Addiction - Part VIII
Thursday, May 1, 2008

Maya. Post-BDM. Back on Serenity, the rest of the crew are blissfully unaware of what's going on in town. NEW CHAPTER


Zoe turned over, or tried to, then realised she was lying on something other than her own bed. Running through the possibilities – from the hard ground in Serenity Valley to someone else’s bed – she realised the latter was nearer the mark. Especially when small hands touched her face.

“Mama,” Ben said, tapping her cheeks. “Morning.”

“I'm awake, I'm awake,” she said, opening her eyes and smiling at her son.

“Mama.” He grinned back, then coughed loudly, spattering her with tiny droplets. “Sorry,” he mumbled.

“Well, if I don’t get it now I’ll be surprised.” She sat up on the cot as she wiped herself down and pulled Ben onto her lap. “How’re you feeling today?” she asked, running her hand across his forehead.

He made a face. “Icky.”

It was a word Bethie had been using whenever anyone asked how she was, and she could see he meant it. His skin was flushed and hot, and she could hear his chest was rolling with every breath. “I think we’d better get the doc to take a look at you.”

“’Kay.” He rubbed his nose with the back of his hand.

“I'm here,” Simon said, stepping into the shuttle, his medical bag in his hand. “Is Ben feeling worse?”

“I think his temperature’s higher.”

“Well, let’s see what we can do about that, shall we?” He smiled, sat down on the edge of the cot and pulled out his stethoscope, moving the little boy’s pyjamas up so he could listen to his chest.

Ben studied him, watching every move. “Uncle Simon?” he asked carefully, pointing to the stethoscope. “Wanna play.”

“In a minute, Ben.” Simon was listening intently, moving the business end to different places, then Ben coughed again and he winced. Pulling the earpieces away he looked at Zoe. “He’s congested, but I can give him something to help that.” He took a small bottle out of his bag and measured a single dose. “Ben, you have to drink this.”

The little boy screwed up his face in disgust, but opened his mouth, and as Simon poured the liquid inside he took advantage of the opportunity and picked up the stethoscope, putting the ends in his ears.

“Are his lungs okay?” Zoe wanted to know.

“A little fluid, but not enough to worry about.” He held up his hand. “I know. You’re his mother. You’re going to worry. But it’s still the early stages, and the antiviral will be ready by tomorrow night.”

“Well, if you’re sure.”

“I'm sure.” He smiled at the little boy, who was fiddling with the stethoscope, trying to hold it against his own chest. “Here. I’ll hold it and you listen.” He put it in the right place, and Ben’s eyes went wide. “That’s your heart,” he explained. “Sending your blood around your body.”

“Heart,” Ben repeated. “Boom-boom. Boom-boom.”

“That’s it.”

Zoe had to smile. “I think you might have a convert to medicine here, doc,” she said.

“See if he likes having to operate on Jayne, then maybe I’ll be convinced.” Simon rolled his neck.

“Still tired?”

“Just aching.”

“Maybe I should be checking your temperature.”

He shrugged. “It’s up. A little. But I can’t afford to be sick. Not with Freya coming down with it too.”

“Frey?” Zoe’s eyes darted towards Ethan still lying asleep against the other wall of the shuttle.

“Mal woke me about four o’clock this morning.” He stifled a chuckle. “Another reason I feel like gos se.”

“Is she okay?”

“Complaining wildly, at least when I left, that there was nothing wrong with her.” Having to deal with a naked Freya at that time of the morning had left him jaded, to say the least.

“Are you going to make her come in here? It’s not like there’s that much space.”

“No. Not much point, not now the adults have started to come down with it.” He looked down at Ben, still listening in awe to the sounds his internal body was making. “In fact, you might as well take this one back to your bunk.”

Zoe thought for a moment, then said, “No. I think it’s better if they stay here. Long as Kaylee don’t mind looking after them, it’ll be easier. And if I come down with it, and Hank too, there’ll be nobody to do that.”

“Very true. I hadn’t thought of that.” He smiled and rubbed a hand over his eyes. “I must be more tired that I realised.”

“Well, you stay here and keep an eye on everyone while I go change.” Zoe stood up, feeling her joints pop a little from the unnatural position she’d been sleeping in.

“No problem. If you come back and I'm asleep, just kick me. I've got to get back to the clinic to make sure the Virostim’s working properly.” He yawned. “I said I’d give Dr Stokes a hand, too, since his partner’s sick.”

“Simon, if you’re coming down with this –“

“I've dosed myself up with antipyretics, a probably unhealthy mix of painkillers … I’ll be fine.”

“Simon …” She shook her head at him.

“I'm the doctor, Zoe. It’s my privilege to be an idiot.”

“I don’t intend to disagree.”

“Besides, if I am sick then they can’t give it to me.”

She glared at him. “That’s the most skewed logic I've ever heard that wasn't from the captain.”

He laughed. “Thanks. I think. Anyway, you were going to change. Better go if you’re going.”

“Hmmn.” Zoe narrowed her eyes, but ducked out of the doorway onto the catwalk, finding Jayne waiting for her.

“The doc inside?”

“That he is.” Looking closer she could see the big man was worried. “River?”

He nodded. “Woke up a little while back, hotter’n hell. But she’d been tossing and turning all night anyway.”

“She’ll be okay.”

“Know that. Saw the doc yesterday making sure o’that. Don’t mean I ain’t gonna be concerned.” He stepped into the shuttle, allowing Zoe to carry on towards her bunk, marvelling at the changes one small, insistent, crazy girl had made in the big, bad mercenary.

Opening the hatch she started down the ladder, smiling as she saw the form in the bed. It looked like Hank had decided to have a lie in. Probably be good for him, she thought. Unless he was coming down with the measles too.

“Hank,” she whispered. “You awake?”

There was no movement. Or sound. In fact, no sound at all, and Hank wasn't exactly a silent sleeper.

She crossed the room and put her hand on his shoulder. “Hank?” The blanket slid off to reveal a couple of pillows, bunched up so it looked like a man. “Gorramit,” she murmured.


“No sign, Mal,” Jayne said, heading back down into the cargo bay from the upper deck, Kaylee at his heels.

“He’s not in the engine room either,” the young mechanic added, her bright disposition submerged under more than just concern.

“Nor in any of the passenger dorms,” Simon put in, joining them from the common area.

“Where the hell is that man?” Mal said, his hands on his hips, then turned to Kaylee. “You said he went out for a drink last night.”

Jayne’s head came up.

Kaylee rubbed her hands together. “Yeah. But I –“

“Are you sure you heard him come back?”

“I thought I did,” she admitted, biting her lip. “Then when I looked into the bunk –“

“That was pillows, Kaylee,” Zoe interrupted.

“Then … no, maybe I was wrong.”

Mal took a deep breath. “Okay. So assuming he ain’t lying somewhere on board we ain’t thought of, bleeding from something I hope is terminal, then he’s still in town. But what’s he like to be doing there until this time of the morning?”

Simon and Jayne exchanged looks, then the big man seemed to growl low in his throat before saying, “Gambling.”

Zoe turned on him. “What?”

“Gambling.” Jayne felt more than a little uncomfortable under her thousand-watt glare. “He’s been … I seen him, Zoe, before on Keyser. Playing cards. For cash.”

Her face set, and it took those who knew her best to see the emotion under it, but all these people knew her very well indeed. “Really.” Just one word, but with an entire library of meaning in it.

“He said he wasn’t gonna,” Kaylee put in before her mouth caught up with her brain. “I mean … last night … when he …”

The gaze turned to the young woman. “You knew?”

“No! I mean, not that he planned to … or that he did before … but I was just warning him not to.” She glanced at Jayne. “I didn’t know anyone’d seen him actually, you know, gambling.”

Jayne became the focus again. “And why didn’t you tell me?”

“Wasn't my place, Zoe.”

“He’s my husband.”

“And I told him to stop. Said you’d prob’ly kill ‘im when you found out.” He took a step forward. “Zo, he don’t think it’s a problem. Won’t admit it, even to himself.”

“And addicts are good liars,” Simon added. “They have to be.”

“How many more know about this?” Zoe demanded, her voice getting just a little louder. “Sir?”

Mal held up his hands. “Hey, don’t look at me. No-one did the decent thing and informed the captain, so I ain't getting involved in no argument.” He touched her shoulder. “But can we find him first, ‘fore you decide I have to go through all the hassle of hiring me another pilot?”

She glared at him, but inclined her head, just once. “Yes sir.”

“Well, it’ll have to be without me. I have to get to the clinic,” Simon said. “Check on the antiviral.”

Mal thought for a moment, then nodded. “Okay. Zoe, you can take the doc along to do his thing, since I don’t think you can be trusted if you get to Hank first. Kaylee, you stay with the kids, make sure they got all they need. Jayne and I’ll check all the bars.”

“He’s really late,” Kaylee commented, her lip-worrying getting worse. “Maybe he’s been hurt.”

“He’ll wish he was,” Zoe muttered, striding up the stairs to get changed.

“You know, this boat’d be a whole sight better if there just weren't the people on board,” Mal said to himself and anyone else still listening. “I’ll be back in a sec. Just gonna tell Frey what’s happening, grab my coat.” He headed towards the upper bunks.

Jayne leaned against the cage, his brow furrowed. “How come things just don’t wanna go right?” he said, crossing his arms.

“They are,” Kaylee insisted. “Simon’s getting the medicine for everyone, and the Cap won’t let anything happen to Hank.”

“Love how you look at things, little Kaylee. But I got the feeling they’re gonna get a whole lot worse ‘fore they get anywhere near better.”


“I’ll get dressed,” Freya said, pushing the blankets away from her body.

“Oh no, you won’t.” Mal put his hand in the centre of her chest and pushed her back onto the bed. Very gently, tenderly, he covered her up again. “You’re staying put.”

“But you need –“

“I don’t need you going out and making yourself worse. You know you’re coming down with it, just like the kids.”

She glared at him. “I'm fine.”

“So me waking up to you feeling like you’re a furnace is fine?” He pushed her sweat-dampened hair back from her forehead. “Frey, don’t make me worry about you too.”

“But I can help,” she insisted.

“How? Can you tell me where Hank is?”

Her brow furrowed, then a look of intense annoyance washed over her. “Well …”

“Can you?”

“No,” she admitted. “But that doesn’t mean if I was outside I wouldn’t be able to –“

“Frey, you’re staying put.”

“I’ll stay with her,” River said from the ladder, climbing down, her nightdress moving around her knees. They both looked at her, noting the high colour on her usually pale complexion.

“You too, honey?” Freya said softly.

River nodded. “Jayne’s put Caleb in with the other children. My husband is anxious.”

“Not surprised.” Mal put his arm around her shoulders. “So you and my wife gonna be bunkmates ‘til I get back?”

“That was the idea.”

Mal smiled. “Good one, albatross.”

Freya sighed and lay back on the bed. “I'm really not going anywhere, am I?”


“What about Jesse?” She glanced into the nursery through the open door.

“Do you want me to take her to join Ethan?”

“She’s not sick.”

“Yet.” River climbed up the bed and settled next to Freya, who put her arm around the young woman. “Will be. All will.”

“Even me?” Mal asked, his eyebrows raising. “I thought I was captain. Captain’s don’t get sick.”

“Tell that to the germs.” She snuggled down.

“Mal, you comin’?” Jayne’s voice boomed down the open hatch. “Zoe and the doc’ve already gone. And we gotta go find that can sha fool ‘fore he gets into any more trouble.”

Mal shook his head. “And this from a man whose idea of recreation used to be –“

“Come on!”


Out in the streets of Monument City, it became apparent that something was up. People were standing around in groups, talking quietly, and the sight of Mal and Jayne, even without weapons, was making them stare.

The big man stepped closer to his captain. “You figure something’s going on?”

Mal glanced at him. “On?”

“Seems like a lot of people look nervous.”

“Not nervous, Jayne,” Mal corrected, looking around at the people glaring at them. “Angry.”

“Seen this kinda thing before. Just ‘fore some fool tried to raise a lynch mob.” He pulled at the collar of his t-shirt. “Wanted me to be the main attraction.”

Mal nodded slowly. “I know what you mean.” He pulled his com carefully from his pocket. “Zoe. You there?”

Sir. I was just about to call you.” His first mate’s voice sounded odd, and not just from the reception. “You need to get over to the sheriff’s station, mah shong.”

Something cold crawled up Mal’s spine and took root at the base of his brain. “Why, Zoe?”

There’s been a murder. A man’s been arrested. And according to Dr Stokes, it sounds like Hank.”

to be continued


Thursday, May 1, 2008 7:50 AM


Oh NO!!! not another of Zoe's husbands!!

I am really enjoying this story. I have been chasing through your library and have found that this is an extraordinary world. The characters are so well written. I am very much looking forward to more.

Thursday, May 1, 2008 9:00 AM


I can't imagine how this si going to work out. Hank still needs a beating in my opinion. I hope Zoe gives it to him. Or threatens to leave him there and let god sort it out. I'd be enraged if I were her, the killing kind.
You make it so real, the characters are so well drawn. I really enjoy your stories.


Thursday, May 1, 2008 1:41 PM


On top of all the crew worrying about everyone getting sick Hank has to go and get himself into the worst kind of trouble. Doesn't matter that he didn't kill anyone, his own stupid addiction to gambling put him in the wrong place at the wrong time. If the lynch mob don't kill him I'm thinking Zoe will. Ali D
You can't take the sky from me

Thursday, May 1, 2008 5:12 PM


Whew,you really have the crew in a pickle don't you? I don't have any idea how you are going to get Hank out of this.

Thursday, May 1, 2008 10:48 PM


a very fair merry go ride:) the spin you put your characters in!

Friday, May 2, 2008 2:10 PM



Friday, May 2, 2008 8:52 PM


And I guess Jayne will get the blame for all this, lol. I gotta say, Jane, you're cranking up the amps on this on! And the way you build the tension is absolutely terrific. I had envisioned Hank gambling the title to Serenity or something, but nothing like this.

Well done!

Saturday, May 3, 2008 4:19 AM


Wow what a mess. Just when things in your plots couldn't get worse, they do. How do you do that? Great work as always!


You must log in to post comments.



Now and Then - a Christmas story
“Then do you have a better suggestion? No, let me rephrase that. Do you have a more sensible suggestion that doesn’t involve us getting lost and freezing to death?”

[Maya. Post-BDM. A little standalone festive tale that kind of fits into where I am in the Maya timeline, but works outside too. Enjoy!]

Monied Individual - Epilogue
"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 ...]

Monied Individual - Part XX
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.]

Monied Individual - Part XIX
“His name’s Jayne?”

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

“Nothing, nothing! I just … I don’t think I’ve ever met a man … anyone else by that name.”

“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.]

Snow at Christmas
She’d seen his memories of his Ma, the Christmases when he was a boy on Shadow, even a faint echo of one before his Pa died, all still there, not diminished by his burning, glowing celebrations of now with Freya.

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

Monied Individual - Part XVII
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.

[Maya. Post-BDM. The search for Hank continues. Read, enjoy, review!]

Monied Individual - Part XVI
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!]

Monied Individual - Part XV
“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!]