Broken - Part III
Monday, February 11, 2008

Maya. Post-BDM. Mal and co are at the pick-up point, and River is getting everyone worried. NEW CHAPTER


Jayne stared at the rear of the warehouse, the spitting image of the one he was leaning against in the deep shadows as he pulled his coat a little tighter. Concepcion, the second biggest town on Bernadette, and main spaceport, was heading into winter, and the air was chilly.

Mal had told him to keep watch around the back, see if he could figure out how many men were inside, but there was no sign of anyone at all. He grunted, his breath crystallising in front of him. He just wanted to get inside, get the goods, and get back to Serenity. He didn’t like leaving River like this, not so close to her time.

He was more than a bit worried about her too. He’d woken up during the small hours of the morning to find her sitting on the floor sorting through his ammo, putting it into order of size and weight, and apparently stopping power as well.

He hadn’t said anything, just watched her for a while until she’d finished and put it all away again, then he’d got up, lifted her into his arms and put her back to bed. She’d slipped into dreams quickly enough, as if that action of making sure things were right had soothed her, but it hadn’t him. He’d waited until something more like a civilised hour then got up and fetched breakfast. River hadn’t said a word about the ammo, and he wondered if she’d even really been awake.

Still, did that make it better or worse? Playing with the ammo was just a short step from playing with the guns, his or hers, and a not much longer one to going shooting someone in their sleep. Maybe he should consider locking the shuttle door ‘til the baby was born. Least at night. Not that locks ever kept River in or out, and it wouldn’t stop her if she took it into her head to shoot him.

He glared out into the weak sunlight, his hand flexing over his gun. He really needed to be killing something right about now.


“River, mei-mei, what are you doing?” Simon stepped into the infirmary, surprised to see his sister up and about.

“Checking.” She had the entire contents of one of the cupboards laid out on the counter, and had arranged them, he noticed, in alphabetical as well as size order.

“Checking? Why?”

“That we have everything we need.” She moved one of the packs of swabs slightly so that it was more perfectly aligned with the others, leaning sideways to avoid her swollen stomach pressing against metal.

“Do you think I’ve forgotten something?” Simon asked, moving closer to her, a faint thread of worry that perhaps there was something missing running down the back of his neck.

“No. But I had to check.” She exhaled in a satisfactory fashion and smiled brilliantly at him. “Everything here.” She began to put the boxes and packs back, making sure they were in the correct places.

“That’s … that’s good,” Simon said, putting out a hand to help her.

She swatted it away. “I’ll do it.”

“I can help.”

“I’ll do it.” She glared at him, then slid the box of emergency pads back into its space. She closed the door, then turned and smiled at him. “All done.”

“All?” He glanced at the other cupboards, the drawers …

“I did those before you came in,” she admitted.

“Even the -”

“All the scalpels are in correct order of size and use. I have put the ones in need of sharpening in that box to that you can do it when you have time.” She nodded towards a small case on the far counter.

“That’s nice.” River handling all his scalpels … it made his skin itch, and he touched the healing wound on his shoulder.

“I am sorry about that,” she said, noticing. “I wasn’t thinking.”

“That’s all right.” He managed a smile. “I shouldn’t have been pushing you.”

“And I will try not to hurt you again.” She patted him on the arm and waddled out of the infirmary, one hand in the small of her back. “Now I need to check Jayne’s weights,” she murmured quietly.

Simon watched her pull herself up the steps towards the cargo bay, then glanced back warily at the box of surgical knives.


Mal peered at the front door of the warehouse, only half his mind on the matter in hand. He’d had a dream just before waking, and it was one of those he couldn’t get out of his brain, despite his desperate attempts to. It was also more than a little awkward that the object of his dream was standing right next to him.

“Sir?” Zoe said, noting his distraction.

“Huh? Oh. Yeah.” He scanned the area again, then pulled back into the shadows. “Nothing that I can see.”

“Maybe we should get Jayne to take a look inside,” his first mate suggested. “Seeing as he’s pretty quiet when he wants to be.”

“I guess.” But he didn’t move, didn’t take the com from his pocket.

“So … you want me to tell him, sir?” Zoe finally asked.

“What? Oh, yeah.” He shook himself. “No. I’ll do it.” He pulled the link out. “Jayne, see if you can get a look inside, dong mah?”

Dang rahn.” The big man’s voice echoed tinnily from the small device.

“Sir, is there a problem I don’t know about?” Zoe glanced out into the street, but there was nothing to see. "Only you've been somewhat preoccupied since breakfast."

“Problem?” Mal shook his head. “No, no problem.”

“Right.” Zoe took a moment. “So you didn’t have that dream either.”

Mal jumped. “What? What dream?”

She had to smile. “So did I, sir.”

His eyebrows shot up. “Really?”


“And it didn’t …” He stopped, unsure of what to say next.

“Make me uncomfortable?”

“Well, yes.” His mind replayed the dream in all its glorious technicolour, from the appearance of his oldest friend in his decidedly Freya-free bunk dressed in little more than a few scraps of leather, dangling a pair of handcuffs from the fingers of one hand, to the finale that had him waking in a cold sweat, checking to make sure he wasn’t still manacled to the bulkhead. He squirmed a little.

“A little. But I know it was just a dream.”

“Didn’t realise you had it too.”

“From what Hank said, I’d have to guess that most everyone did. Well, maybe not this particular pairing, but … Hank said his was with Inara.”

“Really.” Mal nodded his head slowly. “And did he … give any details?”

“Leather and handcuffs.”

The squirming became a little more pronounced. “Really.”

“I think you’re gonna kind of wear that word out, sir.”

“Rea –“ He stopped and coughed instead. He was Captain. He should be able to deal with something like this. “So you think it’s River?” he asked, looking serious.

“I wouldn’t be surprised. She’s been acting a little odd lately, anyway.”

“Odder than usual?”

“She arranged all the dinosaurs in order of size on the bridge. And colour.”

“That was her?”

“I think she’s trying to keep control.”

Mal hitched his thumbs into his gunbelt. “Must be hard for her. It was bad enough for Frey, hormones and all, but for River, not exactly being sane in the first place …”

“That’s what she has the rest of us for. And Jayne.”

“Yeah. Guess it is.” He glanced out into the empty street again. “Zoe, you know me and you … I mean, I ain't never … well, hardly ever … I mean, you’re a damn fine looking woman, and I’d have to be dead not to notice … but I –”

She was amused to see him more than a little self-conscious. “No, Mal. I never thought we were suited to each other.” She couldn’t help the smile. “You ain't my type.”

“What?” His voice raised an octave, then he coughed and brought it back under control. “What’s wrong with me?”

“Nothing. Nothing at all.”

“Then why –“

“Is this really the conversation you want to be having at this time?” she asked, trying not to laugh and nodding behind him.

He half-turned to see Freya strolling up. “Ah, no. Probably not.” He straightened up. “Hey.”

Freya smiled at him. “Hi.”


“Nary a thing. There’s four horses tied up round the side, but no sign of anyone else.”

“Four, huh.” Mal pursed his lips slightly. “Evens the odds.”

“That it does.” She leaned on the wall, apparently staring out at the warehouse. “Handcuffs, eh?”

This time both Mal and Zoe jerked as if they’d been stung.

“Frey, I –“ Mal’s probably somewhat ham-fisted attempts to explain were interrupted by the comlink buzzing. He flicked the button, never more happy to hear the big mercenary’s voice. “Jayne.”

“Four, Mal. Two just inside the main door, two more playing cards in the office.”

“Where’re you?”

“Back outside.”

“You see the crates?”

“Yeah, right in the centre of the building. Gonna take two of us to move the stabilisers, though. And we ain’t gonna be able to creep up on ‘em.”

Mal pondered. “Okay. You stay put. I’ll let you know what and when.”


The comlink went silent.

“Do you have a plan, sir?” Zoe asked.

“I think I have the inkling of one, yeah.” A grin began to form on his face.

Zoe and Freya exchanged glances. This didn’t sound like it was going to go smooth.


Kaylee lay under the engine housing pottering happily. Things were going right with her girl, now that she’d had a chance to do some work on her back on Persephone, and with just a little tweak here and there Serenity would be back up to her normal running strength. She hummed something tunelessly, her mind wandering between the coppice-lock she was tightening, and wondering how the job was going.

She’d always maintained the Cap was good at planning. No matter what anyone else said, his plans were good. Just ‘cause people didn’t do what he expected, or intended, that wasn't his fault. The plan was always … good. Besides, she quite liked Sullivan. He’d always been attentive when she was around, and although he wasn’t her type at all it was nice to be flattered occasionally.

Not that she knew who her type was. She’d never been conscious of only liking one kinda man. Dray Buchanan, for instance, was dark and stockyish, while Bester had been blond and tattooed. She paused in her work, thinking back on the mechanic. Not that he’d been any good with engines, she considered. Didn’t even know it was the right couple that’d gone, not the grav boot. But that didn’t matter. He’d known what to do with –

A noise made her sit up, resting on her elbows.

“Hello?” she called. No-one answered, but the small sounds she’d heard continued. Pulling herself out from under the housing, she saw River taking down all of her tools from the wall. “Honey?”

“Just making things right,” the young woman said.

Kaylee got to her feet and crossed the room. “They were okay, River. I take good care of my tools. Can’t fix Serenity if you don’t.”

River didn’t look at her, just starting sorting through the different sized wrenches, hammers and spanners. “But they have to be neat. Ordered. Make sure none of them are damaged, or broken, or need to be –“

Kaylee reached across and put her hands on River’s. “No, you just leave ‘em. They’re okay. None of ‘em are –“

She didn’t see it happen, but suddenly she was falling backwards, pushed violently away from the tool bench. Scrabbling to retain her footing, she couldn’t and fell hard onto the decking, jarring her shoulder on the housing. She yelled, and that seemed to bring River to her senses.

“Kaylee?” The young psychic looked around. “Kaylee!” Her hands flew to her mouth, and she tried to reach down to help her friend up.

“No, you can’t,” Kaylee said quickly. “Not in your condition.” She tried to stand up, to lever herself to her feet, but the pain in her shoulder made her cry out again and she fell back.

River backed away, murmuring continuously, “I’m sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry –“

“Honey, can you call Simon?” Kaylee ground out through gritted teeth. “I think I need him.”

River didn’t move, but behind her Kaylee could see Hank coming up the corridor.

“Kaylee? You okay?” he asked, then saw the pain on her face. “Wu de mah.” He moved River out of the way and ran to the com. “Simon! Need you in the engine room. Now!”

to be continued


Monday, February 11, 2008 9:18 AM


Poor River. You know, though, if she'ss not hurting anything, why don't the others just let her be?

Well, because they've been around Mal too long, of course. He can't let things be. Ain't got it in him.

Leather and handcuffs, huh? Sounds like an impressive dream :)

Monday, February 11, 2008 12:42 PM


Poor Kaylee, poor River. Your plots threads are all heading for the same place at the same time, aren't they? Looking forward to more!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008 2:25 PM


I suddenly have an awful feeling about this baby. With the title of the story, and River's obsession with ordering things so they won;t be broken...yikes!

Friday, February 15, 2008 1:28 AM


another great chapter - you keep the narrative moving all the time - and still manage to include so many nice 'moments' between characters.


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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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“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!]