Like Woman, A Mystery - Part IV
Thursday, November 22, 2007

Maya. Post-BDM. There's a storm brewing outside, and feelings are starting to run high inside the house too. NEW CHAPTER


By midday it was obvious there was a storm brewing, and not just amongst the human occupants of the house. Outside the air had changed, thickening, almost becoming greasy, and Jayne watched as clouds gathered over the mountains.

“Gonna piss down,” he predicted, holding River around the waist.

“Yes.” She shivered. “I can feel it. Electricity. All around.”

Jayne glanced at her, his eyebrow raised, then concentrated. “Ya mean like all the hairs are standing up on my arms?”

She nodded. “Not just tension.”

He looked over his shoulder towards the house from where they were standing in the orchard. “Yeah. Ya know, someone needs to talk to ‘Nara. If’n she don’t want Sam here, she needs to say. ‘Cause it ain't doing her any good being quiet like this.”

River didn’t respond.

“Hey. You think it’s a good idea or not?” Jayne pressed.

“Freya already spoke to her,” the psychic said, her head on one side. “But I don’t know that any more is necessary.”

“You seeing something, moonbrain?”


“You mean lightning?”

“Some.” She moved closer to him, feeling the air pushing against her skin. “And more.”

“Your bro checked your hormones this morning?” he asked, putting his hand on her belly. Maybe he was imagining it, but there seemed to be a slight thickening there.

“Hormones are fine. And a little.”

“So I ain’t imagining it.” He didn’t mind her knowing his thoughts.

“Getting ready to grow.” She put her hand on top of his. “To swell, to inflate, to expand, to engorge –“

“See, now I know Simon ain't checked you out today. Come on. Better get it over with.”

“I feel like a pin cushion,” she complained.

“You know what Mal said.”

“Pin cushion or shuttle. I know.” She sighed. “Hungry.”

Jayne laughed, the deep sound rolling through the trees. “Maybe that’s it. You ain’t eaten this morning.”

River grimaced. “Saw it all coming the other way, so I didn’t take it down for it to come back.” Just the memory made her swallow hard.

He rubbed her back. “Yeah, sorry about that. But you were the one decided not to take that medicine any more.”

“I don’t want to take anything that might interfere.” Her face screwed up a little more. “And my belly’s making noises.”

“Come on. It must be nearly time for food anyway. Let’s go see if Mrs Boden can rustle you up something.”

She turned her big eyes on him. “Eat with me?”

“If you want.”

She giggled suddenly, and was out of his embrace and running back towards the house, her bare feet flying as he chased her.


“Why lessons?” Bethany complained, sitting at the table and swinging her feet. Her toes kept running across Fiddler and Giselle’s backs where the two dogs were laying under the table, snuffling in their sleep. “We’re on holiday.”

Freya put the portable screen down. “Holiday?”

“Here. Lazarus.” Bethie sighed. “And the sun’s out, the birds are singing, and Mr Boden’s building us a tree house …”

“Is that what all the noise was earlier?” Freya smiled. “I did wonder. Did you ask or did he offer?”

“It was Ethan’s idea.” Bethie pointed at her surrogate brother sitting opposite her.

The little boy wasn’t quite sure, but thought he was being blamed for something. He sighed, sounding just like his father.

“Really.” Freya looked from one to the other, trying not to laugh. “And you think that means lessons are suspended for the duration?”

“It would be nice, and we’d work harder tomorrow. Please?” Bethie turned on the eyes, all big and dark like her mother’s.

“Well …” Freya glanced out of the window. “Actually, I don’t think you’ll be playing outside for a while. It looks like it’s going to rain.”

Bethany scrambled from her chair and ran to the window. “Oh,” she said, gazing out at the odd yellow light and feeling her spirits sink. “It looks icky.”

“Exactly. So why don’t you come back and we’ll see what we can find on storms?”

The little girl turned. “Must we?”

“Come on. Half an hour. Then it’ll be time for lunch.”

“Food?” She brightened up a little, and Fiddler pricked up his ears in his sleep.

“Food.” Freya picked up the screen again. “Now, see if you can tell me what this cloud formation’s called.”


“Mal, Mr Boden says it might be better if you all went back to Serenity tonight.” Inara stood in the doorway to the library.

Mal looked up in surprise, a book in his hand. “Why’d that be?”

“That storm.” She walked to the window, looking out at the glowering clouds coming up fast. “He thinks it’ll be bad.”

“Weathered a few storms in my life before, ‘Nara. What makes this one different?”

“Lazarus is apparently famous for them. High winds, rain, lightning … they’ve been known to blow away small houses.”

“This one in any danger?” Mal put the book back on the shelf. “’Cause if you are, then maybe we should all go back to Serenity. We can take off, be above the storm –“

“I'm not leaving my home, Mal.” She crossed her arms. “I thought you realised that by now?”

“Not suggesting permanently. Just while it lasts.”

“Mr Boden wouldn’t go anyway, and where he stays, so does his wife. I'm just … I'm worried about the children.”

“You think it could be that bad?”

“I don’t know. But Mr Boden says his foot is playing him up, and I trust his experience.” She actually looked worried.

“Maybe I’ll go take a look at the sensors on Serenity,” Mal considered. “See if we can get a better idea of what’s like to happen than just relying on Mr Boden’s extremities.”


“You know, I like Sam, but …” Kaylee sat with her bare feet in her husband’s lap on the sofa in the yellow drawing room, and shook her head.

“But what?” Simon massaged her toes.

“He ain't right for her. ‘Nara needs someone who ain't afraid, who’s passionate, and … well, someone who loves her, ‘bove everything else.”

“Maybe he does.”

“P’raps, but if’n he does it’s dry, dusty love. Not hot and … and sticky.”

“Bao bei, don’t go mistaking reserve for a lack of passion.” He tapped her foot. “You thought I was reserved.”

Kaylee smiled. “Maybe I did. But you took your own sweet time to do anything. I really thought I was gonna have to strip buck naked and ambush you one night, just to get you to look at me.”

“Really?” His eyes unfocused.

“You’re imagining it, ain’t you?” Kaylee asked, pushing at his chin with her foot.

“A bit. Just wondering what would’ve happened if you had.”

“You’d’ve gone pink, stammered a lot and run away.”

“You think?” He ran his thumb up her instep, making her shiver. “I might not have. I might have lost my head and taken you hard there and then.”

She wriggled, her toes curling and uncurling. “Nah. Pink, stammer and run.”

“And you think that’s what Sam will do?”

“Already done it. I just don’t see any passion in him. He’s so controlled. So sure what he thinks is right. I don’t ever believe he’d ride up on a white horse and slay a dragon to save his lady. Not like Mal. Nor be willing to endanger life and limb every day living with your sis like Jayne.”

“Hey! She’s a lot better!”

“Yeah, she is. ‘Cause of him. And don’t go trying to change the subject. Even Hank kept chasing Zoe ‘til she caught him. But Sam? One little setback and he’s gone.”

“He’s here now,” Simon pointed out. “Don’t you think that counts for something?”

“Yeah, maybe, but he ain't taken her into his arms and kissed her. They ain't even touched, far as I can see.” Kaylee sighed. “She needs the knight to come for her, not the wimp.”

“I'm hoping you’re not suggesting I was –“

“You ain't a wimp.” She pressed her heels into his lap and made him groan a little. “Found that out.”

“Well, you released a lot of things in me, Kaylee, when you agreed to love me.”

“Always was in love with you, Simon. Just took a while to get those blinkers off you.” She leaned forward and they kissed.

“I still say Sam might surprise you,” Simon said, acutely aware of how like a fish out of water he’d felt during his first months on Serenity, all the while not knowing if the captain was going to kill him or just put him and his sister off the ship. “Maybe he just needs time.”

“Hmn. Maybe.”

Sam, standing outside the open door, sighed. He didn’t usually eavesdrop, but this time he wanted to know what they thought about him.

“Hear anything good?” Mal said, coming in through the front door, the wind blowing dust in after him along with Hank and Zoe. A crack of thunder almost obliterated his words.

“I … I was just …” Sam stammered.

“Don’t worry,” the pilot said, grinning. “It seems to be a habit with this crew.”

Mal glanced outside at the huge raindrops hitting the dirt and bouncing back up. “Need to talk to everyone, so get them all in the dining room.”


“Mr Boden’s foot ain't wrong,” Mal said, nodding at Inara as he faced his crew. “There’s a storm just about here, and it’s gonna be bad.”

Simon looked at the rain lashing the windows. “How bad?”

“According to the Cortex, about every five years or so there’s what they call a legendary storm,” Zoe explained. “Mini tornadoes, hurricane winds, lightning, floods, you name it. And they haven’t had one for near eight.”

“So they’re due,” Kaylee said, moving closer to her husband, just to feel his comforting warmth. He took her hand.

“Overdue,” Mal agreed. “So I want you to get the kids and take ‘em back to Serenity. Hank and Zoe’ll stay on board, keep her warmed over in case they need to take off. I’d prefer it if you and Kaylee go with ‘em, Simon. Not saying anyone’s going to need doctoring, but just in case.”

“Of course.”

“You want us to stay in the house, Mal?” Jayne asked, glancing at River. “I mean, in her condition –“

She hit him as Mal spoke. “No. River’s gonna be in the shuttle, in case there’s a call from anyone that needs help, and I’d be obliged if you’d stay with her.”

“Sure thing. What about you?”

“I’ll be staying, since Inara can’t drag herself away.” He glared at the ex-Companion.

“So will I,” Freya put in.

“You don’t have to,“ Inara said quickly.

“If you can persuade my wife to not do something she’s decided on, I wish you’d tell me how,” Mal said, sighing. “No, we’re both staying. Mr Boden’s battening down the hatches as we speak, and this place has stood a good long time, so we’re probably not in any danger, but I want to make sure my crew’s safe.”

“I’ll stay too.” Sam surprised them all, and Inara stared at him.

“You don’t have to,” Mal pointed out.

“I know. But another pair of hands. And I can do whatever’s needed.”

Mal nodded slowly. “Okay. Thanks.”

“It’s pretty bad out there right now,” Simon added. “How much worse –“

“Worse. In about an hour there ain't gonna be nothing standing up.” Mal took a deep breath. “So come on, people. Let’s get those kids across and safe.”


Fifty-eight minutes later and Mal’s prediction had proven right. The wind was so strong it sounded like it was ripping the roof off above their heads. Everything that could had been brought inside, and now it was just a case of waiting.

“How long?” Sam asked, licking dry lips, staring at the living room curtains, moving slightly even though the windows were tightly closed.

Mal shrugged. “The Cortex wasn’t too clear. ‘Parrently one lasted for three days, but that was unusual. Normally ten, twelve hours. The sensors show it as pretty big, but it’s moving fast. Maybe by daybreak.”

“All night?”

“Why, you thinking of trying to get some rest?”

Something hit the side of the house then clattered away.

“I was considering meditating.”

“Good luck.”

Inara was in the kitchen with Mrs Boden and Freya.

“Are you sure that’s going to be enough?” she asked, watching as the housekeeper filled large flasks with hot coffee.

“It should be, Miss,” Mrs Boden said, fixing the lid. “If we run out it will have to be cold drinks otherwise.” She glanced to where her husband was pouring water on the kitchen fire. “The wind could tug the flames up the chimney else, and set fire to the walls.”

“What about the –“ She stopped as the lights went out. She gave a little cry.

“It’s all right, Miss Inara,” Mr Boden said, his deep voice cutting through the sound of the wind. “It was to be expected. The generator’s gone down.” A light bloomed in his hand as he powered up an emergency lantern. “We know what we’re doing.”

“Of course you do.” She smiled a little.

“Frey?” Mal almost ran through the kitchen door, Sam at his heels. “You okay?”

“Fine. Just getting a lesson in how Lazarenes live.” Freya laughed. “It’s … interesting.”

“That’s one way of putting it.”

“Is there … is there a particular room we should all stay in?” Inara asked, her voice trembling just a little.

“No, Miss,” Mr Boden explained. “Just stay away from the windows. The shutters are all up, and barred, but it’s best not to go too close.”

“Of course.” She straightened her shoulders. “Then I think I'm going to take a tray of those sandwiches and go to bed.”

“Tired of our company already?” Mal teased.

“You and a storm … what a wonderful combination. I'm not sure which is worse.” She looked at the light. “Is there one for me?”

“Yes, Miss.” Mr Boden twisted the base on a lantern and it immediately sprang to life. “I’ll bring the coffee and food.”

“Thank you.” She took the lamp. “Then it’s goodnight.” Her gaze lingered for a moment on Sam’s face, then she was gone out of the door, her man following.

“She’ll be back,” Mal predicted. “A little longer of this racket, and she’ll be wanting to play cards or something.”

“I don’t know …” Freya stared at the door.

“I think I’ll go up too,” Sam said suddenly, grabbing a lantern and activating it. “But I'm not hungry, so … I’ll see you in the morning.”

“Oh, shiny.” Mal shook his head, then turned to his wife. “Looks like it’s just you and me, ai ren. Fancy a game of Tall Card?”

“Only if I win.”

Mal picked up one of the flasks and a tray of food. “After you,” he said, grinning.

to be continued


Friday, November 23, 2007 3:42 AM


I don't like this storm. Something always happens in storms. I wonder what it'll be?

I say this as a lifelong resident of the coast of North Carolina with lots of storm experience.

Friday, November 23, 2007 4:57 AM


I, too, live where tornadoes and hurricanes are prevalent. This storm is making the hair on MY arms stand up! Great job of description! :D


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Secrets - Part XXV
River sighed unhappily, and suddenly all the emotions were too much. She turned and ran back towards the lake, not stopping as she reached the water’s edge but continuing on, diving as she got deep enough, letting the cold fill her ears and eyes as if it might wash all feelings from her.
Breathing out and seeing air bubbles rise to the surface, she allowed herself to sink to the bottom. She ignored the pressure in her lungs, only considering how easy it would be to just breathe in, and she could float forever.

[Maya. Post-BDM. River sees everyone and everything. Things are about to happen.]

Secrets- Part XXIV
“My love, you must wake up,” Sam said so quietly it was doubtful anyone outside in the common area would have heard. “You must. If only to laugh at me and tell me how ridiculous I am. To touch my cheek and tell me I have to have faith. Please, Inara. Please.” A tear fell onto their hands, but he didn’t wipe it away, not caring if anyone saw.

[Maya. Post-BDM. Mal and River discuss life, and there are more visitors. This will all soon be coming to a head.]

Secrets - Part XXIII
Jayne materialised from the darkness and wrapped his strong arms around the young doctor, pinning him. “Not a good idea. Mal’s as like to give you one last chance then shoot you. If you’d tried that on me, now, you’d be bleeding into the dirt, but then Mal always was a soft touch.” “Let me go!” “Nope. Less you’d like me to hand you over to Frey, and don’t go thinking that’s the easy option.”

[Maya. Post-BDM. Couples talk, Simon's anger bubbles over, and Inara's time is running out.]

Secrets - Part XXII
Simon’s lips thinned. “The D17 might be the original problem, affecting a tiny number of those exposed, perhaps only one or two people of the same family, but the Anti-Pax wasn’t designed for it. Besides, that would be like using a hammer when I need a scalpel.”

[Maya. Post-BDM. Is there light at the end of the tunnel, or is it an oncoming Alliance cruiser?]

Secrets - Part XXI
“I don’t want to be pitied!” The words were out before she could stop them. “Pity? You think that’s what’s going to go through their heads? Inara, I knew you were stubborn, but since when did you catch stupid?”

[Maya. Post-BDM. A little more of the fall-out from Inara's revelation, and a message from Monty. And yes, another chapter in just a few days!]

Secrets - Part XX
“No. You don’t get to play word games with me, Inara. Mal, his crew … perhaps I can understand you not wanting to burden them with this. But me?” The pain was evident in his voice and now in his expression. “Me, Inara? I gave up everything to be with you. And I would again. But you don’t trust me enough to tell me something this important. Don’t you think I had a right to know what my child is doing to you?”

[Maya. Post-BDM. Inara's secret is revealed. And don't faint because I've posted another chapter in less than a year!]

Secrets - Part XIX
Freya gazed at Inara, at the innate elegance of her simple blue tunic and full length skirt, her newly short hair making her look even more delicate, more elfin than usual. Still, that didn’t disguise the steel core. “Okay.” Freya nodded slowly. “When you’re ready. Just don’t leave it too late.”

[Maya. Post-BDM. Edging closer to finding out about another secret, this time Inara's.]

Secrets - Part XVIII
“Can you be sure the parts aren’t tagged in any way? Because I can’t.” Freya shook her head, then put her hand on Monty’s arm. “We can’t afford to have this getting back to you. To us. Besides, if the ship isn’t found then I’m sure Harper Lecomb isn’t going to give up looking for his son. We’ve got enemies coming out of our ears – we don’t need to breed new ones.”

[Maya. Post-BDM. Randall Lecomb meets his final end, and Simon is still working on Inara's problem. Here's an extra long chapter to make up for the long, long delay in getting it to you!]

Secrets - Part XVII
“Bored now,” River said and span on her heel. Her body moved out of the way of the bullet even as she lifted her leg, her foot connecting solidly with Linc’s jaw. [Maya. Post-BDM. While Inara's illness is no longer a secret, Mal and his crew go out to find Molly.]

Secrets - Part XVI
“Then do it again.” Mal was aware he’d used his sergeant’s voice from the slightly wounded expression on his old friend’s face, and made himself take a step back. “It’s like you said, Monty – in the dark there’s no knowing where that girl’s got to. Like as not she took it into her mind to go visiting, got lost and mistook the time. She could be huddled up in someone’s barn right now, fast asleep.” [Maya. Post-BDM. Serenity heads back to Lazarus and Inara finds her sickness finally getting the better of her.]