Nightingale - Part III
Thursday, April 19, 2007

Maya. Post-BDM. Mal brings up a sensitive subject ... It's okay, we're getting back to Jayne and River, but this is just a little side-step ... Please feedback/rate, as it lets me know you've read and enjoyed - or not!


Mal looked around his crew, his family, all sitting at the table for possibly the last time, and he couldn’t help but sigh. Then he saw Freya glance at him, a knowing look in her eye, and he had to smile. Damn, but it was awkward sometimes being married to a psychic. Thoughts weren’t even your own. She looked a little tired, though, drawn. He leaned in close to her. “You okay?”

“Fine,” she said, putting her hand on his.

“Only I don’t want you overdoing it.”

“Okay,” she agreed. “No sex tonight.”

“That wasn’t quite what I meant.”

She grinned at him. “I'm shiny, Mal. Honestly.”

“Just you stay that way.”

“With you to look after me, how can I not?” She leaned forward and touched her lips to his, just gently, before turning again to the others, her gaze lingering on his as she did so.

He listened to the conversation flowing backwards and forwards, talk of the slight groin strain Simon had managed to incur – and the fact that Kaylee would probably be dealing with that later – moving into the only other injury for the day being Jayne’s frighteningly red neck.

“I got delicate skin,” the big man was saying. “Runs in the family.”

“When’re we gonna meet this family of yours?” Hank asked. “Only we keep hearing about them, but don’t see ‘em. Personally I think you were grown in some lab, the result of some horrible genetic experiment that went wrong.”

“If I wasn't already incapacitated, I’d show you how horrible I can be,” Jayne promised.

“And I’d hold his coat,” River chimed in.

“Hey, I thought we were friends!” Hank exclaimed, looking hurt.

“You have been replaced in my affections,” River stated.

“I am wounded. Wounded, I tell you.” He grasped his chest above his heart. “Mortally, at that,” he added. “I shall have to resort to my fallback position.” He looked at Zoe. “Hi, honey.”

Zoe glared at River. “Please don’t wind him up. It’ll take me hours to calm him down now.”

River’s laughter echoed through the dining area, and everyone felt happy.

“What’s so funny?” Simon asked, limping back after putting Bethany to bed.

Kaylee patted his leg. “I’ll tell you later.”

“Was it at Jayne’s expense?”

“Not really.”

Simon sat down, glaring at the mercenary. “Pity.”

Jayne grinned at him, then winced. “You know, doc, I think you were right. I'm gonna need to have something off you for this sunburn.”

“Why did you sit out that long?” Inara asked. “Sure you could tell the sun was strong.”

“I was having fun.”

“Watching the rest of us work,” Hank put in.

Jayne nodded happily. “Best time I’ve spent in a while. Made this worth it.”

“I could cook off your neck, it’s so hot,” Kaylee said, shaking her head. “I can almost feel it from here.”

“Like I said, I got delicate skin.”

Seeing Simon about to leap in with some misguided and possibly slanderous comment, Mal got there first. “Anyway,” he said loudly. “Glad you’re all here, ‘cause I got something we need to talk about.”

“If it’s me and River –“ Jayne began, but Mal held up a hand.

“Funnily enough, no.” He looked at Kaylee, and his gaze softened. “Bethany.”

“What about her?” Simon asked, picking up his glass to take a drink.

“She’s a reader.”

The water sprayed across the table. “What did you say?” Simon stared at him, ignoring the liquid soaking into his shirt and pants.

Kaylee quickly mopped up the spillage on the wood. “Oh,” she whispered.

“She’s a reader,” Mal repeated. “Just found out today. And we’ve got to figure out what to do about it.” He looked at every face around the table, trying to figure out just who knew, and realised only the doc really had no inkling. “I take it you didn’t know,” he added gently, his gaze alighting back on Simon.

“My daughter is not a reader,” the young man said, glancing quickly at River then away again.

“Saying it ain't so doesn’t make it that way,” Mal said. “Had me a talk with the young lady today. She admitted she hears people when they ain't talking.”

“She’s imagining things,” Simon insisted. “It’s a game, just one of her made-up games.” Suddenly his mother’s voice came back to him, when he was trying to make them realise his sister was in trouble … one of her silly games … you two are always playing … and he pushed the memory away. “She’s not a reader.” He looked at Kaylee for assurance, for some back-up, but his wife had an aspect of misery on her face. “Kaylee?”

She swallowed. “I … I think the Cap’s right, Simon. Things she’s said, for a while now … I think he’s right.” She couldn’t look him in the face.

“Kaylee, no …”

“I’m sorry.”

“Why didn’t you say something?” he asked, reaching out and taking her hand. “Why didn’t you tell me what you thought?”

“’Cause I was afraid!” Now she raised her head, twin spots of red centred on tear-stained cheeks. “’Fraid of what’d happen if anyone found out!”

“You think we’d turn her in?” Hank asked, softly, his own hand gripping Zoe’s. “Kaylee, you know that ain't never gonna happen.”

“But she’s just a baby!” Kaylee wailed. “I don’t want anything to happen to my baby!”

Mal watched as Simon gathered his wife into his arms, holding her tightly as she cried on his shoulder, letting out all the worry she’d carried, unknown to them all, for a long time. “Well, that’s kinda why I think we need to talk about it,” he said gently. “Figure out the best way to handle this.”

This is my daughter we’re talking about,” Simon said harshly. “Not some trade that needs to be done.”

“Not saying it is, doctor.” Mal wasn't going to let the young man rile him. “Just wondering what’s the best way to help Bethie.”

“I still can’t believe –”

“The captain’s right,” River put in, gazing at her brother. “She’s a reader.”

“But …” Simon couldn’t get his head around it. “But it was the Academy who … they made you –”

“Didn’t make me, Simon,” his sister said. “Just changed what was already there.”

Freya stirred. “If you don’t believe River, believe me. It’s true.”

Simon looked stunned. “Did … did you all know?” He stared at them each in turn. “All of you?”

“Um …” Hank began to say, but Zoe squeezed his hand.

“I don’t believe this.” The young doctor stood up, needing to pace. “Something like this, as important as this, and no-one bothers to tell me. Me … her father!” Anger was boiling inside him now.

“Simon, suspecting and having proof are two different things,” Inara said soothingly.

He turned on the ex-Companion. “And that gives you the right to –”

“Simon …” Freya spoke softly, looking towards the doorway that led to the engine room. And the stairs to the lower crew quarters. Bethany was standing there in her little nightie, her Ethan doll clutched in her arms.

“Daddy?” she whispered uncertainly, then ran to him.

He swept her into his arms, holding her tight, burying his face in her long brown hair. “It’s okay, honey,” he said quietly. “It’s okay. I’m here.” He looked across at Kaylee, who was on her feet in a moment, her arms around both of them. “We’re both here. We’ll look after you.”

“I didn’t mean to make everyone cross,” she said softly, tears running down her face. “I won’t peek any more. I promise.”

“A pie-crust promise,” River murmured, but everyone heard.

Simon glared at her, but Freya nodded. “It’s true. Bethie needs to be taught control. How to tune things out. How not to … to peek.”

“My God, she’s two years old,” he said, wanting to wail and gnash his teeth. “How can we put her through this?”

“Two years or twenty, it’s gotta be done,” Mal said. “And we ain’t the Academy. We’re not going to hurt her, Simon. Just protect her.”

The young man stared with unshed tears into his wife’s face, then nodded, turning to his sister. “River, would you –”

“No!” Freya said sharply, then added quickly as everyone looked at her, “I’ll do it.”

“Would you?” Kaylee asked, wiping at her eyes. “I didn’t want to ask, but …”

Freya nodded. “Of course I will. It’ll be fun. Won’t it, Bethie?” She smiled at the little girl.

“Will we play games?” Bethany asked.


She sniffed. “Then I’d like that.” She wiped her nose on the back of her hand.

“Don’t you have a hankie?” Simon asked.

“Daddy, I don’t have a pocket,” she pointed out, sounding a lot older than two.

“That’s true. So tomorrow your mother is going to sew a pocket in each of your nighties,” Simon said firmly.

Kaylee laughed, just a little, and some of the tension dissolved. “You can help,” she said, stroking her daughter’s cheek.

“After we go swimming?”

“All right. After.”

Bethany smiled brilliantly. “I like learning new things,” she said, then yawned, remembering halfway through to cover her mouth with her hand.

“That’s better,” her father said, his own lips curving. “Well, I think we’d better get you back to bed, before you fall asleep up here.”

“I don’t mind. Not sleepy,” Bethany insisted, then yawned again, much bigger this time.

“Go on, squirt,” Jayne said. “Sooner you get to sleep, sooner it’s time to go play.”

She nodded. “G’night, Uncle Jayne,” she said, laying her head on her father’s shoulder.

“G’night, squirt.”

Simon carried his daughter out of the room, Kaylee following at his heels.

Mal looked at Freya. “You think you can do this?”

“I think so. Mal, if she can learn to control it now, it will become second nature to her.”

“But what about the others?” Hank asked. “The ones who …”

“Hands of Blue,” River intoned.

“While she’s on board she’s safe,” Freya said.

“And when she ain’t?”

“We’ll look after her,” Mal put in. “Like we always do.”

“And when she’s older?” Zoe spoke for them all. “When she wants to look after herself?”

Freya sighed. “Then we just have to hope by then she’ll have learned not to say anything to anyone.”

“It’s a hell of a responsibility for a kid to have,” Hank said, shaking his head. “Worrying about every word giving her away.”

“We won’t let it.” Mal stood up. “It’s not her responsibility alone, nor even Simon and Kaylee’s. Bethie’s as much a part of this family as Ethan, and we’re gonna make sure she stays safe.”


Simon sat next to his daughter as she drifted off to sleep, hugging her doll to her. He gently moved a lock of brown hair from her forehead, then leaned over and kissed her on the cheek. Her nose wrinkled up, but she relaxed again. He stood up, turning to look at Kaylee in the doorway.

“I think we need to talk,” he said quietly.

She nodded, turning towards their room. He followed, sliding the door to behind him.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” he asked, trying to control the thudding of his heart.

She bit her lip. “There was so much going on … Frey, Jethro, that drug … I didn’t want to worry you.”

He crossed the room and took hold of her arms. “Kaylee, she’s my little girl as much as yours.”

“I know.”

“When … what made you think Bethany was psychic?” He could feel her trembling as if she was cold.

“Little things,” Kaylee admitted.

“Come on.” He manoeuvred her to the bed and made her sit down, joining her, touching along her thigh and body. “Like what?”

“When … when we buried Jethro. She said River had told her he was with Alice. But I know she didn’t go anywhere near your sis. And … and when Jayne got …” She couldn’t finish.

“When I shot Jayne,” he prompted. “It’s okay. I know what I did.”

“She asked if he was okay. And I hadn’t told her, not even mentioned it …” The trembling got worse. “And she’s so bright, asking questions all the time, wanting to learn, just like you said your sister was …”

He put his arm around her. “It’s okay.”

“No, it ain't.” She glared up at him. “Look what they did to River, did to Freya, just ‘cause they were different, had abilities others didn’t … I ain’t gonna have that happen to Bethany!”

Simon pulled her close. “It won’t. That’s what Mal was talking about, not letting it happen. Bao bei, every single person on this ship would give their life to stop anything like that ever touching our daughter. You know that.”

“But she’s so small …” She held tightly to him, so afraid for their little girl.

“Kaylee, I came for you. Didn’t I? Do you think I’m going to let anyone hurt Bethie?” He pushed her away enough so that he could look into her dark eyes. “Do you?”

She managed to shake her head. “No, Simon. I know you won’t. It’s just …” She buried her face in his chest again.

“I know. I know.” He sighed and dropped his chin to her hair.

to be continued


Thursday, April 19, 2007 1:33 AM


Another great installment and another nothch up on the angst meter.

Thursday, April 19, 2007 1:33 AM


Another great installment and another notch up on the angst meter.

Thursday, April 19, 2007 2:27 AM


Heart-warming to see Mal's crew/family close ranks around little Bethie!

Thursday, April 19, 2007 10:42 AM


Bethany being a Reader doesn't have to be a tragedy unless they turn it into one. At least on Serenity she has her parents and the crew, a great fiercesomely protective family around her. Plus Freya and River who know all about what she will be facing and going through. That's more than lots of kids in her position I'll wager. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Thursday, April 19, 2007 8:09 PM


I'm surprised that no one reacted when Freya insisted she teach Bethany control instead of River ... I would have thought someone would have a problem with it - namely, River.

But I really like this. I can understand why they're all nervous, but Simon's right - everyone on board would give their life to be sure nothing like the Blue Hands ever came near her ... she's got quite the barricade!

Saturday, April 21, 2007 5:41 PM


Hmm...definitely a lot to consider, this chapter is.

Like TamSibling, I am kinda surprised that River, at the very least, didn't object to Freya being the one to teach Bethany how not to peak. Or at least suggest she can help Bethany learn by participating in the sessions too. Also was kinda waiting for Jayne to jump in and defend River' teach her niece the basics at least.

Another thing I want to comment on is the set-up of this chapter. To me, it feels like Mal skipped the important step of talking with Simon and Kaylee FIRST before having a crew meeting about Bethany's abilities. Having the meeting right off struck me as the equivalent of dropping a big ole bomb without thinking of the causalities; the whole scene could have gone a lot rougher had Simon been more stubborn about denying his daughter's burgeoning powers. That and it's kind of rude.

However, do not think I hated this chapter, Jane0904. I am making the above criticisms because I think you are doing great work and deserve to have an honest response to what it is put forwards. I am sure that you had Mal call a crew meeting and announce the news of Bethany being a Reader for a reason that will get explored soon enough.



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[Maya. Post-BDM. A little standalone festive tale that kind of fits into where I am in the Maya timeline, but works outside too. Enjoy!]

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"I honestly don’t know if my pilot wants to go around with flowers and curlicues carved into his leg.”
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[Maya. Post-BDM. Hank's not out of the woods yet, and Mal has a conversation. Enjoy!]

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[Maya. Post-BDM. A seasonal one-off - enjoy!]

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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!]