Communication - Part XVIII
Sunday, March 25, 2007

Maya. Post-BDM. Inara gets to meet her son, and Mal finds out the Guild's secret. The light is at the end of the tunnel, so stick with me, even if it's an oncoming train! Read/rate/feedback ...


Domina put her arm around the boy. “He’s not your son.”

“Why don’t we go inside?” Mal said. “It’s kinda hot out here, and I could do with sitting in the shade.” He smiled. “’Sides, I don’t like talking when there’s a rifle trained on me.” He looked up towards the first floor and the glint of sunlight on a gun barrel. “Ain’t planning on shooting anyone, so I’d take it as a kindness if you’d do the same.”

“I don’t …” Domina looked down, almost embarrassed at being caught out, then up again in defiance at this tall man with the piercing blue eyes. “This isn’t a conversation I want to have in front of my son.”

Inara bridled, but Hank spoke quickly, running a hand through his untidy brown hair. “Why don’t I keep your … the boy entertained out here?” He grinned at Colm, who smiled tentatively back. “We won’t go anywhere.”

“I don’t know …” Domina said doubtfully.

“Good idea, Hank,” Mal agreed. “Ain’t planning on kidnapping either, Mrs Gerhardt. So, shall we?” He indicated she should go first.

“Mal …” Inara murmured.

“Take it easy. And remember to breathe.”

She shot him a sharp look but followed.

“So,” Hank said, still smiling. “You’re Colm.”

“Yes.” The boy looked at him.

“I’m Hank. And that’s my boat.” He flicked his thumb over his shoulder.


“I’m the pilot.”

“Oh.” He paused then said, “She’s a Firefly.”

“That she is,” Hank said, surprised. “How’d you know that?”

Colm pulled a magazine from his back pocket. “I know about ships.” He stepped closer and showed Hank the pictures. There, in all her glory, was a Firefly.

“Hey, how old is this?” Hank asked, turning to the front cover.

“I found it in some of my poppa’s stuff,” Colm admitted. “He said it was rubbish, that I could keep it.”

“Not rubbish.”

Colm grinned. “No. Do you really fly her?”

“I surely do.”

“What’s it like?”

Hank sighed happily. “Well, let me tell you …”


Freya watched from inside the cargo bay as the others went into the house, leaving Hank to look after the little boy. Even from this distance she could see the resemblance between him and Inara, and shook her head. She’d almost hoped it had been a false alarm, just another lie from the Guild, but it looked like Inara really had found her son. How that would affect her was anybody’s guess. Nor what she was likely to do …

A sound from behind her had her turning back, hobbling somewhat painfully into the common area.

The infirmary was empty, River nowhere in sight.

Freya hurried to the girl’s room, but that was just as unoccupied. Then a sneaking suspicion like a thread of ice water down her spine had her going as quickly as she could up the stairs towards the storage locker, hissing as she jarred her knee.

“It’s cold,” River said, staring inside through the tiny window.

“Coldest place on the boat,” Freya agreed, coming up behind her.


“Honey, you don’t want to be here.”

“When I saw him last he was happy. Smiling. Going off to book that stupid table in that stupid restaurant so he could make love to me.” She didn’t move, didn’t blink. “How can I know he’s dead if I don’t see?”

“River, you felt it.”

The girl nodded, her dark hair falling limply around her face. “I felt it. But I didn’t see it.” She leaned a hand on the window. “He wanted to make love to me. Make me a woman. And I wanted him to. I wanted to feel his flesh lying next to mine, on mine, in mine … and now it’s just cold clay. He said he couldn’t, not here, not with people listening, and he wouldn’t take notice of me when I said we would be the only ones hearing.” Her voice had no inflection, just the same level tone. “The only ones in the whole ‘verse.”

“River, please come back downstairs.”

“I didn’t say goodbye.”

Freya sighed. “You want to.”

“I have to. Mal’s going to lay him in the cold earth, and if I don’t know he’s dead I can’t let that happen.” She turned her head to look at Freya over her shoulder. “I have to see.” Such despair on her young face.

With a heavy heart, Freya nodded. “Okay.“ She pulled on the handle and the door slid silently open. A wave of cold air washed out, with only the promise of decay.

River stepped inside, her bare feet hardly touching the floor as she walked across to where Jethro’s body lay on the bench, his arms crossed over his chest, his eyes closed. She looked down at him, her head on one side.

“He looks asleep.” She reached out to touch his cheek. “But he’s so cold.” Suddenly she was on her knees, laying her head on his chest, putting her arms around him.

“River …” Freya said from the door.

“Nothing,” the girl said. “No sound. No spark of life hiding in the darkness.” She looked into his face. “Nothing left for me.” She stood up, leaning over him. With infinite care she brushed her lips across his, her hand cupping his cheek, her thumb brushing an imaginary tear from his skin. “Gone,” she whispered, turning on her heel and running out of the room.

“Oh, great,” Freya muttered to herself, closing the door and following her, trying not to fall down the metal stairs. The door to River’s room was closed. “Honey?” she called. “Let me in.”

“No. No-one here. No-one left to talk to,” came a quiet voice almost too low to hear.

“River, please.”

“She’s gone. Nothing left in here. Go away.”

Freya sighed and leaned on the wall. She considered barging in anyway, but that probably wouldn’t help. And she now had to tell Mal she’d let River … oh, this was so not a good day.


Inside the house things weren‘t going much better.

“He’s my son,” Inara said. “And it will take the work of a moment to prove it. His DNA will tell the truth, even if you don‘t.”

“He‘s not yours.” Unfortunately Domina found it hard to lie convincingly.

“I thought he was dead, Domina. They told me he was dead.” Inara was holding her anger inside, keeping it under control.

“I don’t know anything about that,” the other woman insisted.

“Tell me, Domina,” Inara said, her voice deceptively soft. “Tell me he’s your blood.”

Domina stared, then her strength failed her and she sat down on the edge of the chair. “Inara, I … I wish I could.”

Mal looked from one to the other, then nodded. “Well, at least that’s out in the open. Kinda opens a whole other can of worms, but at least we’ve got past the lying bit.” He glanced at Zoe, standing solidly by the door, and she relaxed a little, moving her hand away from her mare‘s leg.

“Are you going to try and take him away from us?” Domina asked, her fingers knotted together tightly in front of her. “If you try, I promise I will fight you to the last breath in my body. He’s our son, no matter that I didn‘t carry him.”

Outside, in the still air, Zoe could see Hank playing with the boy, teaching him how to make little paper aeroplanes out of an old magazine.

“Until a few weeks ago I didn’t even know he was alive. I had no idea he didn’t die when I gave birth to him, Domina. Because the Guild lied to me.”

“I didn’t know.” Domina stood up, going to the window to look out. “I can’t have children of my own, and when the Guild offered me … Inara, I wanted a child so badly.”

“So did I.” Inara stared through the window. “He’s my son, Domina.”

“And he doesn’t even know your name!” The other woman stepped closer. “We’re the only family he’s ever known, Inara. You’d take him away from that, from a loving house, a stable environment, and expect him to live on that piece of gos se?”

“Serenity isn’t gos se,” Inara said, watching Hank roll on the dirt with the child in his arms. “And there’s already two children on board. He’d never be on his own.”

“He isn’t now.” Domina shook her head. “Please, Inara. Think what you’re asking. He’s … Colm is ours.”

Hank had lifted the boy up into the air, holding him like he was one of the little planes, swooping him to and fro. The child was laughing.

“I gave birth to him.”

“And I've raised him. If we’re going to talk about time, you had him nine months. I've had him nearly eight years.”

Inara turned on the other woman, her voice savage. “They stole him from me, Domina! Told me he was dead, that I hadn’t been strong enough to keep him alive! Ripped him from me!”

“That wasn't us,” Domina said, taking a step backwards. “We didn’t know … they just said –“

“Just said? And you didn’t think there was something odd going on?”

“The Guild –“

“The Guild sold my child!”

“And you’re a Companion!” Domina shouted at last. “You should never have got pregnant in the first place!”

“I loved him,” Inara said, her voice suddenly so quiet it was hard to hear her. “I loved Gregor. Two crimes, then. But did I have to be punished like that?”

“You gave him up! Signed away your rights!”

“I wanted to hold him. Tell him I loved him. And they said he was dead.”

Mal exchanged another glance with Zoe, then cleared his throat. “As fascinating as this is, it don’t exactly solve our current dilemma.”

“Dilemma?” Domina said savagely. “You’re talking about kidnapping my son!”

“I’m talking about taking him home.” Inara glared.

“And neither of you are gonna agree quite yet.” Mal sighed. “So in the meantime, maybe you can shed a little light on another problem we’ve got.”

Domina tore her eyes away from Inara. “Problem?”

“Nothing of too much importance. ‘Cept maybe why the Guild wants ‘Nara dead.”


“I believe I said that.”

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

“You don’t know much, do you?” Mal shook his head. “The Guild sent a crew to kill her. It’s only by good fortune and my crew that she ain’t dead right now.” He took a breath. “We think it might be something to do with some information she got from Sheydra Velez.”

“Sheydra?” Domina lifted her head. “I haven’t heard that name … how is she?”


Domina’s jaw dropped. “Dead?”

“Yeah. Seems to be catching.” Mal took her arm, led her to the sofa and sat her down. He spoke gently to her, like he would to a skittish horse, trying to gain her trust. “Sheydra said something about the Guild trying to influence some of their clients. I suppose you wouldn’t know anything about that either?”

Domina jerked. “I …”

“Ah.” Mal sat back a little. “Looks like we maybe ain’t as crazy as some of us thought.”

“How did you know?” Domina asked, her face going pale. “It’s so secret there’s probably not more than a few dozen who know.”

“The Agreement,” Mal hazarded, and was rewarded by the woman nodding.

“I thought no-one outside the Guild and the Elect knew about it.”

“Probably not.” Mal tried to bluff a little more, a skill he was very practiced at using. “Details are a little vague though. What’s the exact wording?”

“Only that the Guild would remain untouched during the war in exchange for any information that might be learned by the Companions involved.” She peered at him, somewhat confused. “How did Sheydra find out? She wasn’t one of them.”

Mal stood and went to stand by Zoe. “Sheydra had plans of her own,” he said quietly, then looked at his first mate, who nodded slowly.

“Do you want it?” Domina asked.

Mal’s head whipped round. “You’ve got it?”

“Everyone who signed kept a copy. And the Guild, of course.” She looked at Inara. “If I give it to you, will you let me keep Colm?”

“You want to bribe me?” Inara looked shocked.

“I love him, Inara,” Domina said, pleading in her voice. “Please.”

They were interrupted by the door bursting open.

“Momma, momma, look what Hank made me!” Colm said excitedly, rushing into the room, holding up one of the little planes.

“Hey, that’s mighty fine,” Mal said, smiling and going down onto his heels. “What kind is it?”

“A Firefly!” Colm said, zooming it around his head.

“Shiny. Didn‘t know my pilot had a talent for this kinda thing.”

“He said he’d teach me to fly if I wanted.” He stopped and gazed up at his mother. “Can I? Can I learn to be a pilot like Hank?”

Domina caught her breath. “I don’t know, sweetheart. It’s not … I don’t know.” She collapsed onto the settee.

“Momma?” Colm was immediately concerned, going to stand by her and putting his small hand on her shoulder. “Momma?”

Inara looked down at him, at Mal, whose face had softened as the boy spoke to him. Then she looked at Domina. “Show it to us,” she said finally.

to be continued


Sunday, March 25, 2007 12:15 AM


Oh, poor Inara - but she had to know she couldn't take her son from the only family he's ever known.

And River ... oh, things are going to get much, much worse, aren't they? Can't wait for the next bit!

Sunday, March 25, 2007 2:37 AM


So much in this part pulling the emotions every which-way. This has to be approached with baby steps not giant strides. Every single person involved needs to act from the point of view of what is best for Colm rather than treating the child like a piece of property then squabbling over the ownership of him. I know because it happened to me. Handled properly the boy will end up with two families and be enriched by both. Handled as a tug of war and everybody loses, Colm most of all. Ali D
You can't take the sky from me

Sunday, March 25, 2007 10:14 AM


Really wondering where this is going to end up - hopefully more on the fluff side than the angst for the sake of everyone's continued sanity.

Sunday, March 25, 2007 5:48 PM


Oh...things have gotten all kinds of awkward, I must say. Inara is a step short of fighting mad, Domina is pretty much ready to kill anyone who flinches wrong to keep Colm, and the Guild is not looking all that shiny right now with the revelation they were spies during the War.

Also gotta wonder how Colm is gonna take finding out that Domina's not his birth mother? Cuz it's gonna come out and cause even more problems...just hope the right steps are taken once that happens.



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