Playing Parts - Part XIX
Saturday, November 17, 2007

Maya. Post-BDM. Mal and Theo have a little chat, surprisingly near the airlock, and Noni comes up with a request. NEW CHAPTER


Act VIII - The Black

Hank manoeuvred Serenity into position, and the two ships docked with barely a bump.

“This is against medical advice,” Simon said, watching Mal put on his gunbelt and check his pistol was fully loaded.

“I understand that, doc. And I ain’t planning on going anywhere further than the cargo bay. But Theo and I have business, and I don’t intend to be at a disadvantage by lying down when we talk.”

“You’re better, but you’re not fully recovered. If you feel dizzy or disoriented -”

“I won’t be far.” Mal smiled at him. “Don’t you worry none.” He strode out of the infirmary.

“It’s my job to worry,” Simon muttered, then turned back to his other patient, sedated on the medbed.

Mal wasn’t surprised to see Zoe and Jayne in the cargo bay already, the former with her Mare’s Leg strapped to her thigh, the latter with enough weaponry about his person to start a small war.

“Is that grenades I can see?” he asked, nodding towards the mercenary’s chest.

“Never felt so naked as on Borodin, Mal,” Jayne explained. “Ain’t having that happen again.”

“They‘ll hear you comin‘ a mile away.”

“Better that than dead.”

Mal inclined his head a little in agreement, then looked at his first mate. “Open her up.”

“Yes sir.” She hauled the outer door open and stood back.

Theodore Hawkins stepped through, looking around the Firefly as he had done back on Ezra. “Captain.”


“Are you recovered? Hank informed me about the daring rescue, and your own brush with death.”

“I’m getting there.”

“And are you planning on shooting me?” He glanced at the revolver on Mal’s hip.

“That’s up to you. I’ve been told what happened, and pretty much why. Now I want to hear the rest.”

“Is there any more, Captain?”

“Oh yeah. Like … why Saffron? And how’s she involved in your plans?”

“Ah. The lovely Janith.”

“That’s her.”

“Honestly, she wasn’t part of this. As such. But I suppose I had planned to take advantage of the dear woman.”

“Take advantage? How?”

“It’s called misdirection, Captain. Your enemy looks one way, while you go another.”

“I know what it is. Just not sure how it applies here.”

“Captain … Mal …” He suddenly smiled. “I’ve lived my life lying to people. Only it’s been called acting. Pretending to be something I’m not, be it a king, a clown, a priest or a pauper. Do you think I can’t recognise it in someone else?”

“You knew Saffron was a con?”

“She was an excellent actress. And for me never to have heard of her, then … yes. I knew she was hiding something. And since she seemed to be equally interested in Tesler Bose …”



“And the truth is, when I found out Janith … Saffron … whoever she is … was sick, I was glad. I didn’t want to put her in any danger either, no matter how much easier it made what we had to do.”

“Which was what?”

“Information. Something that will be of use to the Independent movement.” Theo held up his hand. “And don’t insult my intelligence by claiming there is no such thing. You know there are groups, men and women looking to break the Alliance’s hold over the outer planets. In fact, I’m surprised you’re not a part of one yourself. Perhaps even leading one.”

Mal shook his head. “War’s done. We lost. And fighting all those years didn’t do a damn thing to make it better.”

“No. But Miranda did.” He saw Mal tense. “I’m only mentioning this so that you understand, so that you believe me. I know about you and what you did. The Miranda Broadwave. And others who are sympathetic to the cause know too.”

“The Alliance is too big. Too strong.” Mal glanced at Zoe, at her seeming impassiveness. “And they’re more ready than they were before.”

“That’s so. But that merely means we need to get the advantage.”


“The people I did this for.”

“You made it sound more personal than that.”

“I’m an actor, Mal. That’s all. But actors go where sometimes other people can’t. We can get into places, see things -”

“Steal them?”


“So what was this information?”

Theo shrugged. “I don’t know. And I don’t want to. Mikel copied a data disc, that’s all. Which, by the way, is on its way already. And you‘ll understand if I don’t tell you how.”

“So that’s it?”

“That’s it.”

“You going to be carrying on with this spying?”

“No, Captain, you can rest assured this was my last venture into that realm.” Theo shook his head. “I’m too old for this game anymore. I want to go back to being an actor, entertaining people, making them laugh or cry, but leaving them alive at the end of the performance.”

“Sounds like maybe sometimes you didn’t.”

“It was a war, Mal. People do things they would be ashamed of otherwise.”

“That they do.”

Theo stood upright and held out his hand. “Well, I suppose it’s time we said goodbye.”

Mal ignored it. “Nope. Not yet. We’ve still got something that belongs to you.”

“I don’t think so. We packed up all our goods before the performance, and they’re on Cressida. Even the scenery -”


“She isn’t mine, Captain.”

“Well, she sure as hell ain’t mine. And I ain’t having her on my ship. So you’re going to take her wherever you want, soon as my medic says she can leave.”

“Captain … Mal -”

“There’s no negotiations over this. She’s leaving, and if you don’t take her she’s going for a long walk without a spacesuit.”

“Now, I know you don’t mean that.” Theo smiled, his chin disappearing into his neck. “You are nowhere near the barbarian you choose to pretend to be.”


“No. But I’ll take her.”

“Just don’t let her seduce anyone.”

“Oh, I think she already did that. Mikel was quite enamoured of her.”

“Sorry to hear it.”

“He’ll get over her. And perhaps he’ll see the torch Polka’s been carrying for him now.”

Mal’s lips twitched. “Unrequited love?”


“Had experience of that kinda thing on my own boat. Very Shakespearian.”

“As you say.” Theo chuckled. “So how long until we can transfer Saffron?”

“A day, according to my medic. He just wants to make sure there’s no complications.”

“A day. I think we can live with that.”

Mal suppressed a shudder as he recalled the freezing water closing over his head. “I’m just glad we’re alive at all.”


“Uncle Mal, I want to stay.”

Mal looked up in surprise at Noni standing in the galley doorway as he poured himself a cup of coffee. “Stay?”

“With the Hawkins troupe. I …” She exhaled heavily and crossed the room to stand in front of him. “I feel at home with them. Like I belong.”

“And you don’t belong here? On Serenity?”

“I do. But I won’t be staying here, will I?” Her eyes were very sharp. “I’ll be getting off on Lazarus with Inara, and going back to being just another one of the Reilly girls. Won’t I?”

“Well, that is the plan.”

“I don’t want to. I know I’m only young, and you won’t want me to, but … I can do this. Play parts. Act. I’ve proved that, and I really enjoyed it.”

“Noni, come and sit down.”

“But -”

“Sit.” He led the way to the easy chairs and waited until she’d arranged her skirts in the way Inara had taught her before speaking again. “You really want to stay with Theo?”

She nodded. “He’s … I really like him. And his wife. And I could be useful, I could learn to make costumes, and play little parts until I got the experience and then I could -”

He held up his hand. “Have you spoken to Theo about this?”

“No. Well, not in so many words.”

“Just how many words have you used?”

“He said I’d make a good actress. Be an asset to any troupe.”

“But he didn’t invite you to work with them.”

“Well …”


“No, but -”

“What if he doesn’t?” Mal asked. “What if he was being nice and polite, and he didn’t mean he’d got a job for you?”

“There’s an opening because Saffron’s gone.”

Mal tried to hide the smile that twitched at his lips. “There is that. But he might be wanting someone who could step into her shoes, not sweep the stage.”

“Uncle Mal …” She turned the eyes up to full. “Could you talk to Mr Hawkins? See if he might consider taking me on?”

“Noni, if you really want to act, then that’s shiny. Person should always do what they feel is right. But there are other troupes, other playhouses. Maybe Inara can find one closer to Lazarus that could -”

“I want to go with Mr Hawkins!”

“I know you do. But I … there are things about him that I don’t trust, Noni.”

“Because he’s a spy?”

“Well, maybe, but -”

“He said he wasn’t going to do that any more. And you can’t have any objection to him because he’s a crook. Reilly wasn’t exactly law-abiding, and I know you don’t …” Her voice trailed off at his raised eyebrow. “Sorry, Uncle Mal.”

“Noni, whatever I do, or what your father did, is nothing like with this. Theo … his sideline … well, it can be dangerous.”

“More dangerous than getting kidnapped by a man who wanted to hurt me?”

Mal stared at her, then took a mental step backwards. She might be young in years, but with the things she’d been through there was a maturity that had been forced on her, and it pained him to see the changes it had wrought. “This what you really want to do, Noni?”

“It really is. I know it’s hard work, seen it, but … I can do this, Uncle Mal. And I could write often, let you know where I am, and you wouldn’t need to worry about paying anything to look after me, because there’s the money from Reilly’s estate so I could use that, and if I -”

“Noni, calm down.” He watched her take a deep breath.

“Calming down,” she agreed.

“You’d have to give me a copy of your itinerary. And any changes, soon as they’re made.”

She nodded vigorously. “I can do that.”

“And call Inara or me every week. Don’t want it to be months between knowing if you’re alive or lying dead in a ditch somewhere.”

“Every week.”

“And you’d have to do what Theo Hawkins told you. Bearing in mind that it was legal, that is.”

“I would.”

“Then I’ll talk to him. Noni, you need to realise there ain’t no guarantee on this.”

“I know.” She was vibrating with excitement. “Thank you, Uncle Mal.”

“Well, better wait on that until after I’ve spoken to him.”


Freya stood in the doorway of the infirmary, watching Saffron. Simon still had her sedated, mainly for their own protection, but it kept her quiet. Besides, the young doctor really didn’t want to have to start explaining about the last time they’d met, at the party held by Killian Ornstein. He still blushed when he thought about what went on there.

“She’s going to be fine,” Mal said, standing behind her.

“So I gather. And she should be thankful you saved her life.”

He put his arm around her waist. “Somehow I don’t think she’s going to remember it that way.”

There was a pause as she leaned back against him. “You know she’s more than half in love with you.”

“With me?” His voice went squeaky for a moment, and he coughed. “With me?”

“With you. And if you let her go I somehow doubt it’s going to be the last we see of her.”

Mal smiled. “Makes life all kinds of interesting, doesn’t it?”

“That sort of interesting I think I can do without.”

“What, kinda like having to pull me out of the sea, like some kind of exotic fish?”

She turned and looked into his blue eyes, full of love for her. “When are we going to have things easy? Just a nice, simple job that goes smooth?”

He laughed a little. “One day. And won’t that be boring.”

“Can’t wait.” She snuggled closer. “So what did Theo say?”

“About …”

“Noni wanting to be an actress.”

He glared at her with as much severity as he could muster. “You been peeking again?”

She stuck her chin out. “Yes.”

“Where’s that control?”

“Lost it. Back in the cold waters of Borodin.”

“Is it likely to come back?”

“Possibly. And you haven’t answered my question.”

“Can’t you see it?”

“Just tell me.”

Mal sighed, holding her close. “I can’t say I’m happy about this, Frey. The man could talk anyone into anything, and the idea of leaving her with him -”

“He’s telling the truth, Mal. He really doesn’t know what it was he stole, but he truly believes it was for the greater good.” She looked up. “And he means it when he says he won’t be going back to that life. He wants to act, that’s it. And so does Hermione.”

“So you think I should let her go?”

“I think in a few years time she’ll leave Lazarus anyway and try and make her living on the stage, and at least this way you know where she is, and who she’s with. And Theo and Etta will look after her.”

“You can be sure of that?”

“I can. Etta already looks on her a little like the daughter she lost.” She felt his arms tighten around her, and was glad of it. “She won’t let anything happen to her.”

“You know Theo said yes.”

“Well, I might have …” She smiled. “Yes, I knew.”

“And I’m going to have to let her go.”

“You are.”

“Will you tell Inara for me?”

She wriggled free. “Oh, no. That I’m going to leave to you.” She touched his face tenderly. “That’s why you’re captain.”

to be concluded


Saturday, November 17, 2007 4:51 PM


Loved this but I think Theo got off very lightly considering all the trouble and danger he brought to Serenity and her crew. Like Mal it is worrisome thinking of Noni going with Theo but a comfort that Frey is able to reassure him that she will be okay. As for making Theo take Saffron with him that made me smile. A nice mild bit of revenge methinks. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Saturday, November 17, 2007 5:57 PM


Loved the last line, that Mal gets to be in charge for all the unsavory parts. Love your solution to the Saffron problem, and glad Noni doesn't have to go where she's unhappy. Your Mal/Freya snarking was fun!

Saturday, November 17, 2007 7:27 PM


As always, a pleasure to read. Perhaps Noni will not feel like such an outsider among the troupe! Nice way of wrapping some things up! :D


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