Playing Parts - Part XX
Sunday, November 18, 2007

Maya. Post-BDM. Things return to normal on Serenity, and River ponders the nature of reality. NEW CHAPTER


Act IX - Finale

“I almost hate to pull Polka away from here,” Theo said. “Her and Kaylee seem to have hit it off.”

“That girl’ll talk for hours about engines to anyone who shows even the slightest amount of interest,” Mal agreed, his thumbs tucked into his gunbelt as he stood in the centre of the cargo bay. “So to find someone who actually understands … she thinks it’s Christmas all over again.”

“I’m not sure I like this idea,” Saffron said from behind him.

Mal turned, seeing her being helped through from the common area by Jayne, who‘d been landed with the job after Simon explained he was keeping out of her way, and Hank refused point blank.

“You should be grateful the Cap ain’t just dumping you back down on Borodin,” the mercenary said. “But he’s got a sentimental streak comes out once in a while, and he wouldn’t let me shoot ya. This time.”

She stuck her tongue out at him, then looked at Mal. “Are you sure I can’t come with you? I’m sure there’s a lot we could talk about.”

“Saffron, you noticed how Freya ain’t come to see you? She’s itching to let you know exactly what she thinks of you, and if you stayed on board, I can’t be held responsible for what she might do. So best you leave.” He smiled, but there was little warmth in it.

“You don’t know what you’re missing, sweetie.”

“Oh, I have a good idea. Bye bye, now.”

“We’re always saying goodbye.” She sighed heavily as Jayne handed her over to Etta, who took her through the airlock into Cressida. “Life isn’t fair,” her voice echoed back.

“Any idea what you’re gonna do with her?” Mal asked curiously.

“Well, we’re heading for Boros. I’m sure she can find a transport or work as necessary there.”

“I’d frisk her before you let her get off, though, if you want to take my advice. And keep one hand on your wallet at all times.”

“Oh, I will. And is my young star ready?” Theo asked, trying to keep the grin off his face.

“Coming,” Noni called, dragging her carpet bag over the sill of the common area door. “I was afraid you’d go without me.”

“Of course not, my dear. I think you’re going to breathe new life into this tired old crew.”

She beamed. “I’m so looking forward to it,” she admitted, glowing like a little light bulb.

Theo turned to Mal. “I’ll look after her, Captain. Like she was my own. Better. And I don’t doubt that, in a few years time, she’ll be the star of the Cortex.”

“Just see that you keep her out of trouble, is all I’m asking.”

“Trouble, Captain Reynolds? I don’t know what you mean.”

“Sure you don’t.” They both laughed, but Mal stopped first. “Just see to it she don’t come to any harm. ‘Cause if‘n I hear you‘ve slipped back into your old ways, I‘ll be coming after you myself.”

“I won’t.” Theo looked down at the young girl. “Ready?”


“Said your farewells?” Mal asked.

She nodded. “Bethie’s going to write to me, so’s Freya. And Inara. And … everyone.”

“I thought they’d all be out here, saying goodbye.”

“I asked them not to,” Noni explained. “I don’t think I could …”

“No. I understand.” He pulled her into a hug. “I’ll miss you, Noni.”

“Miss you too, Uncle Mal.” She held him tightly, then let go quite suddenly, her face red. “But it’s going to be exciting.”

“Come on, then, Miss Reilly,” Theo said. “We’ve got curtains to raise.”

“Not Reilly,” she said firmly. “I decided. I want a stage name.”

“Oh?” Theo and Mal glanced at each other. “And what would that be?”

“Noni Reynolds.” She looked at Mal. “If that’s all right?”

Mal felt his heart grow just a little fuller. “I’d be honoured, Noni.”

She grinned, then skipped as she hurried out of the cargo bay.

Jayne watched her go. “Ain’t gonna feel the same with her gone,” he muttered, climbing the stairs towards his shuttle.

“He’s right,” Mal said. “It’s going to be mighty quiet around here.”

“I promise I will take care of her, Captain.” Theo held out his hand, and this time they shook.

“You see you do. And it’s Mal.”

“Mal.” Theo grinned and stepped back through the airlock. “Until the next time, Mal.”

“Next time.”

Cressida’s hatch closed, and Mal did the same for Serenity’s. Pressing the button to close the inner doors, he thumbed the com. “Hank, time to leave.”

“Sure enough, Mal. Heading to Lazarus?”


“On our way.”

Mal felt the Firefly disengage, and started to walk slowly up the stairs.


Freya sat with Inara in the latter’s room, sharing a pot of Earl Grey, as Serenity got under way.

“It will be difficult without her,” Inara said, sipping her tea carefully. “She was the one most like me.”

“Like you?” Freya was surprised.

“Before I became a Companion. Seeing the ‘verse like she does, all hopeful.”

“Even after Han?”

“Even then. Of course, mostly that was Sam’s doing, but …”

“You miss him too, don’t you?”

“I …” Inara sighed, and decided to tell the truth instead of the easy lie. “I miss him terribly.”

“And yet you were spending a lot of time with Riley.”

“He was far too young.” Inara placed her cup in the centre of her saucer.

“Do you think River’s too young for Jayne?”

“No, but -”

“And Riley was only a few years younger than you, a lot less than River and Jayne.”

“I know, but -”

“And you were getting on so nicely -”

“Freya, stop!” The tea cup rattled.

“Sorry.” She didn’t look or sound it, though.

“Riley was a nice boy. And that’s all he is. A boy. I need a man. I want a man. Someone with a little more experience of life. Of relationships.”

“Riley might have fought for you, given half a chance. Not just walked out because of a disagreement.”

“That’s because he’s an actor, and they know all about the grand gesture. Sam didn’t walk out because of that. There were other things.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“Believe what you like.” She picked up her cup, warming her suddenly cold hands.

“Well, in a few days you’ll be back home, in your lonely bed, with no-one to warm it for you.”

“Dammit, Freya!” This time the cup didn’t just rattle, it almost broke as she slammed it back onto the saucer.

“Just saying.”

“Well, don’t.”

“You could always wave Sam. See how he is.”

“I’m sure he’s fine. And he hasn’t waved me.”

“Tit for tat?”


“How old are you, Inara?”

“Oh, shut up.”


Hank stepped onto the bridge, just intending to check things once more before turning in, and was surprised to see Mal in the pilot’s seat. The Cortex screen seemed to be on.

“Thank you, Captain.”

“Just repaying a debt.” He leaned forward and switched the screen off.

“Mal? What’s going on?” Hank asked.

“Not a thing.”

“Wasn‘t that -”

“Nothing for you to be worrying about,” Mal said, walking off the bridge. “Nothing at all. G’night.”

“Um, night.“ Hank stared after him, slightly phased by the smile on his captain’s face, then shook his head. Swiftly he checked the various readings, gave their heading a quick once over, then turned all ship’s systems to night mode. The lights on the bridge dimmed even more, and the temperature began to drop by a couple of degrees as he hurried back down the stairs to his own bunk.

“Zoe?” he called as he climbed down the ladder, then stopped halfway. His fiancée was standing half-naked in the centre of the room, letting her hair out of its restraints, and the sight of her glowing flesh almost unmanned him.

“Mmn?” she murmured, turning more towards him.

Get a grip, he told himself. She’s yours. No need to act like a schoolboy.

She smiled at him, almost as if she’d read his mind.

“Uh … Ben down for the night?”

“He is. Fast asleep.” She shook her head, running her fingers though her locks.

“Good. Good.” He continued down the last few rungs, unable to take his eyes off her. “Good,” he repeated.

“You sound like a stuck music file.” She laughed and sat down on the bed, tugging her boots off.

“Sorry.” He grinned, deciding honesty was by far the best policy. “It’s just what you do to me, seeing you all bare-breasted like that. Kinda puts me off my stride.”

She reached for her robe. “If you want I can cover up -”

“No!” he said quickly, putting out his hands. “I mean, no, that’s not necessary.”


He attempted to regain control of his wayward senses by pulling his shirt off over his head, and dropping it onto the chair by the bed. “You know, I’d swear Mal was just talking to Durren Haymer.”


He turned and stared at her. “You don’t sound surprised,” he said accusingly.

“I’m not. Mal’s always had a problem with owing anyone, and ever since Bellerophon he’s felt like he’s owed Haymer for the information that got us into Han’s estate.” She stood up and removed her pants. “I think he just took the opportunity to repay the kindness.”

“By telling him where Saffron is?”

Zoe laughed again. “Haymer asked Mal to let him know if he came across her again.”

“That’s cruel.”

“Who to?”

“Haymer.” Hank shook his head. “Man should know better than to want that cold-hearted zhu tu. He must be fa feng.”

“He thinks he’s li zhi qi zhuang.”

“Saffron ain’t no just cause. Nope, I was right the first time.” He sat down on the bed, and she joined him, her dark skin pressed against him.

“Up to him, don’t you think? He’s in love, and people do crazy things when they’re in love.”

“I guess maybe they do.” He leaned over and kissed her gently. “So, you sure Ben’s not going to wake up?”

“Can’t promise anything,” Zoe said, wrapping her arms around him. “Depends on how noisy we are.”

“Oh, I was planning on screaming.”

“So what else is new?” she asked, and stopped his indignant next words with her own lips.


“I’m glad they’ve gone,” Kaylee said, falling into bed.

“Really?” Simon said, stripping his sweater from his back. “I thought you were having a good time.”

“Oh, I was. Don’t get me wrong. It’s just … I’m beginning to hear those lines in my sleep.” She lifted her head to look at her now naked husband. “If I start to come out with thou or doth or start talking about fairies, you dope me, dong mah?”

He laughed. “Okay.” He glanced towards the door. “How’s Bethany? With Noni going.”

“She’s okay.” Kaylee shrugged. “Well, I guess she’s gonna be a mite miserable for a day or two, but we were going to leave Noni on Lazarus anyway, and she knows how much the girl wanted this.”

“I’m glad some good came out of this little adventure.”

“So are you going to get into bed, or just stand there looking like a statue?”

He raised his eyebrows. “You think I look like a statue?” He looked down at his physique.

“A Greek god or something.” She considered. “Or maybe one of the heroes in those Shakespeare plays.”

“I thought I was supposed to dope you if you started talking about them?”

She grinned. “Oh, yeah, that’s right.”

“So I can’t start quoting sonnets to you to make you more … pliable.”


“Poetry,” he said, lifting the sheet and sliding in next to her, feeling her warm body along the length of him. “Fourteen lines, where the rhyme pattern is AC, BD, until the last couplet -”

She pulled him closer and stopped his mouth with a kiss.


“Where’s Ethan?” Mal asked, getting into bed next to his wife.

“In with Bethie. She asked.” Freya yawned and stretched, putting him in mind of nothing less than a cat. A long, lithe, naked cat. “I think she’s missing Noni.”

”You know, we’re gonna have to put a stop to that someday,” he pointed out. “Them sleeping together. Unwed and such. Could ruin our reputation.”

“Our reputation?”

“Yeah. For being law-abiding and moral.”

She laughed. “Oh, that reputation.” She put her hand on his naked chest, feeling the hairs under her fingertips and his pulse under her palm. “So how did he take it?”

“How did who take what?”

“Durren Haymer. About Saffron.”

He lifted himself up onto his elbow. “Now I’m pretty sure I didn’t tell you. Least, not in words.”

“I’ll be good from tomorrow,” she said. “I promise.”

“A likely story.”


He narrowed his eyes a little at her, then said, “He thanked me. Actually looked … hopeful.”

“What do you suppose he’s going to do?”

“Well, he might just get to Boros ‘bout the same time as Cressida does, so …” Mal suddenly grinned. “Almost makes you want to be there to see the fireworks, doesn’t it?”

“You’re vicious.”

“Takes one to know one”

She widened her eyes and looked at him in shocked astonishment. “You say that to me, your dearly beloved wife?”

“You know I don‘t mean it, ai ren.” He kissed her lips tenderly. “Although I did have an offer to trade you in on a different model,” he added.


“The very same.”

“You always did have this thing for redheads,” Freya said, leaning back on the pillow.

“No, what I've always had a thing for were brunettes. Redheads just seemed to be more fun.”

She hit him.


“What’re you reading?”

River didn’t look up from the large book. “Shakespeare. Theo gave it to me, said it seemed most appropriate. As I was obviously a fairy.”

“D’you get pregnant fairies?” Jayne asked, coming down the stairs into the cargo bay.

“Have to. Otherwise where would the new ones come from?”

“Thought they were changelings.”

She looked up and smiled. “No. That’s my Jayne. Showing one thing and being another.”

“Nah. “ He sat down on the crate next to her. “What you see is what you get with me.”

“I love what I see. And get.”

He grinned. “Good.” Peering over her shoulder at the close-packed words, he went on, “So what’s got your attention?”

“He understood. Could see into the very nature of things. Pick at a thread until it unravelled and he could see the making of the world.” She paused.

“You’re waiting for me to say ‘huh’, ain’t you?”

“Then say it.”

He nudged her gently in the ribs. “Huh?”

“This man, born nearly a thousand years ago, speaks on the nature of reality. What is real? Are we real? That because we think and talk and touch and taste that we actually exist, and aren’t the fevered imaginings of a deranged mind?”

“You saying I ain’t real?” He put his arm around her waist. “Don’t this feel real?”

“But maybe it does only because someone has said it does. That your hand, wandering towards my breast, is only doing so because someone has written it.”

His fingers stopped. “You mean I ain’t doing it ‘cause I want to?”

She wanted to smile at the puzzled look on his face, but also to wipe the frown away. “That way madness lies,” she murmured.

“Well, I reckon some of us’ve travelled too far along that path as it is.” Jayne squeezed her a little. “Feel that? That’s me. And I’m squeezing you because I want to, not ‘cause some dandy in a wig has decided I should. And I’m gonna take you to bed, and make wild and noisy love with you, ‘cause I feel the urge, and it’s my own body doing that urging, not someone else’s.” He tapped the book on her lap. “Don’t care if he was a genius. Some things he don’t know nothing about.”


“Drape you over the bridge controls while I ravish you.”


“Thinking on making the captain complain.”

She shivered delightfully. “We accept.”


“Me and Shakespeare.”

He lifted the book and placed it carefully but firmly down on the floor. “He ain’t invited.”

“I could read to you.”

“I can read, thanks.”

“Act things out for you.”

“Don’t need any direction.”

She moved closer to him, her breath on his cheek. “Tell you tall tales of soldiers of fortune, of maids of honour, of love mistaken and labours lost.”

He stood up, pulling her with him. “’Nother time, maybe. But right now I wanna feel you around me, and I ain’t inclined to wait.”

A smile slid across her features, her eyes growing smoky. “Ravish me?”

“Said I would.”

“Last one up close the door.” She brushed her lips lightly across his and was gone, up the stairs to their shuttle. With a feral grin, he was after her, his hands ready to do what his body promised.

The book of plays lay face up on the decking, an unseen breeze ruffling through its pages. The draught stopped. A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the tale of four pairs of lovers, who, through the twists and turns of that one fairy night, end up with the ones they desire and deserve. The last page fluttered.

‘So goodnight unto you all. Give me your hands, if we be friends, and Robin shall restore amends.’

The page fell silent, smoothed out and soothing, as laughter echoed through the quiet ship, sailing onwards forever into the black.


Sunday, November 18, 2007 9:21 AM


What a pleasant ride this arc has been! Brava, Jane0904! Brava!

Sunday, November 18, 2007 3:17 PM


If I thought the story itself was shiny it is nothing as luminous as the beautiful way you crafted the ending. I was touched by Noni wanting to change her surname to Reynolds, loved Mal getting a little one-uppance on Saffron by honouring his promise to Haymer, and just adored how you fitted the words from A Midsummer Night's Dream into the perfect ending. Sigh. This was very classy, thanks. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Sunday, November 18, 2007 5:26 PM


Enjoyed the story. You did a great job weaving acting and Shakespeare all around our BDH's and a great story.

And the ending...perfect.

Monday, November 19, 2007 2:20 AM


Great job bringing this to a happy conclusion, loved how you left the door open to see these characters again and tied up another story arc in the process. Loved the moments between Noni and Mal, and the banter with Inara and Freya. You almost inspire me to brush up on my Shakespeare!

Thursday, November 22, 2007 5:03 AM


That's it? It's over? :( Well, that was a fantastic ride, just sorry to see it come to an end! I can't believe Mal tipped off Durran... I know you're going forward with Inara in the next arc, but it would be interesting to see the "fireworks" when Saffron ends up with Durran again. Maybe a one-shot or vignette?


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"I honestly don’t know if my pilot wants to go around with flowers and curlicues carved into his leg.”
[Maya. Post-BDM. The end of the story, and the beginning of the last ...]

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Mal took a deep breath, allowing it out slowly through his nostrils, and now his next words were the honest truth. “Ain’t surprised. No matter how good you are, and I’m not complaining, I’ve seen enough battle wounds, had to help out at the odd amputation on occasion. And I don’t have to be a doc myself to tell his leg ain’t quite the colour it should be, even taking into account his usual pasty complexion. What you did … didn’t work, did it?”
[Maya. Post-BDM. Simon has no choice, and Luke comes around.]

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“His name’s Jayne?”

“What’s wrong with that?” the ex-mercenary demanded from the doorway.

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“Yeah, he’s a mystery to all of us,” Mal said. “Even his wife.”

[Maya. Post-BDM. Hank's not out of the woods yet, and Mal has a conversation. Enjoy!]

Monied Individual - Part XVIII
Jayne had told him a story once, about being on the hunt for someone who owed him something or other. He’d waited for his target for three hours in four inches of slush as the temperature dropped, and had grinned when he’d admitted to Hank that he’d had to break his feet free from the ice when he’d finished.
[Maya. Post-BDM. The Fosters show their true colours, Jayne attempts a rescue, and the others may be too late.]

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

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Jayne hadn’t waited, but planted a foot by the lock. The door was old, the wood solid, but little could stand against a determined Cobb boot with his full weight behind it. It burst open.

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He slammed the door behind him, making the plates rattle on the sideboard. “It’s okay, girl, I ain't gonna hurt you.” The cook, as tradition dictated, plump and rosy cheeked with her arms covered to the elbows in flour, but with a gypsy voluptuousness, picked up a rolling pin.

[Maya. Post-BDM. Kaylee finds the problem with Serenity, and Jayne starts his quest. Read, enjoy, review!]

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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!]