Parents, Preachers, & Pistol Skinners: Chapter 7
Sunday, July 13, 2008

The New Haven Series; Post BDM; M/I, S/K: River and Fiyero become closer, Simon finds learning how to quick draw it harder than it looks, and Mal and Inara's bubble begins to burst due to clashing opinions... and Mother Serra


Dear Albatross,

Well, everyone says I have to write to you on account of it being close to your birthday as well as Yuletide. Apparently attached to this bundle of letters is a few presents, mine’s the best one. I even wrapped it too, in the brown paper one with the green string.

The ranch is doing fine, we’ve ran into a streak of normal, which is refreshing. I expect everyone else’s letters to detail their lives, so I’ll just say that I’m well. Still have all my fingers and toes, and most of my wits. You should see Meilin though, she’s figured out how to smile. Big grins too, Inara packed a few pictures for you so take a look.

Hope you’re doing alright, meditating on the phenomenon of bamboo, finding your inner monk, becoming the all powerful creature of the universe that remains trapped within the recesses of your mind, you know, that stuff. Tell that Fiyero kid I said hi too, from what I read in your letter last time he’s your buddy, hope that’s going well for you.

And you’re eighteen! Huzzah! I don’ know what the policy is at a temple, but try to go have a legal drink, eat some good food, kick up your heels…. Well don’t do anything too wild. In fact, before you do something ask yourself ‘Would the Captain do this?’ and if the answer is yes, just don’t do it. If you adhere to that rule, I promise you won’t wake up somewhere confused, nor will you get pulled over, or in bad straights with any folk. As for Yuletide, I doubt monks celebrate something like that, but I wish you a merry one.

Well I gotta go, best visit us sometime,

Captain Pirate Cowboy


It was almost dinner.

River was lying on Fiyero’s bed, the calligraphy and drawings floating through her head like a never ending nightmare. Fiyero’s torso and head were at the other foot of the bunk, as he was reading a book by Jack London. Bored, she rolled over, her nose nearly running into a toe, and began to play with his feet. They were hard soled from his past life, like animal feet, thick nailed and well muscled as veins were like extroverted tributaries under his skin.

Startled someone was fiddling with his toes, he yelped and jerked his foot back.

River giggled, gladly distracted from her nightmares, and reached for his other foot.

“Ohhhh no.” He slid it under his body for safety as she grinned wildly, playfully, and gave a look of determination. “I don’t want you anywhere near my toes, Miss Shao Long.”

“Why?” She giggled, tilting her head like a curious otter.

“Because you’re gonna yang diyu bangzi de wu jiao.”


“Because you have an evil streak.”


“I dunno, ask your mom, perchance she was in confederation with the devil… or dropped you.”

River lunged coltishly, tackling him as her black hair flew in a spray.

Boston, who was sleeping on the bottom bunk, flattened his ears. Noisy teenagers had no respect for kitty naptime.

“I knew it! She was in league with Beelzebub!” He exclaimed as River let out a peel of laughter as she wrestled him. Fiyero kept blocking her hands as they were attempting to tickle him, employing a good deal of his martial arts training to fend her off.

“At least I wasn’t dropped like Houzi Nanhai!” She laughed back.

“Hey, even if I ever was, that knock to my head made me special.” He pinned her wrists and grinned teasingly. “Special enough to understand you.”


“What? It takes special to understand special.” He chuckled, thankful everyone else was outside of their bunk room as most of the room would have been telling them to grow up.

River stuck her tongue out at him, crossing her eyes as well.

“All hail the mighty Shao Long of the temple.” Laughter filled the announcement. “Noble, with a virtuous face and considerate eyes. I hear she’s secretly….”

“A witch with a familiar.” River piped. “Secretly green as grass.”

“It always comes back to green witches.” Fiyero rolled over so he was on top, she squirmed, yet her face told him she was enjoying it. “Why?”

“The assumption you’re attracted to green witches.”

“Witches, perhaps. I dunno about green.” He voice calmed, and his smile grew into something else. “I know silly witches that stick their tongue out and have foot fetishes are sorta swai.”

“Don’t love feet!”

“Then why were you fiddling with mine?”

“Yinwei tamen shi da houzi jiao.” River unconsciously changed the movement of her squirm. It had been previously more of a wiggle, yet now her hips rolled, and her breasts moved upwards to graze his chest. “A curiosity to human genetics.”

“I should be offended, but I like witche….” He stopped, and realized their position. The situation they had unexpectedly come into, and how time seemed to stop. Muscles in his face slackened.

River couldn’t officially read his mind, but she knew what he was going through, for he had the world’s worst poker face. She felt the same too, for he was a good friend, a best friend, and the feelings between them were warm and raw. Lifting her head and shoulders up off the mattress,

River Tam pressed her lips against Fiyero’s.


Mal got to wear some more earthy colors.

Blues, blacks, plums, silvers and golds were all the rage on the Core. However Inara had been kind and found some things that were more his taste. He came out with three sets of clothes (not too pricy, but something that was socially acceptable), things he could mix and match, and left wearing some of it.

As he left Inara, Meilin in his arms, he was wearing some charcoal slacks with fine black and brown pin striping, black polished boots, his service pistol in an ankle holster, a white mandarin collar shirt, white suspenders, and finally his favorite of all, the rich brown silk vest with black and gold paisleys embroidered on it. He loved the damn vest, ‘cause it was brown, and it was the next best thing to his coat. The rest of his previously worn effects had been sent back up to the suit as he left the Retail Deck and took an elevator to the Nature Deck.

The Nature Deck, consisted of two parts, the aquarium, and the animal park. Father and daughter started out at the aquarium (named Pacific Park: Brought to you by Blue Sun), that housed an impressive array of marine dwellers. There were bottle nosed dolphins, a pair of orca whales, squids, octopi, rays, and an assortment of sharks, coral, and odd sea critters. It was quite the experience, for the viewers of the fish walked in a tunnel, the plexiglass surrounding them being the aquarium’s various habitats themselves.

Meilin liked to watch the brightly colored fish, which brought coos from her lips, Mal was amused by the 25 foot long great white shark named Jane. Jane the shark, ate everything.

Next, was the animal park (named Eco Park: Brought to you by Blue Sun).

It was cool and damp, with enormous trees, lush plants and several clearings. A mixed habitat that held many species as it altered from rainforest to mountain habitat. In the rainforest parrots and other flamboyantly colored birds flew overhead, monkeys screeched and hooted, small deer darted about and grazed. But what was so fascinating, and harrowing, was that predators and larger herbivores walked around amongst the guests. It included the enormous tigers and Elysian lions, who were actually quite friendly.

It didn’t sit right with Mal, wild things not being wild, so he showed Meilin parrots, monkeys, and a panda bear named Po she wanted to touch.

After a bit, they ended up in the animal park’s mountainous range where deer, eagles, wolves, bears and mountain cats roamed. It was there where the Nature Café was located. A rustic adventure themed eatery that boasted an assortment of life animals wandering about as well. Regardless it was more or less a place that nannies apparently took children, it was a good opportunity for Meilin to be changed and fed, and her father to find something to eat. Luckily, he found an item on the menu he knew, as it catered more to children the captain ordered a good old fashioned hamburger, and sat out on the patio on the edge of the grossily corporate, appeal to the masses park. Several flat screens dotting the patio, showing videos and facts about park animals as well as Blue Sun commercials on products and how they were eco concious factories.

Meilin slept, bundled in a blanket and resting in her sling which hung on a spare chair.

Mal ate his burger, which was horribly overpriced, but decent. As he did, he noted the people that kept on staring at him. Mal appeared to ignore it, but had been picking up on it since the aquarium. He didn’t know why he was getting such looks, because he appeared to fit in well enough. He had the clothes, so there wasn’t a reason for fashion persecution.

“They keep on staring at you because your child isn’t with a nanny.”


Jayne, as he stood next to Zoe, out of range from Simon and his supposed target the bulls eye painted on a piece of scrap wood nailed to a fence post, rubbed his eyes. “I’ve taught kids faster th’n this.”

Zoe, sighed, a curl of frost the evidence. Dismay had set in long ago.

“My five year old nephew, taught ‘im how ta shoot his pellet pistol. Boy was pickin’ off cats ‘n skinnin’ it outta the holster in two gorram hours.”

“Let’s just.. give him some time.”


He turned, slowly, and saw a young woman cleaning off tables, placing soiled plates and cups onto a cart. She had honest eyes, dark hair and the plum uniform of a cruise employee.

“I’d refrain from talking to you seeing it’s forbidden, but I can see you’re not the regular coin filled tourist.” The woman explained. “And your pondering over everyone else’s staring is bordering on dense.”


“It ain’t gonna help. He’s dense as hell, special edgication. He’s unloaded two full magazines, and he hasn’t come close ta even hittin’ the wood much less the target. Dai shi buchi kaomianbao.”


“Why thank you.” Mal announced in a dry, quiet tone, burger still positioned betwixt his hands. “So nice to find someone down to earth on this pompous mobile.”

“You’re welcome. Back to the subject, they keep staring at you because of that whelp of yours. People with more platinum than they can count really don’t like their offspring, because they dump them on nannies and governesses and have them kept on separate decks away from their own suites.” She wiped a table down with a rag as a governess tamed three children.

“Ohhhh.” Mal nodded his head in understanding. “Well, that makes sense. I sorta like my daughter so I tote her around.”

“That’s refreshing.” She announced.

“So how long have you worked bussing tables and dispensing advice to men out of their league?”

The girl gave an injured face. “You’re really not Core, are you?”

Mal was startled by her reaction. “What?”

“Everyone who works on luxury liners with the exception of the piloting staff, mechanics and companions are indentured servants or slaves.”

He was taken back by that thought.

These people that kept the rich and famous pampered whilst being boated around the galaxy in their leisure, had no freedom. They could never leave, they were property, about as sentient as the damn ship itself in the eyes of the company that owned it.

She went back to bussing tables.


"Listen, Simon." Zoe stood next to him, hand on his shoulder as she attempted to understand him. He had been at it all day, and had nothing to prove for his efforts. "Have you, ever been in any kinda fight that involved weapons? Other than guns?"

"I was captain of my prep school's fencing team?" He offered. "I made regional champion." Watching her think, he probed. "Does that help in any way?"

"I dunno, we'll find out tomorrow."


When Inara came back to their suite, she heard cowboy cinema.

Cautiously coming into the living room, she found her family. Mal was laying on his back, vest and dress shirt cast to the side so he was in an undershirt, watching some earth-that-was movie as Meilin was on his chest, drifting between being asleep and awake.

Smiling, she came into the room. “Have you two had a good day?”

Mal looked up to see Inara, radiant. Her skin glowed, she looked rejuvenated and tireless, whatever they had done to her had worked, because she had looked a tad worn lately. “Don’t you look like a cherry blossom. Take it the spa was good?”

“It was just what I needed.” She took a seat on the edge of the couch and scooped Meilin up. “But I missed a few people.”

Meilin’s eyes focused on her mother, and with a small smile on the hinges of her mouth she kicked her feet and waved her arms as she was drawn to Inara’s chest. Once there, she grabbed onto the dress, rubbing her face against it, enjoying the scent of Inara as well as her safe embrace. There was a happy grunt as she was face first in the dress.

Inara let out a small chuckle at her daughter’s enthusiasm as she kissed the baby and reunited. “I know wo xian wu ying ye.” Turning to Mal, she watched as he sat up. “In case you were feeling left out, I missed you as well.” She stole a kiss as Meilin snuggled in. “Though I am questioning you watching a violent movie with our child in the same room.”

Mal appeared defensive “It ain’t that violent, and I would never let her be exposed to somethin’ I didn’t approve. It’s a site better than all of these new age movies, they’re all the same, Alliance propaganda. This however,” he gestured to the flatscreen “is classic, earth-that-was western, one of my favorites, Silverado. I would be depriving her of culture and history if I didn’t let her watch.”

Inara gave a look of amusement as her dark eyes rolled slightly. “Well, I guess there could be worse things. And she is a nio guniang.” Inara reclined against Mal and felt him wrap her up. The spa had been well needed, she hadn’t been feeling her brightest since Miranda. The fall from Companionship, struggling to make it out on the prairie, and suddenly becoming a mother, had been taxing on her body.

Mal kissed her sweet smelling tresses and then her neck. “That she is. You eat dinner?”

“No, I was hoping we could call up some food. I was thinking perhaps something romantic, I can feed Meilin and put her down.” Inara intoned rather suggestively, for the spa day had given her some virve. “That way we’re not interrupted.”

“I gotta better idea.”

Inara arched a brow. “Really? And what’s that?”

Mal held her tight by the waste and pulled Inara down onto the couch with him.

“Mal! Careful with who I’m holding.”

“She didn’t even squeak.” He peered in to check on Meilin, who was fine. “See?”

“We still have to order dinner.”

“So you’re hungry?”

“Yes, and not for you. You know, actual life sustaining food?”


The shepherds helped their hosts.

A few had gone to the outpost since Jayne was giving shooting lessons. With little instruction the others milked the last cow, gathered eggs, kept the house tidy and even made lunch. They were a helpful bunch, something that was needed as the others focused on more trying things. The group ate dinner, Simon went off to the bedroom alone, Zoe whittled by the fire whilst talking to a few preachers, Jayne was in the barn doing something, and Kaylee had taken off to her shop.

She was so bent out of shape that she didn't want to talk to Simon, at all. Which leant to her drive to head out to her tiny shack made out of spare wood, and finish making everyone's Yuletide gift. With a few items already completed, wrapped in old newspapers to keep them clean and stacked on a shelf, her goggles were on as her welding torch carefully fixed two pieces of metal together. Regardless their relationship was on rocky ground, it was Simon's piano bench. River had finished the piano itself, however Kaylee didn't work with wood, so the seat was to be out of scrap metal. When it was done, it would be smoothed out, painted and polished.

There was a knock at the door.

Turning off her torch, she pulled the goggles up and draped a piece of canvas on her project. "Come in."

The door opened, and Shepherd Kouros peered into the workshop. "Am I interrupting you or...?"

"No no, I told ya ta come over." Kaylee set her tool down and took off her gloves. Walking across the short span of floor, she crouched under a work counter and pulled out an old carpet bag. “I mean, you came here for Shepherd Book's things.” Hauling the carpet bag over, she set it on a stool and opened it up.

The shepherd sidled up to the bag and peered inside. “May, I?”

“Sure.” She watched as he took out the leather tie Book had used for his hair.

“Thank you so much for keeping all of this.” He told her sincerely, talking out a tattered Bible had had pages clipped back to it. Curious, he flipped through it, gently taking the paperclip and removing the loose pages carefully. Perplexed at the nature of the pages, including the red notes in all of the margins.

"Oh." Kaylee smiled. "That Bible's seen a whole lot."

"Apparently.... are... these equations?"


“So, where did you get cowboy cinema?”

Mal was holding Inara, she was backed into his chest as she held Meilin. They had called in their food, the lights were dimmed, and the movie had been changed to Mal’s other favorite, Tombstone. There were a small stack of disks on the coffee table as they enjoyed the tranquility of the moment. He was alternating between watching the screen and watching Inara with Meilin as the smaller of the two had decided to practice talking. The baby having a burst of energy and excitement upon Inara’s return, and the drive to communicate her joy. “On the Amenities Deck, they have disk rental. Glad to see they had classics.”

“Hmm, well I’m glad you found something that suits your brand of entertainment.” She tickled her daughter's belly to get a stream of happy coos. “How was your father-daughter day?”

“After the shopping spree we headed down to the Nature Deck.”

Meilin grabbed Inara's hand and brought it to her mouth, gumming it, exploring it as she was curious. Sucking a few times, she found the hem of the sleeve and decided that too needed tasting.

“Was it educational?” She looked back at him as their feet toyed one another on the couch cushions.

“You could say that. The big fish tank thingy was amazing, walkin’ under and around all the sharks and everythin’, Meilin liked the colorful fish, I held her up and a big orange one came up ta the glass and stared at her. They engaged in a very complicated, incoherent, one sided conversation.” He heard Inara’s giggle towards the thought and smirked. “Then there was a shark named Jane, awfully fitting.”

“Did you go to the animal park?”

“Yes. With friendly beasts and uniformed slaves.” He voiced in a less joking tone.

“So you heard about the slaves.” Inara sounded cautious as she adjusted Meilin’s incline and gently pulled the sleeve out of her mouth. “You’re going to have to get used to that, it’s all over the core, along with friendly beasts as pets.”

“What do you mean?”

Inara could hear that he was taking offense, she didn’t know why, so she broached the subject the best she could. “Well, they’re all over the Core as well as some of the upper crust on the border planets, the government is lax on restrictions unfortunately, and slaves are cheap. They’re hardly novelty to those in high society.”

Mal’s face pulled tense as he thought of the young woman bussing tables. “Ya know, I talked ta one of them, here, on the ship.”

“It’s been done since the exodus. People populated on the way over to the new system, those who had the upper hand took advantage.” She explained, standing up she went over to a table that had the satchel of baby items. “I don’t necessarily agree with it, but it’s a facet of Core life.”

“So what?” He began to speak in a charged way. “I know you don’t speak well of slavers and trade, but ya hardly bat an eye to the thought of keepin’ um.”

She could see his body tense as she removed a set of toy keys from the satchel and gave them to Meilin. “Mal, I think it’s wrong to take people from their homes and turn them into property, it’s against human rights. And I certainly didn’t care for owning slaves….”

“You owned slaves?” His head pulled back, shock and disgust across his features.

“Everyone owns slaves, it’s the Core.

The infant garbled happily as she gummed the keys and let her fingers explore the shapes of them. Her mother held her upright, back against her chest with a hand around her waist and under her bottom, allowing her better dexterity.

Mal got to his feet. “So you speak ill of those that capture but bought their product?”

She was aghast at the accusation. “Danrang bu. I never bought from slavers and from the auction house. I always purchased through acquaintances and only slaves that were descendants of a long lineage.”

He scoffed. “Cause that makes a ’verse of a difference.”

“I thought it was.” She announced with conviction. “I couldn’t even think of buying someone that knew freedom. And I always bought a family together…”

“Oh, so you were a nice slave master.” He spat in objection.

Meilin interrupted their argument with a loud coo.

“I tried to be as kind and as compassionate as possible.” Inara raised her voice defensively. “I never beat any of my slaves, I gave them good housing and kept them healthy and happy, I even allowed them to buy themselves out of bondage…”

“But the flaw lies in the concept!”

“I had no say in developing it!”

“But you didn’t have to follow it!”

“Can we argue about the finer points of this when there’s not xiao er zai wu?” She was well aware of their growling tones, and the fact that if they got any louder, which was highly likely, that their child would be upset.

Mal pulled his jaw tight and let out a huff. However she was right, and they couldn’t just fight in front of Meilin. He dropped his head and put his hands on his hips as she rolled her lips into her mouth.

However the Coretex screen chimed with a wave.

Inara read the screen, turned around post haste and gave Meilin to Mal, motioning him to stay out of sight, she touched the screen and put on a companion worthy false smile.

Mal stood there, sliding his weight to one foot, and played the curious onlooker.

“Mother.” Inara greeted with what her swain had come to know as false warmth. She had quite the poker face when she needed to. “It’s been so long.”

“It has my love. I was just checking to see how you are doing.”

The captain strained to see the screen, but his view was skewed.

“I’m doing fine, I actually went to the spa to refresh myself. Thank you so much for the generous on board allowance, I fear were I’ve been far removed from such privileges.” Inara twisted her hands out of site of the camera.

“So I’ve been told. While I opened the account I’ve had permission to track your purchases, as well as your log in roster for the suite. Which is a curiosity to me, as you have three people registered to live in your suite, special request ordered infant related furniture and bought several items for men and small children.” The voice was calm, but sharply critical, well trained in the art of being disparaging. “Is there something you wish to bring to light?”

Inara’s face slackened, yet kept a small, sheepish smile. The smile she had when she was six and had snuck home a new pet. “I hoped to tell you in person…”

“You hoped to blindside me.” The voice pointed. “It seems you’ve been too busy to share what I assume is important news?”

“Well, yes.” Inara gestured for Malcolm to come over. “Where we’re located life is hardly leisurely….”

“This man has had you working hard while with child?”

“Of course not.” Mal piped, staring into the screen to see an older woman. Though aged, she was in a graceful way, and had retained much of her youthful beauty. From what he could see, she had a slender figure, with Inara’s black tresses and dark eyes. It was no doubt where his beloved received her looks from, though the woman gave him a critical study. “No offence to your accusations Mrs. Serra…”

Miss Serra.” She corrected.

“Miss Serra.” He continued “But I would never do such a thing to your daughter, make her work hard and carry a child. Inara cares for the house…”

Miss Serra had a look that could melt ice it was so offended. “You’ve become a housewife?” She sounded as if it were the end of the world.

“I don’t consider myself that.” Inara inwardly cringed as Mal seemed highly befuddled that the concept of being a housewife was such a negative image.

“Well I suppose it can be considered other things.” The older woman sighed, collecting herself. “On the brighter side, I see my grandchild.” She nodded with approval.

Meilin was busy thoughtfully sucking on her keys.

“Her name is Meilin.” Inara took a step sideways and stood as close to Mal as possible, reaching out and rubbing his arm. “And this is Malcolm Reynolds.”

“Malcolm Reynolds, pleasure to see you I’m sure.” Her tone however, was condescending, and she clearly didn’t think he was worth a bent bit piece. “I’m eager to meet you as well as catch up on what and why you have my daughter so far away from the Core and her profession.”

“Well I look forward to that too.” He gave a dry smile. “Miss Serra.” The screen went blank as the connection ended, and he gave a heavy sigh, turning to Inara. “I think I hate your mother already.”



Shao Long: Young Dragon

yang diyu bangzi de wu jiao: Tickle the hell out of my feet

Houzi Nanhai: Monkey Boy

Beibi: mean


Yinwei tamen shi da houzi jiao: Because they are big hairy monkey feet

wo xian wu ying ye: I missed my baby too

Danrang bu: of course not

xiao er zai wu: little ears in the room

**Mal's favorite quote from Silverado would be- Cavalry Sgt.: How do I know this is your horse? Paden: Can't you see this horse loves me? Cavalry Sgt.: I had a gal do that to me. It didn't make her my wife. And Tombstone- Billy Clanton: Why, it's the drunk piano player. You're so drunk, you can't hit nothin'. In fact, you're probably seeing double. Doc Holliday: I have two guns, one for each of ya. ****As always, the writer appreciates all comments whether they be positive, negative, or suggestions.**


Saturday, July 19, 2008 12:12 AM


Go River.


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