Playing Parts - Part XIII (NEW CHAPTER)
Sunday, November 11, 2007

Maya. Post-BDM. Mal and Theo talk, as do Freya and Inara. As an aside, I'd like to ask how come I had only one comment on the last chapter (thanks, Katesfriend), but I'm kinda scared to, if it was that bad.


Act VI cont - The Black

Theo looked at Freya gratefully as she came down the steps from the bridge. “Thank you.”

“I’ve just made it possible for you to talk to him. Not what he’s going to say back.”

“I understand.” He glanced towards Mal, sitting in the pilot‘s chair. “I didn’t intend for it to be like this.”

“Well, you know what they say about intentions and the road to hell.” She put her hand briefly on his arm. “Good luck.” She walked away, back towards the cargo bay.

Theo took a deep breath and climbed the steps.

“Better take a seat,” Mal said, not turning.

“Thank you.” The large man lowered himself into the seat. He looked out of the window. “I’ve always loved the view in space,” he said conversationally. “Calming.”


“Although I imagine it isn’t having that effect on you at the moment.”

“Not particularly.”

“Can I explain this to you?”

Mal twisted the seat around. “I think you’d better.”

“Captain, I know you understand the logistics of keeping a vessel in the air. You have one ship and … how many, ten crew?”

“Eight. ‘Nara and Noni live elsewhere usually.”

“Eight. Plus your children. So a dozen. I have two ships and nearly thirty members I’m responsible for. And my ships are old - Troilus would give your Firefly a run on age, and Cressida is close behind. If I didn’t have Polka to keep at least one of them spaceworthy, I’d be out of business.”

“I know what you mean.”

“Your master mechanic Kaylee, yes. But even she can’t fix two ships at once.”

“Never asked her to, but I take your point.”

“It takes money. Cold, hard coin to keep flying.”

“I understand that.” Mal sat forward, his forearms on his knees. “But there has to be other ways of getting the cash, of making a living.”

“Of course there are. We could settle on a planet, build a place of our own, be land based. Cannibalise the ships, perhaps. But I’ve been a roving actor all my life. I’m not sure, especially at my age, I could put down roots.”

“Theo, this is all very sad, and believe me I do understand about the need to feel free, but Bose ain’t the answer.”

“It has to be. Mal, even with his money we’ll be hard pushed. I know I made it sound as if it would give us the time to take our ease and regroup, but it’s more a case of survival. Letting Pol have the parts she needs to get Troilus off the ground again. Repair our equipment. Repaint, get more costumes.” Theo sighed. “No matter what he is, it’s costing Bose to have us. The Hawkins Troupe still has a reputation, and I’m making him pay through the nose for the privilege.”

Mal sat back again. “You knew I wouldn’t like it. Soon as you found out I was an Independent. You knew there was a danger I‘d remember him.”

“Not all Browncoats were in the camps. But I’m not stupid.”

“No. Figure you’re not.”

“And you’re famous yourself, in your own circle. Serenity Valley might have been a decade ago, but people still talk about you.”

“Nothing to talk about. I was just a soldier. That’s all.”

“Hardly just anything, Mal.” He sighed. “I wish it could be different. And I understand if you just want to leave us and go. But I wish you’d stay. I … I would feel safer.”

“You think you can trust me?”

“Yes. I think you‘re an honourable man.”

They looked at each other for a long moment.

“I still ain’t happy over this,” Mal said finally.

“I know. And I promise to fall on my sword as soon as this is all over, Captain.”

“Make up your mind.”

Theo looked confused. “What?”

“Captain or Mal. ‘Cause you’ve called me both in the last few minutes, and I might just get a little confused if you don’t decide which it’s to be.”

“I think that’s up to you.”

Mal gazed at him a minute longer then exhaled slowly. “I’d rather you’d told me upfront, but I can see why you didn’t. It don’t mean I trust you, Theo. But I kinda like you, which goes a long way towards making up for it. And as Frey says, war‘s long done. All just folks now.” He hitched his thumbs into his suspenders. “So I’ll take you to Borodin. Even hang around while you play. Just don’t expect me to like it.”

“Thank you.”

“Now, you’d better get off my bridge, make sure things are going smooth.”

“Yes, Captain.” Theo got to his feet and went to leave.

“And it’s Mal.”

Theo smiled. “Yes, Mal.” He hurried down the steps as quickly as his frame would allow, giving Freya, standing in the doorway to the kitchen, a slight bow.

“Is everything okay?” Inara asked, from behind the counter.

“I think so.”

“Mal’s not going to put them out of the airlock?”

“Not this time.”

“You really have worked wonders with him.”

“Not me,” Freya muttered, heading towards the bridge. “He did that all by himself.”

He felt her coming. “Okay, I listened.”

She turned the chair to face her, looking into his blue eyes. “I’m proud of you.”

“Why? ‘Cause I’m gonna fulfil my contract with them?”

“Because you’re a decent man.” She leaned forward and kissed his lips lightly, feeling them open up to her.

“Yeah, well, I ain’t that decent. If I had put him off before time, I’d’ve had to give him a refund. And I need the fare.”

“That‘s not true.”

“You calling me a liar?” he asked, his eyebrows raising, pulling her into his lap.

“That depends. What are you planning to do about it if I am?”

“Oh, I’ll think of something,” he said, tugging her face back down to his.


After a somewhat uncomfortable evening meal, which finally relaxed after Kaylee donated some of her inter-engine finest, nearly everyone slept late the following morning. Even Mal, who claimed he’d never had a hangover in his life, was feeling a little fragile, so after feeding their daughter Freya popped Jesse into the bed with him and took Ethan to find some breakfast.

“Anything you fancy?” she asked as she made sure her son got to the top of the ladder safely. “Something nice and greasy?”

Mal grimaced. “We’re fine,” he said, cuddling his baby girl into his chest. “Just go away.”

Freya laughed softly, and started to climb, her heart warmed by the sight of the pair of them bonding.

By the time she reached the kitchen Ethan had already dragged a stool to the counter and climbed up.

“So what do you want for breakfast?” she asked, ruffling his dark hair as she went past.

He wrinkled in nose in thought. “Crackers,” he finally decided.

Smiling, Freya reached into a cupboard and took out a small bag. “Your Uncle Jayne is a bad influence on you,” she said, handing it over.

He grinned and ripped it open, crunching away happily.

Evidently someone else had the same idea, as Theo stepped down into the galley. “Freya, my dear. Good morning.”

“Morning.” She smiled and put the pot on to boil.

Crossing the room to stand by Ethan, he went on, “Your husband is a complicated man.”

“That he is.”

“I really thought he was going to kill me yesterday.”

“Mal had reason.”

“I’ve heard about the camps of course. Never really met anyone who admitted being in one, though.”

Freya looked at him. “Most folks try and forget.”

“At least you had each other.”


“Was it really so bad?”

“Theo, I like you. So believe me when I say I don’t intend to tell you what happened to us there. It’s none of your business, and if you push it you will get hurt.”

Their eyes locked for a moment, then Theo nodded. “I understand. And I’m sorry this has dragged everything up again for you.”

“It’s always there. We just don’t like the scabs broken open.”

“Of course.”

“Mama?” Ethan asked, his forehead creased as he stared from one to the other.

“It’s okay,” Freya said. “We were just talking.”

“Want Daddy?” He was ready to climb down and get his father.

“No, we’re fine.” She smiled warmly at him. “But thank you.”

“’Kay.” He thrust another protein cracker into his mouth.

“Can I have one of those?” Theo asked, anxious to repair any damage he’d caused.

Ethan held out the bag. “Course,” he said, spluttering crumbs a little as the actor carefully took a cracker.

Freya laughed and wiped them from his chest. “Don’t talk and eat,” she said.

“’Kay, Mama.”

Theo nibbled delicately on his, then said, “Freya, my dear, can I ask you a favour?”

“Depends on what it is.”

“I know I told your husband that I wouldn’t be needing the services of your crew as actors any more, but …”

Her eyes widened. “No.”

“Janith’s sick. She plays Helena, and since you know the lines, and River has so kindly agreed to play Hermia this one last time since Dana is incapacitated, I wondered if you wouldn’t find it in your heart to join her, and us, and I wouldn’t ask if I wasn’t desperate.” He got the words out as fast as possible in case she interrupted him.

“Theo, this isn’t fair.”

“I know. But the children are still going to be fairies, and … please?” He managed the puppy-dog eyes pretty well, Freya realised, particularly for a big man. Something to do with being an actor, no doubt.

“Theo -”

“It would make things so much easier. Please?”

She swallowed, thinking of all the reasons she didn’t want to, all the good, really valid reasons she … then he turned on the eyes even more. “I suppose -”

He leaned forward and kissed her on the cheek. “Thank you, my dear. You don’t know how happy you’ve made me.” He smiled widely and hurried out of the room before she could change her mind.

Freya stared after him.

“Mama?” Ethan asked. “Going to be a fairy?” He grinned. “I like being a fairy.”

She looked down at him. “I know you do, honey.”

“Going to tell Daddy.” He scrambled from the stool and walked back towards the bunks, leaving a trail of crumbs as he went.

“Good morning, Ethan,” Inara said, passing him in the doorway.

“Going to be a fairy,” he said solemnly.

“That’s good.” She smiled, then looked at Freya standing behind the counter. “Are you okay?”

“Oh, shiny.”

“Did you drink too much of Kaylee’s brew too?”

Freya sighed. “Maybe I did.”

“Then why don’t I make us some tea? You look as if you could do with a good sit down.”

“Thanks, ‘Nara.” She headed for the easy chairs.

“You know, I’m almost sorry we won’t be doing any more acting,” Inara said, chatting away as she got out the cups.

“Speak for yourself.” Freya grimaced.

“Really? You can’t tell me you weren’t enjoying it towards the end.”

“Oh, I can. And it’s not the end.”

“Not … what do you mean?”

“I think I’ve just agreed to perform Helena one last time. It seems like the actress who’s meant to play her is sick.”

Inara laughed a little. “That’s wonderful!”

“No it isn’t.”

“Yes, it is.”

“Then you play her.”

“No, it means he thinks you’re good.” She carried the tray across and put it onto the small table, settling elegantly into one of the other chairs.

“I don’t want to, Inara.”

“One last time. Then it’s over.” She began to pour. “What happened yesterday … Are you going to be okay being on Borodin? With Bose, I mean.”

Freya shrugged. Inara was the only one on board to know in any kind of detail what had happened to her on Santo, and she planned to keep it that way. Even Mal didn’t know. “I never met the man. He was just a name, someone we could all blame for the way things were.”

“Do you think he really did those things Mal said?”

“Corruption was rife, Inara. From the lowest level up. He probably made a packet out of us, and never even considered what it meant.”

“You’re very forgiving.”

“I have to be. Otherwise I’d be the one getting off Serenity to slit his throat.” She picked up her cup and took a sip. “Are you really sure it’s over between you and Sam?” she asked, attempting to change the subject.

“Do you see him here?”


“Then I think it’s pretty certain.”

“He cared about you.”


“I know he did. He said so.”

“Then it wasn’t enough.”

“’Nara, he was afraid.”

“Of what? Me?”

“No. And you know what it was. He was afraid of life out here. The way things are.”

“He didn’t give it a chance. He took one look at what happened on Jangyin and ran away.” Inara shook her head. “If he cared he’d have stayed.”

“And if he comes back?”

Inara’s head lifted. “You think he might?”

“Stranger things have happened. And I’ve got a family just along the corridor to prove it.”

“I … I don’t know.”

“That’s good.”

“What is?”

“That you’re at least not closing the door on him.”

“I think he rather did that himself.”

“Oh, Miss Serra.” Riley was standing in the doorway. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt.”

“Is it that time already?” Inara stood up.

Riley smiled. “It is.”

“Time?” Freya inquired.

“I’m teaching Riley some of the Core dances.”

“Another string to my bow,” Riley admitted. “Can’t have too many, not when you’re an actor.”

“I’ll meet you downstairs,” Inara said.

“Shiny.” He grinned and headed off.

“Inara …”


“He’s awful young.”

“I’m just teaching him how to dance, Freya.”


“To dance.”


“That’s all.”

“Of course.”

Inara glared at her friend. “You have a smutty mind,” she said, and swept out, Freya’s laughter ringing in her ears.

to be continued


Sunday, November 11, 2007 3:51 AM


Sorry, I don't usually have anything insightful to say so I stay quiet - but rest assured I'm enjoying each leg of the ride, and I can't wait 'til the devious plot is revealed!

Sunday, November 11, 2007 4:14 AM


Looks like you've got all sorts of loose ends to finish even before the other troop makes their appearance and brings their own loose ends. Loved Ethan's lines in this! Why do I get the impression that things are going to get a lot more interesting for their host when the play is presented?

Sunday, November 11, 2007 4:31 AM


Not liking the trip to Boros. Surely something bad is going to happen. It always does.

Sunday, November 11, 2007 7:45 AM


Very much enjoyed the talk between Mal and Theo. Well done, as usual!

Sunday, November 11, 2007 9:46 AM


Don't like Theo going behind Mal's back to wheedle one more performance out of a reluctant Freya. The man is a louse. Don't know quite what game he is playing but it sure isn't an honourable one. I keep thinking about how Patience said he was a spy, and now this meeting up with Bose? To play for him at his place? And then the conveniently needing Freya to step in again? I am worried for Frey, given your penchant for hurting her in fics and hope this time I am wrong. Think there are going to be all manner of sparks flying before this tale is done. Ali D
You can't take the sky from me


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