Communication - Part VI
Sunday, March 11, 2007

Maya. Post-BDM. A bit more counselling, and Inara takes matters into her own hands ... please read, enjoy, comment/rate. BTW, if it isn't so hot, please accept my apologies - I've been sick!


Mal stood in the waiting room and looked out at Ariel City. Too much steel, as far as he was concerned, and people hurrying to get somewhere they didn’t want to be in the first place. He liked easy, languorous journeys, and while he still had to have one of those, it was a nice thought.

He smiled to himself as he watched a liner take off from the port, and idly wondered where she was headed. Still, much as those newer vessels were all shiny and full of things that actually worked, he wouldn’t give up Serenity for anything. Catching sight of his reflection, smiling back at him, his grin widened. They’d have to pry him off that Firefly. Or use dynamite.

He turned to sit down again, putting his hand in his pocket. Damn. He’d forgotten again. He headed for the reception desk.

“’Scuse me,” he said, smiling at the young woman sitting behind it. “But … would you know of a good place that repairs jewellery?”


“Rings.” Mal turned Freya’s wedding and engagement bands over in his pocket, the cut edges sharp against his fingers.

“Oh. Well, there’s a jewellers about five minutes away.” She smiled at him, noting the brown hair that really needed a cut flopping over his blue eyes, the friendly grin, the big hand hitched into his belt, and felt a tug in her belly. “I could show you if you like. I … have my lunch in an hour.”

Mal sighed inwardly. How come he seemed to be this fascinating to women now he was married? Why hadn’t it happened before, when he was young, free and single? Oh, yeah, that’s right – he was fighting a war at the time. “That’s nice of you,” he said, keeping the warmth in his voice. “But my wife’ll be finished in with your good doctor in about forty-five minutes, and then it’s my turn. Get my psychoses out into the light of day.”

“Oh well. Another time, perhaps.” She became business-like again. “Outside the main entrance, turn right. It’s on the corner of the next block.”

“Thanks.” He glanced towards the doctor’s office. “If I'm a little late, can you apologise for me?”

“Of course.” She looked back down at her screen, beginning to tap away again, wondering why all the good ones seemed to be snapped up or psychotic. Or possibly both. It just wasn’t fair.

Mal headed down to the lobby, shaking his head, aware he’d been dismissed. Maybe he should tell Freya that he’d nearly been abducted and forced into a life of sexual slavery. Or perhaps he’d just tell Jayne to meet him here … no, that would be too cruel. Especially now that he and Jethro seemed to have made up. And nothing good was going to come of that, he was sure. Yeah, probably best just to tell Freya, let her know he wasn't just an old man with no sex appeal. Then she could really have a good laugh.


It was not going well. Dr Yi gazed at her patient, shaking her head. “Mrs Reynolds, we spoke in your first session about the control that had been taken away from you. I am getting the impression that this darkness you speak of is another example of that loss of control.” She leaned forward. “I’m here to help you. If you’d rather play games that’s fine. But we made some real progress yesterday, and as we won’t have many more of these sessions, I don’t have time to be subtle. What won’t you tell me?”

“There are some things I … I just can’t.”

“In a normal course of treatment I could accept this. But this is not normal. I don’t have the time to build trust with you so that you understand I won’t do anything to betray it. All I can do is tell you that anything you say to me stays here, within this office, in total confidence. You can tell me anything and I won’t judge you. My clients lay bare their souls, Mrs Reynolds. I understand you can’t do that. But I need you to be honest with me or our limited time is wasted.” She blinked. Just once. “Tell me.”

Freya stared at her, then nodded. “I … this is difficult.”

“I understand.”

“I had been interrogated on the medship that picked me up from Dhu Khang. It wasn’t … very pleasant.” Pain. Nothing to stop it. Feeling the blood running down the back of her thighs … “I thought … I expected them to keep coming back, but after the fourth session they didn’t. I was patched up and … then I heard about Serenity Valley. So many perished there that I thought they’d died. I thought he’d died. That I would never see him again. And I grieved. So much so that I …” She took a deep breath before going on, “I gave up. I didn’t want to live in a ’verse where that happened.”

“Did you try and kill yourself?”

“No. But I don’t think I would’ve put up that much of a fight if someone else had tried. In fact …”

Dr Yi saw the shudder that ran through her. “Go on.”

“I was dropped at the prisoner camp on Santo. Not the best of them, by any means. The camp commander was weak, and the guards were … well, most of them had lost people during the war, and they weren’t looking to be sympathetic. Corruption was institutionalised.”

“Why would the Alliance allow such a thing?”

Freya shrugged. “Because the war had just ended. We were the losing side. People tend to overlook little things like human rights at times like that.” She looked down at her hands. “I didn’t care. Not about anything. Not even when I was warned about the gangs. They hunted in packs. Five, sometimes, but usually three or four. Going after anything that looked weaker. Sometimes for better clothes. Food they might have hidden on their person. Or just for sex.”

“Excuse me?”

“Independents. Browncoats. And still half way to being Reavers, torn apart by what they’d seen. Not human, not really. Probably not all bad, but their humanity had been stripped away. Not all men on our side were good, just like not all men on the Alliance were bad. But we seemed to have more than our fair share in the camp.” She stared out into the sunshine, seeing only the storm that night. “I wanted air. I’d just arrived the day before, and so many people crammed into one shed, it was …I couldn’t breath. I went outside, let the rain soak me to the skin. Then someone hit me.”

Dr Yi had stopped taking notes.

“I was down in the mud, on my face, half drowning. There were hands all over me, and I couldn’t .. I wasn’t strong enough to fight them off. They were tearing my clothes, pulling down my pants …”

“Mrs Reynolds -”

“I knew what they were going to do. And I couldn’t stop them.” She could still feel the cold air on her wet skin, waiting for the pressure, the pain … “Then they let go. I managed to roll over, look up, and there was this angel, his brown coat flapping in the breeze, with a rock in his raised hand. The one who’d tried to … he was bleeding in the mud, and the others had run away. Then the angel said my name.” A look approaching wonder crossed her face. “I thought I was dead. I had to be. Mal had his arms around me, pulling my clothes back, holding me …” She looked at Dr Yi. “He thinks I don’t remember. I’ve never spoken about it, but I do. Every single moment from the time they hit me to the time he half-carried me back to his bunk, telling Zoe to get some water to help clean me up. Their bunkhouse was the other side of the camp, otherwise I might have seen …” She stopped. “The point is, if there is one, is that Mal didn’t know - couldn’t have known - it was me. He would have done it for anyone.”

“I don’t think that is the point.” Dr Yi took a sip of her water. “You were speaking of the darkness.”

“I killed them.” Freya gazed at her, her crutches leaning against the desk, her body still damaged, still healing. “I found them and I killed them. Let the darkness do it. Let it out just enough to stop them.”

“From doing it to someone else.”

“No. From doing it to me.” Freya leaned forward. “It was so easy. And that scared me more than anything. How easy it was. And how hard it was to put the darkness back, lock it away again. So easy to let it control things. That’s why the control is so important to me. Because without it I could kill you without a second thought. Just because I can.”


“Miss Serra,” the ship’s Purser smiled. “How nice to have you with us.”

“I'm glad you could find space for me. I thought I was going to have to wait.”

“Captain Branscombe was most insistent that we give you our best rooms. And he also asks that you join him for dinner tonight.”

Inara smiled. “That would be most delightful.” She bit her lip a moment. “He does realise I’m no longer a Companion?”

The Purser nodded. “Of course. In fact …” He dropped his head so that they couldn’t be overheard. “He told me that it would take the pressure off.”

Inara laughed, a gay sound that hid her anxiety. “I won’t tell him you told me.”

“No, please don’t.” The Purser lifted his head and signalled to two of the men waiting. “Take Miss Serra’s luggage to the Presidential Suite.”

“Presidential?” Inara shook her head. “I am honoured.”

“It is a delight to have you travelling with us again,” the Purser said gallantly.

“You are too kind.” She followed the two men with her luggage, not noticing the slim, dark figure slip unseen through the crowds.


“I survived.”

“How many of your original platoon survived with you?”

Mal glared at her. “Does it matter?”

“Captain Reynolds, there are a multitude of documented cases, from before we left Earth-that-was, of what is commonly called survivor’s guilt.” She put her slim gold pen down. “An event occurs, be it an accident or a time of war, and people die. Others do not. They live on, only some part of their subconscious says they shouldn’t have. That they were not the worthy ones.”

“If you’re saying I'm wishing I’d died with my men then you’re way off the mark.”

“No, not at all. But I am saying you’re feeling guilty that you didn’t.”

He got up from his chair and began to pace the room, something akin to a caged beast. “It ain't that way.”

“No?” Dr Yi sat forward. “What rank did you hold?”


“Really?” She was surprised, having imagined he had been a lieutenant at the very least, but covered it quickly. “Then as a sergeant how many men did you command?”

“By the end, probably a couple of thousand. Maybe more.”

“Captain, I have heard of Serenity Valley. Who hasn’t? And although the reports were, of course, coloured highly in favour of the Alliance, I am well aware of what happened there. I've had other survivors, from both sides, sitting in that very same chair, telling me how they made it through and then couldn’t cope with life afterwards. I know, Captain. So you can be honest with me.”

Mal turned to face her. “Honest? Doc, I ain't been honest with myself. I lost all faith in a higher power after that battle ended. After I was told to lay down arms because Command didn’t want to carry on. We could have won. I truly believed that. But …”

“They let you down.”

“So did God.”

“I don’t begin to understand faith, Captain. Unfortunately that loss isn’t something I can treat.”

“Wasn’t asking you to.” He sat back down. “Kind of my problem.”

“Even if you don’t believe anymore?”

“It’s not so much a case of not believing, as not trusting. I had faith for a long time. Like I had faith in Command doing the right thing. When they didn’t, it wasn’t that I suddenly thought they didn’t exist. I just didn’t trust them anymore.”

“As interesting as this might be, I’m not sure this is quite the area we should be discussing.”

“I thought we just talked?”

“If we had more time, yes. But I have to lead you along certain paths.” She glanced at her notes. “The camp at Santo, for instance.”

“Not too good,” he admitted. “It was …” He stopped. “How’d you know about that?”

“A Browncoat who survived the war. It was highly likely that you’d be incarcerated in -”

“Not that one necessarily. There were over fifty of ‘em, dotted around. Yet you mentioned Santo …” He paused then glared at her. “She told you.” It was like a rocket going off in his mind. “She told you.”

“What do you think your wife told me?”

“About the men who tried to rape her.”

“Captain Reynolds, you know I can’t -”

“I know she did. I can see it in your eyes.” He shook his head. “I thought she’d blocked it out. Never mentioned it again.”

“Did that upset you?”

Mal looked at her. “Why should it? They didn’t succeed.”

“And if they had?”

“She’s Freya. It wouldn’t change the way I feel about her.”

“Can you be so sure about that, Captain?”

Mal sighed. “You want me to be honest? I don’t know. Less than two months ago, when I was told the men who hurt her hadn’t raped her, I was glad. But only because it was at least something they hadn’t done. Hadn’t put her through. Would it have stopped me loving her the same way if they had? Doctor, that’s something I hope to God I never have to find out. For her sake, not mine.”

“But you were still saving people. Still being an honourable man, despite what you say. There is a strong current of decency runs through you, Captain, and that couldn’t be wiped out by the war.”

“Damn near tried.”

“In a war people die. Regrettably, usually a massive number. Whole planets can be depopulated. That’s what war is.”

“That’s it, make me feel good about joining up,” Mal half-joked.

“You gave your men hope. Something to keep fighting for when they could have laid down in defeat and let the Alliance roll over them. You saved your wife despite not knowing who she was. You are a good man, Captain Reynolds. And your faith in your family has sustained you, and will go on sustaining you.” She closed her mouth, almost as if she’d said too much.

“Doc, that’s a pretty speech you just made. And it’s nice that you think so well of me. But if you don’t mind me saying, you don’t know what you’re talking about.” He smiled sadly. “Frey keeps me on the straight. Like my friends. Otherwise who knows where I’d end up.”

“The darkness,” Dr Yi murmured.

“Oh, yeah. Frey’s right about that. Always have to keep that at bay. And if it is a little easier now, her at my side, then maybe it’s something to be grateful for.”

The chime sounded on her desk, and Dr Yi sat up. “Finished already,” she said, closing her notebook. “Tomorrow?”

“I don’t know about that,” Mal said. “Got me a whole lot of things I need to get done.”

“And there are many other things we need to speak about, not least of which is your faith in God.”

Mal stood up. “Not gonna talk about that, doctor. That’s between me and Him.”


Freya got to her feet as Mal came out of the door.

“Okay?” she asked.

Mal looked at her. “I know you killed them,” he said softly, seeing her eyes widen in the light. “In the camp. I understand.”

“How …” She glanced towards the doctor’s office.

“She didn’t say anything. But neither did you. I just thought you oughtta know. I figured it out, when they found the bodies.”

“Why didn’t you say something?”

“Because you didn’t. And it ain’t important. We’re what’s important.” He put his arm around her waist. “Let’s go home.”

She stared at him, then smiled. “You’re an amazing man.”

“No, I ain’t. I just love you, is all.”

“Even knowing what I did?”


“And that always amazes me.”


Zoe was staring at the coffee in front of her, the mug held between her hands.

“Got a wave from Badger,” Hank said, stepping down into the galley. “Says he’s got a job for us. Being his usual, loquacious self, he hasn’t told me what it is. He wants Mal to wave him back.”

Zoe didn’t answer, just stared into her now cold drink.

“You want me to freshen that for you?”

She still sat still.

“Course, the hippopotamus in the cargo bay’ll have to go if we have to pick up any cargo. Takes up far too much room. Not sure why Jayne bought it in the first place. Calling it Freya, too …” He stopped and looked at her. She still took no notice of him. Sighing, he pulled the chair out next to her and sat down. “Okay, what is it?”

“What?” Finally she turned to look at him.

“Whatever it is. I may not be fully qualified, but I’m good at listening.” He put his hand on hers. “Just talk to me.”

Zoe stared at him. “I’m fine,” she said at last. “Tired, probably.”

“You tossed and turned all night. You sure there’s nothing you want to tell me? Maybe you should go see Simon, get him to check you over before he dies.”

“Simon’s not going to die.”

“Not what Kaylee thinks,” Hank pointed out. “I had her on the bridge for two hours earlier, going on about how much of an idiot her husband is, and what she was intending to do to him as soon as he was well enough.”

“They’re in love.”

“Well, so are we,” Hank pointed out. “And I want to help. Whatever the problem is, I’m there for you.”

Zoe gazed into his honest grey eyes, and opened her mouth to speak.

“Anyone know where Frey keeps the spare diapers?” Jayne asked, carrying Ethan into the galley.

Hank felt like swearing, only little Bethany was following the big man. “Your timing is, as always, impeccable,” he contented himself with saying.

“Huh?” Jayne shook his head. “This one needs changing, and I can’t find no spares.”

“Probably in River’s room,” Zoe said, standing up. “I thought she was looking after them today.”

“She asked me to sit for a while. Probably off canoodling with the Preacher.” Jayne put the little boy on the counter. “Didn’t tell me he’d filled his diaper with -”


“Poopy,” Bethany said, going onto tiptoe to see what the big man was doing.

“Um, Jayne, I don’t think you should be doing that over there. That’s where we make dinner. And breakfast,” Hank said quickly as the mercenary unhooked Ethan’s stretchy pants and pulled them down.

“Wasn’t intending to change him here. Just checking to see … woo-hoo!” He took a step backward as an indescribable odour wafted up to his nostrils.

“Thanks, Jayne.” Hank held his nose. “I probably won’t eat for a week now.”

“Won’t do you no harm. Lose a couple of pounds.”

“I’ll have you know Zoe likes my love handles. Ain’t that right?” He turned to the woman in question.

“Jayne, do that baby back up now. And see if River has the bag.” Zoe glared at him.

“You know, I’d hate to see you as a mother,” Jayne said quickly. “Be telling the poor kid what to do all the time. Wouldn’t know if he was coming or going.”

He didn’t see the blood drain from Zoe’s normally dark face. “Get him out of here,” she said softly.

“I’m going, I’m going.” He picked Ethan up, holding him at arm’s length. “How can such a small kid make such a hell of a lot of …” He glanced down at Bethany. “… poopy?” he finished, heading towards the door, almost colliding with Jethro.

“Um, I hate to ask … but has anyone seen River?”

Jayne scowled. “You lost her already?”

“No, it’s just … we were supposed to be going out to dinner, only she’s not in her room. I thought she was with Inara, but the shuttle‘s empty too.”

Mal stepped down into the galley. “Well, folks, we’re back. And what’s that smell?”

“Your son,” Jayne said, handing him over. “Needs changing.”

“I reckon he does.” Mal’s face screwed up. “What the hell’re we feeding him on?” he asked Freya, who ignored him.

“There’s diapers in the nursery,” she said. “Or River’s got the bag.”

“Jethro says he can’t find her,” Zoe said slowly.

“Isn’t it your big night out?” Mal asked, winking at Jethro, who blushed.

“She told me Inara was going to help her get ready, but the shuttle’s empty.”

“So you said,” Hank added. “Perhaps they went shopping.”

“No, I mean empty. Most of her stuff’s gone.”

Mal stood up a little straighter. “What do you mean, gone?”

“Gone. Not there. It’s almost bare.”

Zoe looked at her captain. “Have you been in there lately, sir?” she asked.

“No. Not for a while. Not since …” He stopped. “Here,” he said to Jayne, handing Ethan back. “Look after my son.” He strode out of the door towards shuttle one.


River had felt them leaving atmo some time back, and now peered out from behind the cargo. She knew they’d be angry with her, but she couldn’t let Inara do this by herself. Not without telling everyone. She eased back into her hiding place. A little while longer, then she’d go and hunt for food. She smiled. This was quite an adventure.

to be continued


Monday, March 12, 2007 12:31 AM


Just as things are starting to get better we have Inara going off without telling anyone and then River hiding away to follow her, also without telling anyone. Way to worry the rest of the crew just when they need everything to go smooth for a while. I did absolutely love Mal and Inara's sessions with the shrink, I think it helped a whole lot (at least I hope so). Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Monday, March 12, 2007 12:38 PM


Well, never mind the fact that River's making Jethro wait even longer for some nookie, now she's chasing off after Inara and no one knows where they are ... oh this is not good. And something tells me, Mal will use this as a perfect excuse not to go back to therapy ... hmm ... the plot thickens!

Monday, March 12, 2007 12:47 PM


Oh...this is gonna be fun! Why do I get the feeling that River accompanying Inara - even secretly - will have an impact on both women?


Still...definitely quite a brilliant chapter, Jane0904! Even ill, you write a mean story cuz the moments between Dr. Yi and the Reynolds are especially telling about their personalities and how they are fighting against their baser natures:D



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