. “Been a while, Jethro. Buried him some time back.”

“It doesn’t mean you still don’t carry on missing someone. Even when they’re in the next room. Or one deck down.”

Mal was taken aback but wasn’t going to admit it. “You trying to play games with me?”

“No. Just letting you know that I understand.” He leaned back and steepled his fingers in front of his chin, the action causing Mal to jolt. “The woman downstairs isn’t Freya. Not totally. And you’re afraid she may never really come back.”

For a moment Mal heard the voice of someone else, older, grey hair caught back from a wise, gentle face. “It ain’t any of your affair, Shepherd,” he said quietly, dropping his head.

“Perhaps. But I just want you to know that I’m here if you need to talk. You’ve got to have faith, Mal.”

“Long wait for a train that don’t come,” Mal muttered, staring back into the past.

“Just believe.”

Mal looked up sharply, but it was only Jethro sitting at the table with him. “I can’t,” he said dully.

“But River … she said …” Jethro stammered to a halt and Mal relaxed a little.

“That I prayed for Freya? That I did. And I am. But it ain’t for me. I don’t believe in that no more.”


Mal sat back, holding Ethan carefully in his arms. “You looking to get into trouble?” he asked.

“No, no,” Jethro insisted. “But it seems to me a strange thing for a man who disbelieves in the existence of God.”

“It’s a long story, Jethro.”

“We’ve got all day.”

“And I ain’t inclined to tell it,” Mal finished. “Let’s just say that my momma brought me up to be God-lovin’ and God-fearin’ in more or less equal proportion … maybe a little heavier on the lovin’ side. Even once contemplated being a Shepherd myself.” He almost smiled at the shocked look on the young man’s face. “Mind, it was only for about twenty minutes until little Dilly Fairbrass leaned forward to pick up her school books and I realised she weren’t so little any more.”

Jethro blushed. “Really.”

“I’ll tell you,” Mal went on, “she was a sight for a growing boy, and I mean growing in a whole different way too. Had me dreams about her for weeks, and they were the kind you didn’t want your momma to find out about. Dong mah?”

Mal could see Jethro realised he was doing it on purpose. “Oh, I know,” the young man said, joining in. “I had a similar experience with Rose Barossa. I was on my knees asking forgiveness for a month.”

“It wasn’t my knees that were the problem,” Mal pointed out.

Jethro laughed guiltily. “I suppose not.”

Mal grinned. “Course, the day I got Dilly alone in the haybarn I figured all my dreams’d come true.”

Jethro froze. “Oh. And … did you?”

“No,” Mal said, and the young man relaxed. “I got one hand on her ass and she hauled off and hit me so hard she made my teeth ring. Then she stormed off, told her pa. Who told my Ma, and I got such a whupping.”

“How old were you?” Jethro asked, fascinated.

“Near fourteen. You?”

“Pretty much the same.”

“Things ain’t changed that much, then.”

“It appears not.” Jethro was thoughtful.

Mal looked down at his son and smiled. It had been a long time since he’d been able to wind anyone up like that, just gently, just to see what happened. He decided to take it a step further. “So, you and River getting on okay?” he asked suddenly.

Jethro turned bright red. “Um, fine. Fine.”

“I hope you ain’t bedding the girl.” Mal managed to get a lot of captainy-emphasis into his voice. “Wouldn’t look kindly on that. Neither would her brother.”

“No, I wouldn’t … not with … not like …” Jethro stood up quickly. “I have to …” He turned and fled.

Mal looked down at Ethan. “No, reckon he ain’t yet. But it won’t be too long.” He glanced at the door the boy had run out of. “Sure hope River knows what she’s doing. I’d hate to be the one had to pick up the pieces. Kinda ruin my day.”

Ethan grabbed his finger, holding it tight and bringing it to his mouth to suckle gently.

“It’ll be okay, little feller,” Mal went on, his voice real quiet. “Your momma’ll be fine. I promise. And I keep my promises.” He gathered his son close and buried his face in him.


There were other young people, pretty much her own age, milling around, some with parents, perhaps older siblings, and others on their own. As Elena jumped from the carriage, she could see a few of them were scared, holding tightly to grown up hands, and she wondered why. This was such an adventure.

“Elena Rostov?”

Someone put a hand on her shoulder and she jumped, turning around to see a woman, about her mother’s age, smiling at her.

“Yes,” she said, grinning. “I'm Elena.”

“We’ve been waiting for you. It’s time to leave.” She signalled the man with her to take Elena’s cases from their driver.

“Okay.” Elena turned around to her mother and Alex. “Will you write to me?” she asked, wanting to hug her, but afraid she’d crush her mother’s perfect dress. Besides, she didn’t approve of such displays of affection in public.

“Of course,” Genia Rostov said, smiling. She stroked her daughter’s long hair. “But I'm sure you’re going to be so busy you won’t want to hear from us.”

“No, I will!” Elena insisted. She looked at her brother. “Are you going to write?”


“Yes he will.” His mother put her hand around his shoulders, pulling him closer.

Elena looked at the pair of them and suddenly felt like an outsider. They were a family without her, without the disturbance she brought. Even her father preferred Alex.

“It doesn’t matter,” she said. “I’m going to be too busy anyway.”

“Elena?” It was the woman again. “You need to get on board now.”

She smiled. “Coming.” She glanced back at her mother and brother. “Miss me,” she said before following the woman onto the transport.

There was the slight taste of relief from her mother’s mind.


to be continued


Tuesday, February 27, 2007 3:32 AM


This was excellent. I could so feel for Mal wanting to comfort and reassure Freya and her not really letting him but drowning herself in self recrimination. Also, it had to be hard to be excluded when Simon started the physiotherapy knowing she would be in pain and him not there to ease it for her. I really loved how River picked up on Mal's feelings and sent Jethro to take Ethan to his daddy and speak to him. That was a great conversation too. Funnily enough I could see the past as it was painted. Also loved Kaylee here too. Just a mighty fine part, I am hoping though that as Freya begins to improve she can get her zest for life back and stop feeling she isn't good enough to be a wife and mother. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Tuesday, February 27, 2007 7:34 AM


Great as usual.

You got it right in that Mal had to leave when the physical therapy started. My roommate in college volunteered at a hosptial burn unit. Her main job was to distract the kids when the bandages were changed. The doctors didn't want parents there at that time because of the pain.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007 8:29 AM


I loved Kaylee, doing her best to distract Mal - maybe she's picked up a few hints from Simon about how hard the therapy will be for Freya and the captain.

Also, loved Jethro with Mal - and Mal with Ethan. He has such a capacity for love and protectiveness that really fits well with him being a pa. Can't wait for more!

Tuesday, February 27, 2007 9:56 PM


Oh...this was just ten kinds of brilliant, Jane0904! Between the scene between Mal and Freya - totally ticker-twisting, I must say - and the conversation between Mal and Jethro (cuz Mal needs Jethro right now as he needed Book...someone to sound stuff off of and to rant at), I was utterly in awe:D


Wednesday, February 28, 2007 1:51 AM


Yep, you've mastered angst for sure! Hope things get easier for her soon, before she gets swallowed by the darkness.


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Mal took a deep breath, allowing it out slowly through his nostrils, and now his next words were the honest truth. “Ain’t surprised. No matter how good you are, and I’m not complaining, I’ve seen enough battle wounds, had to help out at the odd amputation on occasion. And I don’t have to be a doc myself to tell his leg ain’t quite the colour it should be, even taking into account his usual pasty complexion. What you did … didn’t work, did it?”
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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!]