Broken - Part XI
Sunday, February 24, 2008

Maya. Post-BDM. River's giving birth. CONCLUDING CHAPTER - for the moment


There was a cupboard on board Serenity where stuff was put. Just stuff. Like when it was broken but maybe someone thought it was too good to be just thrown out with the garbage, or if someone figured maybe it could be fixed one day, then it was put into the cupboard. There was a small Cortex screen Kaylee had always intended to mend so she could put it in Bethie’s room, half a dozen out of date ration packs, a ball of string made up of lots of oddments, kept just in case. There was even one of Wash’s old dinosaurs, sans head. And right now, as the rain pounded down onto the hull of the Firefly, it also contained a psychic, pressed in under the shelves.

“Broken,” River said. “I can’t be fixed but too precious to throw away.”

Simon crouched down. “Mei-mei, you have to come out. You’re in labour.”

“I disagree.”

Simon sat down, taking the strain off his calf muscles. “It doesn’t matter whether you agree or not. It’s a plain fact.” He could feel a crick starting in his neck from the unnatural position. “At least let me scan you.”

River squirmed further back into the cupboard, clutching the headless dinosaur. “Not coming out. Want to cut into me. Cut me open. Take him.”

“No-one’s going to take your baby.” He tried to sound calming.

“They do.” She glanced down at her hands.

He understood. “Then we’ll stop them. Like we always do. Mal, Zoe, Freya, Hank ... we’ll all stop them taking your baby.” He tried again. “River, I do need to scan you. If you’d just come to the infirmary –”


He took a deep breath. “All right, then how about …” He looked around to see Bethie holding out his portable scanner. “Thank you, sweetheart.” He smiled at his daughter.

“You’re welcome, Daddy.”

“You’d better go back and look after the others, don’t you think?”

“Jesse’s hungry,” the little girl admitted.

“I expect you are too.”

“Little bit.” She rolled her foot. “Can I go find us something to eat?”

“Of course. But nothing you have to use the stove for. Or knives.”

She gave him a look he recognised as one of her mother’s. “Daddy.”

He had to smile. “Okay. Sorry.”

“’Sides, I know where Momma keeps the cookies.”

Now he knew why Kaylee kept complaining they were disappearing, but he didn’t have the heart to tell her off. “Okay. But then I think you’d all better go and stay in the nursery, dong mah?”

“’Kay. Ben and Hope are tired, so they’ll sleep, but Ethan’s upset.” She bit her lip.

“Tell him his mother’s going to be fine. Soon as the others are back he can go and see her.”

“’Kay, Daddy.” She hurried behind the counter, and Simon could hear the sound of things being moved in one of the small storage areas.

He turned back to his sister and held out the scanner. All the while he’d been talking to Bethie, he’d been letting it do its work, and now he lifted it so she could see the readings. “If you don’t believe me or your own body, believe this,” he said softly. “You’re in labour.”

“Sneaky,” she accused.

“I learn from the best.” He reached out a hand. “Won’t you come out? I need to examine properly.”

She pushed further back. “I know what you want to do.”

“River, please.”

Tears began to roll down her cheeks. “I need Jayne.”

“I know, mei-mei, and he’ll –“

“He’s here,” Bethie said, standing behind her father, the cookie tin clutched in her arms.

Simon lifted his head.


“River?” Jayne shouted, jumping into the cargo bay almost before the shuttle’s engines had stopped running.

“She’s in the galley,” Kaylee called from the other catwalk.

“Thanks,” he said, running to the door and disappearing through it.

Mal, just a little slower, stepped out of the shuttle. “She okay?” he asked as Kaylee came towards him.

“She will be now.” She could see his concern wasn’t just for the young psychic. “And Frey’s down in the infirmary. She’s waiting for you.”

“Thanks.” He hurried down the stairs. At the door to the common area he stopped, though, and straightened his spine. No good to his rep in looking like he was rushing. He strolled into the infirmary. “Hey.”

Freya turned her head enough so she could see him from where she was lying on the counter. “Hey yourself.” She looked him up and down and smiled. “You’re dripping all over the floor.”

He glanced at his coat, then shucked it off, dropping it in the corner. “Better?”

“Only if you’re gonna come here and kiss me.”

“Not sure I should. Not sure what the doctor would say.” He moved closer anyway.

“Simon would say we couldn’t do anything until he said. Like he always does.” She held out her hand. “You okay?”

This time he allowed the relief to show on his face as he wrapped her fingers in his own, holding them tightly. “Shiny. You, on the other hand, didn’t duck fast enough, least according to Hank.”

“Not the only one.” She nodded towards his cheek where a streak of dried blood ran in a jagged line down his skin.

“It’s just a scratch.”

“Sure.” She stopped, her face screwing up as her eyes closed.


“It’s okay. Just ...” She panted for a few seconds.

“I’m gonna get Simon,” he said, concern tightening his chest as he tried to let go of her hand, but she was holding it fast.

“No. It’s okay. He can’t do anything.”

“But you’re hurting ...”

“It isn’t that.”

“Then what?” He saw her face begin to relax but his heart was pounding. “Frey, honey, you’re scaring me.”

“It’s River. She’s projecting, and I can’t seem to stop her at the moment.”

“You can feel her labour?”

“Not totally,” Freya admitted. “But enough for it to be more than uncomfortable.” She laughed a little. “I’m not sure I want to go through this again, at least, not without something to show for it at the end.”

“Can I help?”

She smiled up at him. “I don’t know. We can try next time.”

He exhaled heavily. “You use me, Frey. You know I want you to.” His eyes narrowed. “Though it could be said you were talking about us trying for another little one.”

“Let’s just get through this time first, then we can talk.”

“You know I want more kids, don’t you?” he said, dropping his head to look into her eyes.

“I know.” She lifted his hand to her lips and kissed his fingertips. “But not right now, okay?”

“Okay.” He leaned down and replaced them with his mouth, careful not to put any pressure onto her shoulder.


Jayne stopped just inside the dining area. “River?”

“Over here,” Simon called from the far corner. He was still sitting on the deck.

The big man crossed the room. “She’s inside?”

“She won’t come out for me,” Simon said, climbing to his feet and moving back. “You try.”

Jayne squatted down. “River?”

“Jayne?” Her frightened face appeared in the dark.

“You gotta come out now,” he said softly, reaching his hands inside.

“Don’t want to. Warm in here. Cocooned. Safe.”

“I keep yah safe, River. Ain't that the case?”

She peered at him. “My Jayne.”

“That’s right. And you gotta come out, ‘cause you’re having my baby and I want to see him born.”

She wiped at her cheeks with both hands. “Messy.”

“Don’t care about that, moonbrain. But you need to be out here.”

“Cut me open.” She threw a glare beyond him to her brother.

“No, honey. Not ‘less he has to. And I’ll be right there, stopping him. Okay?”

She sniffed hard and nodded. “Look after me. Please. I don’t know how.” She reached out, but her grip tightened as a wave of contraction pulsed through her. “Jayne!” she screamed.

“I'm here, girl. I'm here.” He pulled her to him, sweeping her into his embrace, just letting her use his strength until the pain diminished, trying to ignore the wetness beneath her from her waters breaking.

“Bleeding,” she whispered as it faded, touching his arm where the bullet had grazed him and panting hard.

“Ain't nothing, River.” Holding her tightly, he stood up. “Nothing like what you’re going through.” He turned and looked at Simon. “I’ll be taking her downstairs.”

The young man nodded and followed, marvelling at how gentle this man could be, this ... he couldn’t help the slight shudder when he realised this was his brother-in-law. All the way down the stairs he was murmuring, just words to soothe the woman in his arms.

“Jayne, she okay?” Kaylee asked as they reached the common area.

“Just having my baby.” Jayne smiled at her. “Women have kids every day.” He carried her into the infirmary and placed her tenderly onto the medbed. “No big deal.”

“Don’t think you’d be saying that if you were the one having contractions,” Kaylee commented, leaning in the doorway. “Men have no idea.”

“That they don’t,” Freya agreed from the counter.

“Hey, I been shot,” Mal protested, standing next to his wife. “More’n once. I think I know about pain.”

“Not like this,” Kaylee said.

Simon’s professionalism was taking over, and it was the doctor appearing rather than the brother. “I need to check how far labour is advanced.”

“And I think maybe we need to get out of your way,” Mal said, a furrow appearing between his eyebrows as he saw the young man preparing to drape a sheet over his sister’s belly. “Can I take Frey to one of the other quarters?”

Simon paused. “I really need to check that wound again, make sure she hasn't done anything to it.”

“We ain’t going anywhere else, doc.”

“Then ... yes, it’s a good idea.” He busied himself with the sensors, Jayne moving out of his way only when necessary.

“No, I want to stay,” Freya said quickly. “I can help.”

“How?” her husband asked. “You’re injured.”

“I can be with River.”

Jayne looked up from where he was stroking the tattoo around his wife’s ring finger. “I’ll be here. She ain’t gonna be on her own.”

Mal turned back to her. “See?” He leaned forward a little. “Please? For me?”

Freya sat up, wincing just a little. “Oh, come on, then,” she said, swinging her legs around. “Give me a hand.”


Hank was waiting as Zoe piloted the hover mule back into the cargo bay, setting it down as the water dripped steadily from it.

“You okay?” he asked as he closed the ramp.


“No bullet holes, knife wounds, other things I need to be worried about?”

She climbed down. “No. Not a thing.”

He released the breath he’d been holding. “Good.” Taking her into his arms he kissed her, feeling her arms come up around him.

After a long period of silence, Zoe let him go enough so she could look into his grey eyes. “And River?”

“About to have a baby.” He snuggled closer. “So ... are we? I mean ... gonna have another?”

Her lips twitched just a little. “Not right now. You need to give me a hand with a few things first.”

His fingers walked down her spine. “Like what?”

“The bodies outside, for a start. What happened to them?”

Hank’s breath hitched. “Lightning strike?”

“That would be very convenient.”

“Wasn’t it, just.”

She let him go and took a step back. “Discharge spikes?”

He sighed. “Something like that.”

Studying him for a moment, seeing the guilt he carried from being responsible for several deaths, she nodded slowly. “Come on. You get the crates out of the mule, I’ll deal with the bodies.”

He tried not to look grateful. “What are you going to do with them?”

“Hide them. Nothing else we can do. And I doubt anyone’s going to wonder too much about them when they’re found.”

He swallowed. “Then I’ll help.” He walked to the door.

“You don’t have to.”

“Yes. I do.” He pulled the heavy metal open and was relieved he could only smell the rain.

Zoe joined him, pride in her heart. “Then let’s go.”


“Mama?” Ethan was in the doorway, watching his father settle Freya on the bed.

“Hi,” she said, smiling at him.

“Not going to die?” he asked, his bottom lip caught between his teeth.

Mal was instantly down on his heels in front of him. “No, big feller. Your Momma ain’t dying. Just a little banged up, that’s all.”

“I felt it,” he said quietly, his eyes still on Freya.

A wash of remorse flashed through her, and she held out her uninjured arm. Ethan scrambled up onto the bed and snuggled against her. “I’m so sorry, sweetie,” she murmured to him. “I never meant for you to see that.”

“I know, Mama,” he mumbled, his face buried in her breast.

Mal sat down next to them, stroking his son’s back. “Maybe we need to start those lessons again,” he suggested. “Make those walls of yours even stronger.”

A small dog bounded through the open door and leaped onto the covers, wagging fiercely as he walked up towards them.

“Fiddler!” Bethie yelled. “Come here!” She appeared in the doorway. “Sorry, Uncle Mal. He got out.” She eyed the trio and put her head onto one side. “Can we all come in?”

Mal glanced down at Freya. “I don’t know ...”

“It’s okay,” his wife assured him. “And I think they need some company right now.”

He smiled and stood up. “Where are they all?” he asked, taking Bethie’s hand.

“In the nursery. With the cookie tin.”

Mal laughed. “You’d better have saved some for me and your Auntie Frey.”


“What’s she doing?” Kaylee asked after an hour or so.

“Knitting,” Zoe said.

“How can she?”

“I guess it helps.”


“No idea. All I could think about was killing Hank so he never came near me again.”

“You too, huh?”


“Rain’s stopped,” Hank reported another hour later. “Landlock’s been lifted too.”

“Take us up, then,” Mal ordered, told in no uncertain terms by his wife to go and see what was happening. “River said she didn’t mind if her son was born in space, and I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t want him coming into the ‘verse on Argus.”

“Will do.”

“And put a wave in to Sullivan. Tell him, soon as we’re in range, him and me are going to have a little chat.” There was a world of meaning behind those simple words.

Hank shivered, remembering moving the bodies. “Can I watch?”

“If you’re good.”


“You should think about it, mei-mei. You’re not fully effaced yet, and it’s taking a lot out of you.”


“I just want you to –“


“Doc, long as she ain’t in danger, I suggest you don’t mention it again. Not ‘less you’d like me to be removing one of them knitting needles from some place you really don’t want it to be.”


“I don’t remember it taking as long as this before,” Hank said, leaning back in the armchair.

Zoe glanced coolly at him. “How would you know? You went to town to start a fight.”

He closed his eyes. “I was stressed.”

You were stressed? I was in labour, and you say you were stressed?”

“Can I plead insanity?” he asked, turning his head so he could look at her.

“Depends. Are you ever intending to get over it?”


“How’s my boat doing?” Mal asked, leaning on the doorway of the engine room.

“Shiny, Cap.” Kaylee grinned at him. “Just checking her over seeing as this baby’s taking a while in coming.”

“And you? Your shoulder gonna be better soon?”

Her face fell a little. “It’ll be a while yet,” she admitted. “Simon said maybe a coupla months ‘fore it’s back to normal.” She fixed him with a fierce stare. “And it weren’t River’s fault.”

“I know that.”

“It’s just been hard on us, that’s all.”

“Surely has. So you won’t mind if we set a while on Lazarus.”

She brightened immediately. “Really?”

“Think we could all do with it,” he said, smiling at his mei-mei. “It’s been a hectic few weeks.”

“That’d be so shi quan shi mei ...” She was almost bouncing with pleasure.

He laughed.


“How much longer, doc?”

“A little while yet, Jayne.”

“Only we’re runnin’ out of wool here.”

“Jayne ...”

“S’okay, honey. Pant. Just like your bro taught you how. Come on. One, two, three, four, five and cleanse.”

“I ... hate ... you!”

“Sure you do, girl. Just pant while you’re hatin’ me. One, two, three ...”


“You think I should make some food?” Kaylee asked, tossing the book she’d been trying to read for hours aside.

“I don’t think anyone’s very hungry,” Zoe said, cleaning her gun on the dining table. “Coffee might not be a bad idea, though.”

“Think I can do that,” the young mechanic said, heading for the counter. “’Bout all I can do right now.”

“I know what you mean.” Zoe sighed and put the gun barrel down. “Kinda feel somewhat useless.”

“Yeah.” Kaylee suddenly smiled. “You want a cookie?”


Mal watched his wife sleeping, Ethan and Jesse either side of her, Bethie tucked up against her legs, and Ben and Hope bundled up with Fiddler by her feet. Just seeing her there made his heart swell in his chest, and he found it hard to breathe for the emotion welling inside him. Moving forward as quietly as possible, he picked up Jesse and lay down next to Freya, resting his daughter on his chest. Her little hands tightened on his shirt, but she didn’t wake. With a smile on his face, he closed his eyes.


“I want to push.”

“Not yet.”

“Simon ...”

“Not yet. Just breathe.”

“I am breathing, gorram it!”

“Moonbrain, calm down.”

“You’re not having this baby! I am! And I want to push!”

“Soon. Very soon.”



He felt someone poking him in his chest. “Huh?” he said, trying to lift himself out of a dream where Zoe was taking a capture of Freya sitting in an old rocker, surrounded by a dozen children, as he stood behind her, one hand on her shoulder, the other holding the lead of an old hound dog who looked remarkably like Jayne. “What?”

Freya stopped poking him. “Listen.”

He lifted his head and did what she told him. “Is that ...”

“A baby crying,” she confirmed, a wide smile blooming on her face.

“You mean –“

“Help me up.”


Everyone was gathered around the medbed as they entered the infirmary, including the children. Freya immediately went to River, smoothing her sweat-ravaged hair from her forehead.

“You okay?” she asked softly.

“Shiny,” the new mother said, smiling.

“They wouldn’t let me be here, you know that, don’t you?”

River nodded. “But you were. In here.” She touched her temple.

“You’re my ...” She paused, then went on, “You’re a daughter to me, River.”

The smile grew wider, brighter. “I know. Mother.”

Freya laughed. “God, I feel old.”

“No,” River assured her. “We’re all young. Look.” She nodded towards where Jayne was standing, his son in his arms, an odd look on his face.

“He’s healthy?” Zoe asked, peering into the blanket.

Jayne seemed almost affronted. “He’s a Cobb. Course he is.”

“I was asking Simon.”

“He is,” Simon agreed. “Everything present and correct.”

“Did you have to ...” Mal didn’t know how to finish the sentence.

“No. No caesarean,” Simon said tiredly. “My nephew was born quite naturally.”

“My son,” Jayne amended, looking down at the bundle in his arms.

“You know, he looks like you,” Hank said. “If you were smaller. And didn’t have the face fur. Or the attitude.”

“Honey,” Zoe warned.

“What?” He looked at her. “I was just saying –“

“I know. But you know what we talked about thinking before opening your mouth?”

“Oh. Right.”

“I don’t know how she managed it,” Simon went on. “He’s over ten pounds, and River’s ...” He shook his head in disbelief.

“Determined?” Mal suggested.

“Other words actually spring to mind.”

“So?” Kaylee said, almost vibrating. “What’s his name?”

“No idea,” Simon admitted.

All eyes turned to Jayne.

“Well?” Mal asked. “Or you gonna make me beg?”

“His name’s Caleb.”

Mal started a little. “Caleb?”

Jayne shrugged a little. “I know you had an uncle by that name, so I hope you don’t ... it’s just a good name.”

“That it is.”

“I like it,” River said from the bed, and Jayne crossed to her, placing her son in her arms. “Caleb Francis.”

“Not Jayne junior?” Hank teased.


“Ain’t gonna kill him today, Zoe,” Jayne promised. “Tomorrow, though ...”

Hank took a surreptitious step behind his wife.


Sunday, February 24, 2008 7:39 AM


Welcome to the 'verse, Caleb Cobb! :D

Sunday, February 24, 2008 7:46 AM


“How much longer, doc?”
“A little while yet, Jayne.”
“Only we’re runnin’ out of wool here.”

What a wonderful way to carry a joke! This was great on all accounts, but your humor was first rate in this. Loved the Hank/Zoe interplay. The innuendos about death before impending fatherhood were perfect! Looking forward to more - and wondering what's going to happen to poor Sully.

Sunday, February 24, 2008 10:47 AM


“Ain’t gonna kill him today, Zoe,” Jayne promised.

Jayne's only got eyes for his progeny today, and not even Hank can spoil it.

Wow, Jane, the best chapter of the arc and that's saying something as it was all great! And finally the little Cobblet. What a very cool story!

THis is just outstanding. One of my favorite all time stories. Loved River's line; "Can't be fixed but too precious to throw away"

I don't know what I can add, except to say Well done! Well done!

Sunday, February 24, 2008 12:39 PM


All my favourite lines have already been quoted so it only remains for me to say I loved it! Such a nice change to have a whole chapter without imminent death or torture in it. And I loved the sweet little scene with Mal, Frey and all the kids. A moment of peace. I'm also thinking River is like to end up a champion knitter! Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Wednesday, November 4, 2009 7:17 AM


(sniff), (tear), Smile.. continue reading.. :)


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