Volcano's Edge - Part VI
Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Maya. Post-BDM. River knows something that Mal won't believe, and Kaylee finds out something else. NEW CHAPTER


Mal leaned on the wall, watching his wife teach. Although she hadn’t been too easy with it at first, she’d got into the swing of things now, and it was fun to see her cope with five children of different ages. She’d found the knack of keeping them interested and entertained at the same time as they learned things, particularly as they all seemed to be highly intelligent. Bethie was obviously gifted, coming from the bloodline she did, but he couldn’t help the swell of pride at knowing his own children appeared to have inherited more than just his good looks.

Not that it stopped the occasional argument.

“But Auntie River said that on at least three planets magnetic north has changed.”

“Bethie –“

“But if that happened wouldn’t it mean everything falls off?”

“No, that –“

“Or maybe everything would be upside down, and then we’d all be walking on our –“

“Bethie!” Freya took a deep breath. “Thank you for that input, but I think we can move on now, don’t you?”

Mal couldn’t help the smile that drifted across his lips. Sometimes the little girl was all too much like her aunt, although from the look on her face he couldn’t swear she wasn't doing it deliberately as she swung her feet under the table just above Fiddler. Ethan was certainly grinning widely.

You’re doing good, xin gan, he thought carefully towards Freya.

She rolled her eyes a little. Can’t I just face Reavers and be done with it?

He laughed at the pleading in her mental voice, then saw Ethan glaring at him.

“Use words,” the little boy said firmly.

Mal turned the laugh into a cough. “Think I might be needing something for this frog in my throat,” he commented, heading out of the door towards the bridge. At the turn for the stairs he came face to face with Jayne.

“Mal.” He seemed anxious, at least for an ex-mercenary.

“I was when I got up this morning.” Jayne didn’t react except to draw his brows together a little. Mal sighed inwardly and added, “What can I do for you?”

The big man stepped closer, somewhat diffidently. “You gotta go see River.”

“How come?”

“She ... she knows something.”

Mal felt his scalp crawl. “About who’s after us?”

“’Xactly.” He glanced behind him, as if afraid his slip of a wife was listening around the corner. Turning back to Mal, he leaned in. “She was dreamin’ last night, and woke up all ‘fraid. Took me an age to calm her down.”

“Why do you think she was dreaming about the fellers who took Hank?”

“What she was saying in her sleep. Talking about drugs and darts and such.” He lowered his voice even more. “Asked her about it, but she said I was wrong, that it was just a nightmare.” He shook his head. “I think she knows, only she ain't tellin’.”

“And you think she’s more likely to tell me?”

“You know how she thinks on you.”

“Jayne, I’m not sure playing the surrogate father card’s gonna work.” He saw the big man open his mouth, about to argue, and held up his hand. “But I’ll go and talk to her. If’n she has any idea about these hwoon dahns, I need to know.”


River sat on the bed, Caleb on the blankets in front of her. He was asleep, his entire body relaxed. Barely six months old, but she loved him more than she had ever imagined she could. Child of her body. Hers and Jayne’s.

People often talked about Jayne being simple, but they meant it as an insult. She, on the other hand, understood his simplicity, that it was another way of saying he had strength of purpose, a clarity of vision, and that it was what allowed him to give himself to her entirely, without holding anything back. He would never be anything less than he showed her, and his love, so entire that it wrapped her in its embrace, made her thrill every time she even thought of him.

Caleb stretched, his little fists reaching out, a whimper escaping his throat, but just a touch of her mind calmed him, and he slid deeper into sleep. She smiled. So small, so helpless, and yet he’d wrought so many changes already. She was no longer just a girl who’d been turned into a crazy person by the Alliance, not even just Simon’s sister, but a wife, and a mother, as well as having a family who ... ah.

A familiar voice called through the doorway. “If’n you’re doing something I shouldn’t be seeing, you say now, else I'm coming in.”

“Caleb is asleep.”

Mal ducked into the shuttle. “Good. Lately been too many women getting bare-breasted around this boat to my way of thinking.”

“Breast-feeding is the best method of childcare,” she pointed out, not looking up at him and instead tucking the sheet closer around Caleb’s body. “All the books agree.”

“And you? Do you agree?”

She ran a finger lightly down her son’s face. “I do,” she murmured softly.

“Yeah, Frey said the same. Made her feel real close to both Ethan and Jesse. Sometimes I can’t help being a little jealous of that closeness, ‘specially since I don’t have the wherewithal to ... you know ... but then she –”

“Persuades you otherwise?”

He chuckled. “Could put it like that. Not that I ain't had my fair share of bonding time, considering I always seemed to end up doing the late night feeds.” He lowered himself slowly to the end of the bed, careful not to wake the baby. “So ... you feeling okay?”

She sighed. “Jayne.” She raised her head at last, her dark eyes gazing soulfully at him. “He told you to come and speak to me.”

“He mighta mentioned it, yes.”

“I don’t have anything I want to talk about.”

“He said you maybe might have an inkling as to who’s after us.” He reached out, put a hand on hers. “Do you?”

She pulled away. “No.”

“River, I ... we need to know. Hank and Pete might’ve been killed. Someone’s trying to tell me something, only I’d rather I knew who it was ‘fore they get to shouting.”

“I can’t.”

Xiao nu, if you think you know, you gotta tell me. You’ve seen something, haven’t you?”

She shook her head. “You won’t believe me.”

“You want I should get Frey? Is this something you can tell her and not me?”

“Blurred. Fuzzy.”

“Cotton candy?”


“River, whatever you can tell me might help. Stop it happening again. Maybe worse. Might be we can stop any blood being spilled at all.”

“I ...” She bit her lip.


“You won’t believe me.”

“Why don’t you tell me and we’ll find out. What have you seen? A name? A planet?”

She let the love and trust she saw in his eyes wear her resolve down. “A face. In my dreams.” She pulled her feet up in front of her, hugging her knees to her body. “Except it can’t be.”

“Who do you see, River?” Mal asked gently, noting the tension inside that slim frame.

“An old friend.”

“A friend? I presume you’re being poetical.”

She nodded. “But you won’t believe me,” she repeated.

“Try me.”

For answer she reached up and touched his left ear, skimming the pale, almost invisible scar around it with just the tip of one finger. “Do you know the writings of Shan Yu?” she asked, but this time it wasn't her voice.

He jerked back, away from her. “He’s dead.” Hearing those words, the phrasing, exactly that intonation ... his heart beat faster, and phantom pain flared at the side of his head.

“Yes. But he’s the one I see.”

“Then you’re seeing wrong. Niska was … Reaverised. You don’t come back from that.”

“Maybe you do.”

“No. You know how Frey left him. You saw. Cutting on himself and the like. You really think he even survived that?”

You didn’t see. Maybe he –”

He got to his feet. “River, I know you’re feeling as frustrated as the rest of us, probably more so. Frey ain't said but I know she’s bad too – she thinks it’s her fault Hank and Pete got took because she didn’t see anything, only it ain't. That measles knocked you all down, and it’s taking time to get back to full strength. But this … thinking it’s Niska – it’s nonsense.”

“I told you,” she said sadly. “Didn’t believe me.”

He felt the tug of his affection for this young woman, and went down onto his heels in front of her. This time, when he spoke, his voice was softer. “Niska’s dead, River. I wish I’d killed the bastard my own self, but he’s gone. Maybe you’re putting his face to this other person, but it can’t be him.”

She tried one last time. “Hank came back. The antidote saved him. Brought him back.”

Licking suddenly dry lips he took a deep breath. “Yeah, but that wasn’t ... he wasn’t a Reaver, albatross. The Pax turned Hank into one of them that would’ve laid down and died, not gone out on the hunt, and that’s the only reason he survived. No-one comes back from being a Reaver.”

Looking down at Caleb, she knew he wasn't going to listen to her any more. “I’m sorry,” she whispered.

He stood up. “No need for that. But I’d be obliged if you didn’t mention this to anyone else. You know how people get sometimes, and we got more than enough to concern us with the living without thinking on the dead.”

“I won’t.”

He patted her shoulder. “Good girl.” He stepped to the door, but turned before leaving. “You see anything else, though, you come tell me. No matter what it is, dong mah?”

Dang rahn.

“That’s my River.” Mal smiled for her and left the shuttle.

For a long moment she listened to his footsteps echoing in the cargo bay, then sighed heavily. “I know what I saw,” she said to her son, lifting him up into her arms and cradling him against her. “And so will they.”


Mal headed down the stairs, his brow creased, his mind churning. It couldn’t be Niska. That old man was dead and rotting some place, with any luck deep in the fires of hell, not orchestrating this sick mind game. Frey herself had told him that the antidote only worked on those who didn’t turn Reaver, and she’d been very clear that Niska had succumbed. Hell, they’d heard his scream themselves.

Still, it was the kind of thing he might have expected from the jian qing. Most of Serenity’s enemies didn’t have the intelligence to pull something like this off. Come in mob-handed, yes, all guns blazing, certainly, but nothing as subtle as this. Not warning them first. Mal would be the first to admit that if he didn’t know Niska was mouldering back on Wayborn, he’d probably be the first to come to mind to pull these tricks. Except ...

He felt like the devil was tapping him on the shoulder, just waiting for him to turn around.

Maybe Simon could help. He’d studied the antidote, spending long hours poring over the results he’d managed to glean from the tiny amount he’d allowed himself, locking the rest away securely. Mal still remembered the conversation they’d had when he handed it over.

Simon had been blunt. “Without the formula, it would be guesswork at best. And we only have one dose. What if we need it?”

“What if they decide to use this Reduced Pax as a weapon?” Mal had countered. “We already figured they’re trying to control the Reavers somehow – you really think they ain’t working on that as well?”

Simon had blanched. “That would be insane.”

“Don't think your sis has the monopoly on insanity, doc. Some folks have an odd idea of right and wrong, believing they know best and are willing to go to any lengths to prove it. And I have to tell you, they scare me more’n the Reavers themselves.”

“I can try and synthesise it. I can’t tell how successful I’d be.” If anything, he’d gone even paler at his next thought. “But Mal, if we’re right, and Reavers are all potential psychics, what would it do to people like River and Frey?”

“I don’t know, Simon. If it ever gets to the stage of us finding out, Frey’s made me promise to shoot her.”

“Mal …” The young man had been visibly shaken. “You can’t.”

No, he knew he couldn’t. Never in a million years. Which was why he’d asked the doctor to try and figure out why it only worked on one type of Pax victim, and not the other. Unfortunately Simon hadn’t had much luck, and the young man was loathe to use more of the limited supply they had of the antidote. He was already concerned he’d used more than he should have, leaving not enough should the unthinkable happen.

As he stepped down to the bay floor, Mal touched the paper Simon had given him, still in his pocket. Maybe he should look into acquiring one of those machines soon as he could. He wasn't sure it would work on replicating the antidote, but there was an easy way to find out.

He strode towards the infirmary, his pace quickening as he heard squeals coming from inside, and for a moment his mind entertained him with images of someone hurt. Maybe the doc had finally wound Jayne up too much and was hoist on his own scalpel.

Instead he was treated to the sight of Simon holding tightly to Kaylee, his lips fastened to hers as he whirled her around.

“Gorramit, doc, I thought I told you to keep your sexing to your bunk?” Mal groused, crossing his arms in the doorway. “Anyone coulda been walking by.”

“I'm sorry, Mal,” Simon said, not looking like he was at all. He still had his arms around Kaylee, and a wide grin split his normally calm face. “I’ll try to keep it under control.” He attempted, unsuccessfully, to wipe the smile from his lips.

Kaylee, on the other hand, just looked like she was about to explode. “Sorry,” she blurted, then giggled like a schoolgirl.

“Don't you have work to do, like keeping my boat in the sky?” Mal shook his head as he stepped into the infirmary. “Anyone’d think you’d just found out you were pregnant or something.” A sudden silence filled the infirmary as Kaylee and Simon glanced at each other, and something stirred in Mal’s belly. “You ... ain’t, are you?”

Kaylee bit her lip, trying to keep her laughter inside. “Well, I was sick and –“

Simon interrupted. “I insisted she come here and –“

“He took some blood, which stung, but he stuck it in his doohickey –“

“The analyser, and –“

“It took a few minutes, and I was getting all jumpy and stuff –“

“I don’t know how you’ve got any nails left,” Simon said tenderly, looking into his wife’s eyes.

“Don’t think I have,” she agreed.

“And you were holding onto my hand so tightly.”

“You were trembling.”

“Then it beeped ...”

Mal exhaled. “Damn.”

Kaylee broke her gaze and looked at him. “You ain’t ... you ain't mad or nothing, are you?” she asked, her sunshine dimming a little.

He felt like the ‘verse’s biggest heel, even inadvertently taking the gloss off this moment for her. “Now why would I mind, little Kaylee, when I know it’s what you’ve been dreaming of for so long?” A slow smile spread across his features, lighting his eyes into the warm blue of a summer sky. “Long as I get to be Uncle, it’s fine by me.”

She squealed and threw herself at him, hugging him tightly. “I love my Captain!”

He let himself embrace her. “That’s all well and good, but your husband here might object if you go doing this too often.”

She giggled again and let go. “Simon don't mind.” She glanced back at him. “Do you, honey?”

“I'm going to be a father again,” the young man said, stepping forward, shaking hands with Mal. “I don’t think even Jayne could rile me today.”

“That’s good,” said a deep voice from the common area. “Might take you up on that, doc.”

They turned to see the rest of the crew watching, each one of them grinning widely.

“How did you –“ Kaylee began, then saw Bethie standing at the front. “You heard?” she asked.

Bethie nodded, all her little teeth on display in a huge smile. “Another baby. I had to tell.”

“That she did,” Freya agreed. “I think I’ll be deaf in that ear for a while longer.”

“’Nother sister?” Hope asked, pushing through the legs to grasp as her mother’s coveralls.

Kaylee bent down and lifted her onto her hip. “Might be a baby brother. And I don’t wanna be told yet,” she added, searching out and fixing onto River’s face.

“Wasn't going to say a word,” the young psychic said, looking as innocent as the day.

“You think it was that tea?” Hank asked, his arm around Zoe’s waist. “Ellie Frye’s cure?”

Simon shrugged. “I don’t know. I don't see how, but ... it’s a miracle.”

“I think they happen more than you think, doctor,” Serenity’s first mate said.

“Maybe they do.”

Hank sighed and squeezed his wife. “Now, if only you’d let me get you pregnant again ...”

She raised an eyebrow at him. “One miracle at a time.”

Kaylee laughed. “You know, I’m glad you all know. I did think maybe we should keep it a secret for a while, you know, just me and Simon ... but I’m glad you all know.”

“And we’re so happy for you,” River said, gliding into the room and hugging her sister-in-law.

“Besides, mei-mei,” Freya put in, grinning, “the noise you were making I think Inara probably heard on Lazarus.”

Kaylee’s eyes widened. “I gotta tell her!” She looked at Mal. “Can I –“

“Go. Before you bust a stay or something.”

She handed Hope to Simon and ran out of the infirmary.

“Can we bottle that enthusiasm?” Hank asked, watching her disappear around the corner of the stairs. “We could make a fortune and retire.”

“You’d never find anything strong enough to keep it in,” Simon said, his own joy bubbling in his chest.

Mal caught Freya’s eye. Am I bad in wishing it was us? he thought gently. Another little Reynolds?

She smiled for him. It will be one day.

Can I hold you to that?

Well, I –

Their mental conversation was interrupted by Mal feeling someone tugging at his pants, and he looked down into familiar blue eyes.

“Use words!” Ethan admonished.


“Sir, they’ve left Phoros.”

“All of them?”

“Yes sir.”

“And the tracking device? It is working?”

“Yes sir.”

“Then follow. When they land I will give further instructions.”


There was a click and they were alone again.

“What’s he got against them?” the other man asked. “Seems like a lot of fuss for nothing. Easy enough to kill ‘em if we want to.”

“I don't know.” He shuddered slightly. “And I don’t think I want to. We’re doing a job and we’re gonna get paid, that’s all I care about. The whys and wherefores don’t matter.”

“You afraid of him?”

“Damn right. And if you had any sense you should be too.” He made sure the tracker was still functioning, then lifted the small ship away from its hiding place in the Phoros hills. No matter what his companion said, he knew of their employer’s reputation, and he for one didn’t want to end up on the wrong end of it.

to be continued


Wednesday, July 9, 2008 5:17 AM


Wow! Sounds like these men after them are quite the evil ones. I am enjoying this lots.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008 6:29 AM


This just can't be good. Volcano's edge, indeed!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008 8:37 AM


Why won't Mal believe River?

Niska returns + early pregnancy = heartbreak? And DON'T take that for a plot suggestion! I'm not BEB ;) (I've been rereading all your fics, and basking in the procrastination....)

Ah. And being held over the volcano's edge is a Shan Yu staple. I'm seeing some da bianhua on the horizon, and not in a good way.


Wednesday, July 9, 2008 12:16 PM


Holy crap! When I first started reading the first chapter of this story the title made me think it just had to Niska then I kept hoping it wasn't. Gorramit, now I won't get any sleep until the *hundan* gets finished off for good though he does seem near impossible to kill. Oh, Mal, when will you learn to trust River? Ali D
You can't take the sky from me

Wednesday, July 9, 2008 12:50 PM


MAL, TRUST RIVER! I had a feeling too that it would be Niska. And remember to talk to Simon when all the congratulating is over.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008 5:20 PM


Can't seem to find the first fic in this series. Is it a series, or do you just write all your fics in a row? Sounds interesting, and I'd love to read from the beginning. But what is the beginning?

Thursday, July 10, 2008 8:53 AM


I see your threads out there, weaving a pattern - and not a very pretty one I might add. Why won't Mal believe River this time? Even when she's fuzzy she's a lot more clear than a non-psychic. And a viral replicator is a handy thing to have when fighting a madman.


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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!]