Parents, Preachers, & Pistol Skinners: Chapter 13
Thursday, July 24, 2008

The New Haven Series; Post BDM; M/I, S/K: River and Fiyero recover, Simon goes to town, and Mal and Inara are seperated for individual shopping trips. Both finding themselves in uncomfortable positions.


A/N: An early post as I will be out of town tomorrow.... ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Dear River, Happy Birthday, Merry Yuletide and Congratulations on your big step in life. It seems so much has come along these past weeks, months, particularly on your front. Here you are, eighteen years old and in a new stage of your life away from your kin. From your last letter to us it sounds just up your alley, challenging and the like. I fear if you stayed on the ranch you would have been unfulfilled. You’re too complex to be satisfied with our existence, I reckon once you’re done learning (which will be soon as you absorb things faster than a sponge) you’ll be off in the sky doing something great. Can’t say what, but it’ll be beyond the ordinary I suspect.

Around here not much has changed, Kaylee’s talking more and more about Yuletide, which means it’s coming. The ranch is fine, I’m healing and my lungs are scarred up, your brother has me doing some ridiculous breathing exercises so I can breathe well and go back to work. I’ve been able to work in the house, but the cold is what’s difficult on me. Other than that, Meilin’s been growing by leaps and bounds. She’s smiling, playing, doing all sorts of stuff. Happiest little thing I’ve ever seen.

Well I got to go, never been adept at writing letters. I hope you’re well.

Love, Zoe


Purple Piranhas tearing her to pieces.

River gasped, startled, yet not horrified as she found herself against Fiyero’s bare hide. Feeling him stir, she pressed her lips to his chest and tried to muse over something else other than the nightmares. Simon probably would have had a heart attack, the Captain would be flustered, Inara would be supportive, Kaylee would be cheering her on, Zoe would be quietly supportive, and Jayne would care less. She was glad it hadn’t happened while on the ranch, as the moment would have probably felt less intimate and more secretive.

“Are you ok?” He asked groggily.

The dark head of hair nodded against his skin. “Have you.”

“You do.” Fiyero sighed. “Hook, line and sinker.” Combing her locks out, he reveled in her strength and beauty. “So, what are we going to do today, since you know, we seem to have a few days to ourselves. No early morning wake ups, no drills, no hoing weeds in the vegetable garden…”


Fiyero smiled. “Well, we can’t just do that the entire time.”

“Yes we could.” She propped her chin up on his chest and smiled up at him.

“I’d be worthless after the first two hours, possibly comatose. Do you want that to happen? Turn me into a vegetable? That wouldn’t be romantic.” His skin prickled as she climbed up the length of him.

River slid a leg over his side and straddled him, her hand roaming up and feeling his face. His eyes, nose, jaw, and finally lips. Leaning in, pressing her open mouth against his own, knowing what would make him turn with sensation. The knowledge came from her unwillingly gleaning such things from the likes of the others on Serenity, particularly the womenfolk, especially Inara and her companion training. “Wouldn’t be romantic at all, wouldn’t want to hurt you. Guess I need to stop.”

“Well…” Fiyero’s voice cracked as he struggled to keep even breathing “it would be a pity to stop now… break that marvelous concentration of yours…”


They slept well that night.

Mal hadn’t spoken a word of his conversation with Zaira to Inara. He didn’t want to agitate her, plus he figured it was just a matter of time before Zaira pulled her daughter aside and had a similar conversation, which he knew wouldn’t go so well. In the morning, there was a light knock on the apartment door. He got up and padded out to find the boy holding their breakfast tray, the child slave smiling triumphantly has he had brought a platter of bacon and scrambled eggs.

“Was it hard to finagle the cook into makin’ rim chow?” Mal took the tray.

The boy nodded his head, grinning little pearls of teeth. The cook, a haughty man who was immersed in gourmet Core cuisine, had been appauled at the request to cook such rim fair. However he had taken the flack readily for a few precious bits.

With a pleased bow of his head, he dropped a few bits into the slave child’s palm. “Go run off.”

“Xiexie.” The boy turned and scurried out.

Mal stretched his arms and stiffly walked to the room. Inara was dozing in bed, and Meilin had been placed in her basket the night before and was sleeping as well. She had been set in there, as they had missed sleeping against one another without a little wedge between them. Taking a seat on the mattress, he set the tray on the nightstand and slid back under the covers.

“Did we get a capture?” She asked softly, scooting over to be next to him.

“No.” Mal slid hand over her waist and found no clothing. Inara kissed him, and slid up to rest herself atop his bare chest. Her hands wandered through his brown hair as she kissed him in a slow, leisurely fashion. Mal placed his palms on a perfectly shaped bottom and felt her shoulders heave as she made his mouth water.

“Good.” Inara began to kiss his cheek, then his jaw, then the base of his neck. Collarbone, chest, all the way to his navel as Mal curled his toes and drew in a sharp breath, her nose dragging across his skin slowly too, teasing his skin with gentle flairs of air from exhaling. “Hmmm.”

“Shen wo xi huan ninren weidi fangshi.” He groaned as she went back up her trail, rolling her hips against him. When her mouth got back to his, he tilted his head to the side and sat up, holding onto her as the mountain of pillows provided a better incline.

“I just feel it’s best to start this day off on the right foot.” She kissed the tip of his nose as his pants were pulled off.


“Shepherd Jamie says you’re a pretty decent shot now.” Kaylee announced, kissing Simon good morning as York kneeded their toes as his way of saying good morning.

“Decent yes, working my way up to fastest pistol on Shadow.” He smiled, combing the hair out of her face.


After they were done, Inara was in fact on her back, as Mal was lying on his side, kissing her neck.

“I’ve missed doing this in the morning.” She sighed as his arm set itself on the other side of her and he kept himself braced over her with his hands planted on either side to the mattress.

“I’ve just missed this in general.” He teased, replicating what she had done, starting off kissing her mouth, then moving down to a lazy trail. “I mean, haven’t had much time to ourselves. Plus midnight feedings sorta dampen the morning spirit….”

Both their eyes snapped open to alert with realization.

“Did she wake up last night?” Inara probed, though still keeping the moment alive by craning her neck up to capture his mouth with her own.

Malcolm Reynolds mulled the question over as he enjoyed the kiss. He slowly began to shake his head. “Don’t recall any fussin’.”

She furrowed her brows. “Neither do I, but I thought that was because you were going to give her the extra bottle I had expressed, so I had slept through it.”

“You hardly ever sleep through it. You’re gorram wired to wake up for her when she so much as squeaks the wrong way.”

“So she… she really…” Inara turned and stared at the basket.

“I think she did.” Mal announced in awe, looking too at the basket.

Meilin began to fuss as she had slept through the entire night and was famished.

The parents got up, robed themselves and went over to the wicker baby container. Mal was first (nearly tripping over Shan-shan who had slept guarding the babe’s basket), and he lifted her daughter up to see that she had soaked through her diaper and into the blanket.

He wrinkled his nose and took her over to a table to be changed.


River and Fiyero did have a day beyond what lie in bed.

They got up, washed, dressed, and went out for morning forms and meditation. The feminine half of the couple wished to keep in fine form as well as use the rituals to open and heal her mind. And the male followed her lead, learning how much more sharp she was in her forms as well as knowing a host of other martial arts he didn’t even know the first step to. After a quick breakfast of native fruit, they engaged in a sparring match were River attempted to, and did, trip Fiyero as many times as possible. They took a careful hike about the mountain, talking, playing at times, enjoying their time alone regardless of what was upon the temple. If it hadn’t been for Fiyero, River would have fretted and panicked.

Yet she was stronger, and there bond was deep.


“Good morning mother.” Inara and her family entered into the living room, Mal toting Meilin who was as talkative as ever, trying to pull off the buttons on his shirt but to no avail as she was just getting her coordination.

“Good morning my dears,” she set down a book. “I pray you slept well?”

“We did.” Inara took a seat on a plush heirloom couch. “Meilin actually slept through the entire night without needing to be fed. We were quite surprised and refreshed.”

Meilin cooed as her father’s fingers played against her belly. Grabbing the digits, she gummed them and garbled.

“That’s a milestone.” She grinned towards her granddaughter. “She looks very happy today.”

“I’d be happy too if I had a fresh diaper and a full belly.” Mal wriggled his finger against her bellybutton. “Ain’t that right Xiao Xiongmao?”

“So you call her Xiao Xiongmao?”

“Mal started it a few months back.” Inara explained as she was served tea, suspicious, for her mother was happy and that was not always a good thing. “He believes she looks like a panda bear.”

“Well I dunno about you, but I can see the resemblance.” He defended, sitting Melin on his knee so everyone could get a better look at her.

She was wearing a purple dress that had a lotus flower embroidered on it as her bright eyes studied the new surroundings. Turning and seeing her mother’s face, she beamed a chubby cheeked smile. Smiling was Meilin’s favorite.

Zaira gave an amused, demure, chuckle. Not even so much as dropping a hint that she had had a conversation the day before with Mal. “I’m glad she’s happy here. Getting off the subject, I hope you two won’t object to being separated today?” That seized their attention. “I wished to have some bonding with my two darlings and I figured Mal and Cadoc could have some male bonding as well.”

“Oh.” Inara was blindsided. There was where the happy was coming from “Well.. I think…”

“Splendid, it’s already been planned.” She cut off any objection. “I’d like to take you and Meilin out for a little shopping.”

“Mother Meilin…”

“I’m her grandmother, I think I am obligated to spoil her as well as her mother once in a great while.” Zaira announced. “Besides, heavens knows when you may return again.”

“I also figured we men to shop.” Cadoc came out in breeches and a matching black tang jacket, undone to show his stiff collar and silk tie. “Zaira wishes to spoil you as well, I figured the Auction House, as you may find something of use for your modest farm there.”

“Ranch.” Mal corrected.

“I beg your pardon?”

“Ranch, not farm, I don’t wrangle corn.” He clarified swiftly, tensely as he didn’t care for the position they were in. Separating himself from his girls had an obvious reason behind it. Inara had her pleasant, but obviously fake smile on as he stole a look at her before smiling himself. “Sounds like a barrel of fun though.”


River and Fiyero had retreated to the hutch.

It was late, yet they lit an oil lamp and played house. Checking their rations, feeding Boston some white rice they made for a late dinner. As Fiyero checked the second bag of food, he found a parcel at the bottom of it. It was a large, a box wrapped in brown paper. Tilting his head at it, he looked up. “Hey, you got post.”


Mal kept his calm.

There was little else to do on the ride out to the Auction House. He got to see more of Sihnon though. It was all immense and clean, meticulous, gardens and ponds placed in between clusters of buildings. Where they went was at the port, where transports and liners and personal craft mixed together. The hovercraft was parked near a massive warehouse. The building was more of a triplex mall than a warehouse, yet it was there at the massive multi level Auction House, that product from the port was sold off.

Mal had already decided that if he were to find anything that suited Inara, he would buy it as long as what he had brought in his bill clip would cover it. It was hard to focus on one specific thing, for it was like the skyplex, but a grander scale. Animals, pottery, paintings, artifacts, fabric, clothing, parts, vehicles, guns, wine, anything and everything was for purchase as eastern music blared through the electic noise.

“Come now, the upper level is where the fine goods are at.” Cadoc exclaimed as his pack of uniformed slaves stood behind him to carry anything bought. His head was high, his long hair glossy and slicked back, chest puffed with square shoulders. He reminded Mal of a cartoon lion, too proud for his own good.

“Fine goods are for fine people.” Mal explained. “Seeing as I decidedly ain’t that fine, I’ll do well just where I am.” He wandered off to a shop that sold coveralls cheap. His eyes moving back and forth across the sizes, he picked up a set of bright pink ones. “Duo shao?”

“Forty bits.”

Mal made a face that meant it was far too steep.

Cadoc’s lip twitched in disdain, he didn’t want to be caught dead with a haggler. Haggling was so lower class.

“For you, thirty-five.”

The captain appeared hesitant. “No, too rich for my blood.”


“Twenty-five.” He countered.

Cadoc turned around as if he didn’t know Mal.


River walked over and stared at the package. It was addressed to her alias Albert B. Tross (Mal had come up with it for her post, something he was been ridiculously proud of). Picking it up, she smiled, went over and sat on the bed. Boston jumped up and settled next to her, and Fiyero did the same.

“Must have come the night before.” Fiyero wondered as she peeled the wrapping back. Seeing the time she took, he frowned. “Just rip it off and get it over with.”

She frowned. “Taking my time. Savoring.”


Inara wasn't planning on buying much.

She didn't want her mother to pay for a copious amount of things, for it would only give her more leverage. With the small amount of spending money she had bought, she set a pair of pants for Mal on a counter, not dressy, but ones he could wear every day, as he had worn out two pairs already on the ranch. She paid for the pants, getting a good price for Mal's style was out of fashion and thus on the clearance rack. The pants were wrapped in navy crepe paper, tied with a bit of silver string, and she left with them.

"Look at you."

Turning, she found her mother waiting. A slave took the parcel from her as it wasn't acceptable to carry it. While Inara only had bought the pants, the slaves were overworked hauling Zaira’s. The grandmother would have bought Meilin a tiger cub as a pet if Inara hadn’t told her no, just like a dozen other things she had said no to that her mother wanted to purchase for her daughter. Showering her daughter with outrageous gifts made her wary. Though so did Zaira's new approach. "Buying a man his pants." She announced, crestfallen. "Cooking, cleaning, mending, carrying his brood." Zaira gazed down at Meilin, who was in her sling against her mother. "As much as I swell at the sight of another Serra girl, my Love I cannot help but feel as if I didn't not raise you well."

"You raised me the best anyone in the Core could." Inara held her head up high, though the sting of her mother's words was beginning to be felt.

"I know, you're not an ingénue, but when I see you like this I wonder if there was anything I could have done. What you've become just is not what you were raised to be my dear, sweet Inara." She expressed sincerely. "You used to have such a strong spirit. You used to have great ambitions, you used to shun such thoughts and practices. Yet now you have fallen from Core approbation, and become this farmer's footstool."

"Mother it is hardly like that..."

"You could have been High Priestess, you could have run for parliament, yet while you were at the cusp of moving up to First Degree Priestess you announced your departure and left. Not even on a luxury liner, on a cargo ship that was dubious in nature. And you fell in love with the captain..."

"I left him." She caught her mother's attention as the despair from the negativity made her feel guilty. "I parted ways with him and his crew for a few months..."

"And your lovesick heart made you return?"

She scoffed. "No. I was in danger and Mal aided me. After what happened I knew that I couldn't deny my heart. And... although in the beginning we both had to adjust... mother... It's difficult to see myself back in this life, this culture, this mindset. My aspirations have changed, as have my political views and my stance on the parliament."

Zaira's face turned grave, cold. She settled herself with a breath, and opened her lips. "Inara, listen to me, and listen to me well. This lifestyle you now hold, is inferior, and it will get you no farther than tied to a stove and a handful of backwater children. This political unrest will end with our shining government crushing these little pockets of opposition, and I fear I know your rimside rebel boyfriend will be one of the many that will be an example of such insubordination."

Inara switched to anger, she didn't know if it was a threat, or just an insult, but it was not dismissable.

"Now hear me out, let me speak my peace. I am sincerely worried for your behalf and Meilin's. You are making a foolhardy choice, and I fear you are only denying yourself your dreams and putting yourself in danger. If this escalates any further the government will not tolerate anyone with an association to these dissenters, and you will be caught in the crosshairs. If something happens to you and Meilin..." She paused, her eyes sharp. "I will be beside myself with grief. The last of the Serra line, rightful heirs. And regardless of all this looming danger you need to think of Meilin first and foremost. She deserves the best and the best is not out learning how to rope cattle. Here she can get a proper education while you return to the guild..."

"Mother, my certification has been pulled."

"I know, my Love, I know. But I have acquaintances that can help you become re-certified, re-established in the Guild, it will be as if you had never left."

Inara was stunned at the thought. "As generous as an offer like that is.. I... I can't."

Zaira was becoming frustrated. "Why not?"

"Mother, if it had been a year ago, I would have seriously considered such an offer, but a lot has happened in a year. I've changed, grown. You may not grasp this but I have learned about truly caring for others. It's not merely a job, or people I can leave on a whim to benefit myself. I tried that, and it didn't work because I have established a family and that is more than anything the Guild could give me." She explained earnestly "I have people I love, and I have a lover that would be heartbroken if we left him, as would I." Inara explained with courage. "I simply can't. My heart isn't here."

"Meilin's welfare..."

"Meilin is being raised and cherished by people who have a wealth of knowledge. We will shower her with affection and teach her as sufficiently as any school here can. She will be well loved, something she'll be deprived of here if I go back to the Guild and lead the life I did."


River opened the large box, smelling musty packing straw.

Atop the straw was a stack of letters.

She smiled and pulled them out, Fiyero’s head hovering over her shoulder as the first read…

Dear Albatross….


Simon was rather good with his target practice.

As he finished his last drill, the pin clicked, yet there were no bullet deployed.

“I think that’s the last of them.” Shepherd Jamie announced. “There were only a few clips, seems you need to take a trip to town and get yourself some ammunition. Unless you want to practice with another gun, though I would advise against it, you’ve already got the feel for this one.”

Gazing down at the gun, Simon nodded his head. He was comfortable with the weight and feel of the gun, and hadn’t liked the others he had practiced with. There was more assurance practicing and going into the duel with a gun he preferred than another that was just lying around. “I suppose a trip to town is in order then.”


After an hour, Mal had a few gifts for his crew.

Because of the political strife, Rim currency was actually of greater value than Core coin. Bits from the border out were distinguishably marked by the planet they were minted at, as Core money had a more intricate and uniform design from the Alliance’s policy of universal currency. The retiring of the Independence planet’s separate currencies was a slow process that had yet to be achieved, however this was in Mal’s favor, as he found himself with money that was worth double than the square holed Alliance bits. So the meager amount that was left over from ranch expenses and taxes, went a long ways. It and his penchant for never paying full price, allowed him to get everyone something for Yuletide. Simon got a vest, Jayne got a bar of soap and some gun oil, Kaylee a pair of pink coveralls, Zoe a new holster, Meilin a little yellow sundress and a floppy sherbet orange tiger with baby blue stripes (he figured they could call it Shan-shan). River was already covered, as her gift had been shipped out with her last Yuletide/Birthday/Care package.

He still couldn’t figure out what to get Inara.

Cadoc was trailing behind him like a wet cat, not wanting to be seen on the lower deck. However Mal liked the goods for sale, people on the Core were struggling from the rebellion and thus selling items dirt cheap to scratch out a profit, plus it tickled him to ruffle the starch collared dandy.

He stopped at a sign and squinted at it. “Huh.”

The man was thin, gaunt and carrying a full beard and thin fabriced clothes. “These here are GenTrees. Heard of GenSeed? Well like that, these here trees” he picked up a small pot with a sapling “are genetically modified. See they grow fast, that way instead of waiting decades for a massive oak, you get one in a year. They grow fast the first two years, then they slow to regular speed. They’re hardy, disease resistant, and today’s your lucky day cause if you buy two you get the two free and I’ll throw in a bag of GenSeed for grass. Grow yourself a right nice yard.”

It clicked for Malcom Reynolds as he remembered the Serra gardens. “How much?”

“Fifty bits, that’s a third of the regular price I tell you.” He smiled.

The captain’s blue eyes roamed the pots, and in the back he saw a wife, thin and poor, with two small children holding onto her skirts as their father sold what he could to pay for their next supper. The rebellion had driven their economy down the drain, while the upper crust was doing fine, the middle and lower classes were taking the hit. “Reckon I need four oaks, one Japanese maple, maybehaps three fruit trees.” He took out a pouch and tossed it to the man. They weren't even dealing in credits, they were dealing in bits. “Apple, peach, cherry and instead of throwin’ in another bag of grass seed can I just have a few packets for flowers and the like?”

“Of course sir.” The man’s eyes lit up as he rushed to get everything. “What kind of flowers?”

“Um, hardy ones. Hardy ones lady folk tend to like? Pretty?”

“I can do that.”

“I never took you for a horticulturist.” Cadoc sidled up to him.

“I’ve kept my share of house plants alive. Fauna’s pretty simple, just gotta have the constitution to lift your wrist once a week to give it some water, make sure it’s got the right amount of light, don’t even need yourself a fancy gardener.” He announced with a tight lipped smile that oozed with sarcasm. “But then again if you’re well kept and livin’ in some woman’s house I don’t reckon you got much of a place for a house plant now do ya?”

Cadoc seethed under his false smile. “Leaving this lovely conversation point, you must quit avoiding the upper level. I’ve been ordered to take you up there and have you pick out a few things. Zaira would like to purchase that for you for Yuletide.”

Mal smelled an ulterior motive in the winds. “Don’t think I’ll need anything.”

“Nonsense.” Cadoc waved his men over to take care of the trees and seeds as he walked Malcolm Reynolds to the elevator. “Zaira was thinking livestock, something to help you out with on the farm. It can easily be shipped with you on the liner, they have an entire deck for bought live items and such.”

“You don’t say.” He announced cautiously as the doors of the elevators were closed and they were whisked up swiftly. In a matter of seconds, they were at the first level. There, a guard looked them over, noticed they were well off, and signaled them that they had access to the floor. Mal saw various signs, horses, cows, but one had no sign, and that was where Cadoc led him. A man in a suit opened the door for them, and he found himself in the theatre. They were given a program, paddles with numbers for bidding, and took a seat as the auctioneer slammed the gavel and completed the sale. He was a rangy man in a three piece suit, sweating as the spotlight was on the stage and the rest of the lights were dimmed.

The auctioneer adjusted his coke bottle glasses and turned the page of the list. “next up for auction…”


From the saloon, Bailey Tig and his brothers looked out the window.

They saw the New Haven Wagon pull into town.

Simon Tam was driving.


Mal grew rigid as a man in chains was marched across the stage. Looking down at the program, his blood froze at the title.

Slave Auction.

“is a 23 year old male captured from the planet Verbena. Bill of health signed, works best as a carpenter. Bidding will begin at two hundred platinum. Do I have two hundred?”

*** *** *** TRANSLATIONS/DEFINITIONS Xiexie: Thank you Shen wo xi huan ninren weidi fangshi: God I like the way you think Duo shao?: How much?

****As always, the writer appreciates all comments whether they be positive, negative, or suggestions.**


Friday, July 25, 2008 2:55 AM


And now we get to the nitty gritty! Is Cadoc planning to sell Mal into a life of slavery? Or is there someone in this auction who's a mite close to the crew of Serenity? Time alone will tell. And Bailey Tig coming on Simon with no bullets in his gun? Oh dear ...

Friday, July 25, 2008 4:15 AM


I didn't even think of Cadoc trying to sell him, now I'm panicked.

And I adore that tiger, I kinda hope they steal it. Imagine that guarding the ranch...

Friday, July 25, 2008 9:16 AM


I don't think Zaira realizes if anything happens to Mal, Inara will go postal on her, because she doesn't get the love and family thing at all. I really like what you had Inara say about family. You've created a nice arc for her that many writers here don't give her, but I believe that Joss would have taken this direction with her character. It's always about what his characters don't or can't allow their self to have, but desperately need or want.

Love the image of Simon with the gun and carriage, and a fun Kaylee/Simon scene. Yea!

Glad to hear that Zoe is recovering although it sounds like she will have permanent damage.


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