Parents, Preachers, & Pistol Skinners: Chapter 21
Friday, August 15, 2008

(FINAL CHAPTER) The New Haven Series; Post BDM; M/I, S/K: It's Yuletide as this story closes. While Yuletide may have passed for River, someone is determined to bring it to her, and on Shadow the New Haven Ranch celebrates.


A/N: Here it is, the epilog. As I posted before, sorry it took me so long, but being the ending I wanted to make sure so many things were addressed ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The temple didn’t celebrate Yuletide.

There was no tree, no decorations, feast, presents, it was simply another day at the temple. Exercises, chores, meals, it came and went with little mention. While River enjoyed her stay, she did long for the holiday with her family. She wanted to see them all, hug them all, partake in the celebration. That was not the case, she knew it as she walked to her bunk bed to change out of a sweaty, dusty uniform into a clean one.

There was a letter.

Stopping, she picked it up and unfolded it, the image making her face scrunch in thought. It was a crudely drawn map of the grounds, with a stick figure with wavy black hair and giant eyes placed next to a box that was supposed to be the bunk house. Next to it said ‘You Are Here’. Then from there was a trail of dashes that ended at a box that was labeled ‘The Barn: AKA Where You Need To Be’ with a smiley face next to that. At the very bottom was a signature from the culprit.

‘Drawn Horribly By: ‘Yero Your Hero,’

River got the ending and rolled her eyes, though she could not stop smiling as she changed her clothes.


It was Yuletide Day.

Instead of waking up early as they did when they were all children to see what Saint Nicolas had brought, the house of the New Haven Ranch slept in. Eventually, Zoe got up and made coffee, the scent of the hot brown liquid becoming a homing beacon to the other residents, who trudged out. All except Simon, who needed help down the stairs before resting on the couch. Eventually they all had their coffee (and Inara had her tea) and settled into the living room, where the Christmas tree; decorated with strings of popcorn, paper chains, origami and homemade ornaments; had it’s trunk surrounded by gifts.

“Everyone ready?” Mal asked, grabbing wrapped boxes of various sizes.

Shan-shan growled softly, happily as she flanked one side of the rocking chair. Between her skillet sized paws was her new friend York. The two hundred pound female and the five pound male had developed a rather peculiar relationship as the Siamese cat purred and licked a giant paw. Shan-shan in turn tilted her mighty head down and began to groom York’s face lovingly, her entire tongue encompassing his seal point head.

Kaylee snuggled under the blanket with Simon, who was still on a morning IV as he required heavy antibiotics to keep infections at bay. The two kissed, and Simon wrapped an arm around her shoulder. “I already got what I want.” She smiled warmly.

Simon, touched by the sentiment, nuzzled against her neck drowsily as Zoe handed them both a mug of coffee.

“Oh… suppose I can take this back then….” Mal placed a gift back under the tree.

“Didn’t say I couldn’t stand to see more.” She reached down with an expectant hand towards her gifts.

Zoe and Inara chuckled, Jayne slurped his coffee.

Mal set to work passing out the rest of the packages before sitting on the floor next to the rocker Inara and Meilin occupied, Shan-shan and York were on the other side growling and purring happily.

With everyone’s presents piled around them, the gift opening began.

Jayne was the first to rip paper off of a gift that’s brightly decorated tag meant it was from Kaylee. His mouth dropped open as the enormous bowie knife fell into his palm, his name inscribed in calligraphy down the length of the blade. “This… got my name on it.” He looked up to her with wide, grateful eyes. Like a little boy that had just gotten a present from Saint Nicolas.

“I made it in my shop.” She explained proudly. “It took a few tries, but I think I got it right.”

“It’s the zuitian daozi ever.” He ran his finger across the edge of the blade. “Every time I stab somethin’ I’ll thinka you.”

“Wow… that’s just what I was goin’ for.” She responded uneasily at his sentiment. “Merry Yuletide, Jayne.”

“Open mine.” He insisted with a wild grin.

Kaylee found the one wrapped in newspaper and tore the wrapping back. “A new ratchet set!” It wasn’t brand new, it appeared to be previously used and Jayne had cleaned them up, but any form of new tools were loved by the mechanic.

Inara pulled a gift out of a bag, a new silk robe from Zoe, obviously not the expensive kind, but it was gorgeous and she smiled gratefully. “This is beautiful Zoe,”

“Meilin’s gift is in there too.” Zoe added as she opened a gift from the captain, a holster for her gun, tooled with floral designs. “Thank you Sir, my old one’s gettin’ a little raggedy.”

“Just wanna make sure you’re in style while killin’ folk.”

Inara pulled the small bag out of her gift bag and opened it to find a collection of wooden blocks for Meilin with numbers and letters whittled on the sides. “Look Xiao Xiongmao.”

Meilin gazed at them as her mother held one out to her. She clumsily reached for it, opening her petite lips and cooing as Inara set it on her flannel clad chest. The baby managed to get it in her mouth to gum it.

Simon read the tag, a gift from Kaylee’s mother from the package sent, and opened it to find a homemade vest. It wasn’t silk, but deep navy canvas work vest, nonetheless it was his taste. He smiled, and showed it to Kaylee, who in turned showed him the scarf and gloves of various bright colors her mom had made her too.

Mal opened a gift from Simon, a bottle of his favorite brand of saki. “Well now, if that ain’t somethin’ that brings about the Yuletide spirit I dunno what does.”


River went to the barn.

Boston came along, wrapped around her neck like an ermine as she opened one of the massive wooden doors to the barn. The musty smell of hay and sparse collection of beasts of burden hit their noses. The interior was dark, as it was indeed night, murmured noises of the few animals that were kept for transportation grunted and pawed at the ground. Her eyes adjusted to the darkness, seeing a flickering yellow glow in one of the larger stalls, she followed the light.

Fiyero was found.

He had taken a spare stall and set a table and two chairs in it (The table was a wooden cart wheel atop a set of crates), a cloth draped over said table, with two beeswax candles surrounding what appeared to be a small sapling potted in a spare bowl and wrapped with prayer beads, and a pair of place settings in front of each chair. There were also candles along the walls of the stall, giving needed light.

Fiyero came over to her, looking exceptionally proud with his toothy grin. “Merry Belated Yuletide.”

River watched his tight smile, and glanced back over to the post-Yuletide dinner, realizing the small conifer on their dinner table, drooping to the weight of the beads, was the Yuletide tree.

He rubbed his neck as he knew how patchwork it was regardless of how proud he was towards it. “I uh… I know it’s not exactly… elegant… but there’s a special night planned.” Fiyero rebounded with enthusiasm.

She mused at the present, as well as how he appeared rather dapper. Clean shaved, his hair pulled back with a bit of green ribbon to match his uniform. “What’s special?” River challenged.

“Fine vegetarian dining, by candlelight and accompanied by the finest music at the temple.” He gestured grandly to the table. “First a garden salad with an almond topping, next white rice with a steamed vegetable medley and lightly pan fried tofu with a mixed berry juice in lovely gourd cups, followed by dancing by candlelight, then possibly there’s time for whatever you deem proper.”

With a coy smile, River Tam picked her familiar up off her shoulder and set him on the floor before walking to a chair.

Fiyero nearly skipped over and pulled the chair out for her, taking the napkin draped over her bowl off of it to let the steam rise from the hot portion of food, the salad in another bowl. The food really wasn’t as fancy as he had embellished. It was actually exactly what the kitchen was serving everyone else.

“Look handsome, ‘Yero my hero.” She complimented, setting the napkin in her lap. “You smell good.”

“Thanks, I soaked in hot jasmine leaves for an hour.” He took his seat across from her, also putting the napkin in his lap.

“Really?” River Tam gawked.

“No, I just wanted to see your expression.” Fiyero chuckled, as she seemed on the verge of laughing as the initially reaction had been stupefied.

River stuck out her tongue.

Boston howled, asking where his food was.

“Hey, grown up behavior, you’re sitting at the big kid table.” Fiyero took a small third bowl with scrambled eggs and set it on the floor for the pet, before pulling a small cube out of his uniform. The one piece of technology he wouldn’t give up, his music cube, with all of his downloaded songs. Selecting the right mix on the screen side of the cube, he pressed play. Then pickeing up his cup and holding it out to her. “Now, a toast, to Yuletide.”

River clunked her gourd cup against his. “To Yuletide.” They drank, and feline smile graced her lips as she swallowed. “Maybe we should take our clothes off and soak in jasmine leaves for an hour after dancing.”

Fiyero coughed on his juice.

"Got you."


Yuletide had almost all been unwrapped.

Everyone sat with their decent mound of treasures, Jayne was playing with his knife off of the side, Zoe was admiring the hand welded metal jewelry box Kaylee had made (decorated with roses and dinosaurs), Mal fed Meilin a bottle with his softball sized whittled figurine of Serenity (Zoe had had spare time while recovering) on the coffee table, Kaylee and Simon were happily situated on the couch and Inara was in another chair wearing a new robe and slippers (compliments of Zoe and Simon) while sipping her tea.

Kaylee had to hold herself back from becoming absorbed in either decorating the new pink coveralls she had gotten with the iron-on patches and glue-on rhinestones Zoe had given her, or look over the project plans for the mule Mal had given her with said coveralls, and finish up her gift giving. “Hey Simon?”

“Yes?” He blushed nervously, for he hadn’t given her his gift yet, he was fingering it in his pocket.

Jayne got up and walked behind the couch with Kaylee’s wordless signal.

“You wanna turn around so you can see your gift?”

Puzzled, he turned his head to the side to watch as Jayne pulled the sheet off of the upright piano that had been brought into the house while he was bedridden.

Everyone watched Simon’s reaction, how his eyes enlarged and his mouth fell open, and how he slowly turned to Kaylee in a dumbstruck fashion. “You… You…”

“Actually, it was River’s idea.” She confessed. “She found it in the barn and fixed it up, I just made the bench and Inara bought you some sheet music.”

“Classical, right?” Inara smiled.

Simon’s blue eyes began to gloss over as a smile of gratitude found his mouth. “Thank you, so very much… I… I don’t know what to say… just….”

“Well you gonna get up and sit at it or what?” Jayne grumbled, helping Simon to his feet and guiding him over to the bench. Kaylee got up and followed, sitting with him.

His fingers brushed the keys, and he pressed one to hear the sweet, familiar sound he had grown up with. Looking up, he scanned the sheet music collection and a tear ran down his cheek. His favorite pieces, Inara had remembered them.

Kaylee kissed it away. “Merry Yuletide Sweetie.”

He hugged her, grinning. Pulling away his eyes batted and his blushed. “Um… I guess this is as good a time as any to give you yours.” He reached into his pocket and fumbled with the box. “Kaylee…”

Everyone stood stock still in attention, Kaylee’s heart skipped a beat as he opened the box to show her a necklace. It was simple, a silver chain with a small Tanzanite pendant. By all means, it wasn’t what he would have bought her on the core, but seeing as he was no longer rich, and jewelry was expensive, so it was what he could do. His hand shook slightly, holding the box out to her, in his mind, he had never proposed before. This was it, the moment he had desired and feared.

Kaylee gasped, as she had never thought of a necklace with a gemstone. It was so fancy, she had never had a piece of jewelry with a real gemstone, in fact the only kind she had ever worn were her momma’s pearls. “Oh Simon.”

“I know it’s not much,” Simon admitted, wishing it was the giant diamond and he had a sprawling estate from his position at the hospital “and I know I can’t give you everything in the world…”

“That don’t matter.” She interjected.

His grin spread. “Well… I uh… I will…” Swallowing thickly the doctor composed himself. “I’ll provide for you the best I can, I love you, Kaylee Frye, and I… can’t stand not being married to you. Will you marry me?”

Kaylee began to cry, nodding her head enthusiastically.

“I got… this um… this necklace because I thought you might… have troubles with a ring and your work.” He explained as he took the necklace out and fumbled with the latch. He put it on her neck, fixing the clasp and pulling back to see her shining face.

Kaylee leaned in, rested a hand on the side of his face, and kissed Simon.

The room started clapping.

They pulled away to see the bright smiles on their family’s faces, Jayne even seemed a little teary.


“Don’t know how to dance?”

Dark brown eyes pierced through the warm glow of the candles, and he grew nervous of the pressure. “I’ve never had a reason to.” Fiyero’s shoe scuffed the hay covered gown.

“Used to perform acrobatic tricks to music for a circus.”

“I know.”

“In a tight fitting sequence uniform.”

“You don’t need to remind me of the sequence.”

“With garish makeup, lots of eyeliner.”

“Another thing I’m not entirely keen on discussing.”

“Don’t know how to dance?”

He gestured to himself. “I can do a triple twist with a double somersault off of a high beam and onto a human pyramid with speaker piping out music, but no. I. Can’t. Dance.”

She was puzzled. “Why did you say dancing?”

“Because you’re a dancer? And… and I thought it would be nice, for you...”

River smiled. Taking a step in, as they stood next to the table, she stood on her tip toes and pecked his lips, which made his posture straighten instantly. Moving in, a small hand dragged up his chest to rest on his shoulder. The other positioning his hand on the small of her back before taking the other. “Just like this.”


Everyone passed around congratulations to Simon and Kaylee.

Eventually there was a short intermission, a demand had gone up for Simon to play some Yuletide songs, and he needed some time to remember the keys. So as he ironed out the wrinkles in his memory, the family cleaned up the living room, paper in a trash bag and gifts to their respected rooms (Mal's Serenity figurine the exception, it was nestled on the kitchen window next to some dinosaurs). Meilin was set on a blanket with some of her toys, where she rolled over and struggled to get her new stuffed tiger. Zoe helped her as she sat next to the child and kept her busy.

Inara was in the kitchen, storing away the apron Jayne had given her. She knew he meant well, however in her mind it was so domestic. When it was spring she was determined to get out more, for though most of her responsibility was the house, she would not allow it to define her.

Mal stole in from behind and set his chin on her shoulder. “Ya gonna burn it or what?”

Inara scoffed. “Why would you say such a thing?”

“Cause I know your polite smile that masks the truth, Jayne don’t, but I do. ‘Sides, it ain’t your style, it’s like a prairie pinafore. A woman of your high standing wouldn’t look her best in such fashion.” He slid his arms around her and slipped a rolled up piece of paper in her hands.

Inara arched a brow dubiously. “What’s this?”

“I dunno, why don’t you look at it.”

She unrolled the paper to see a print out from the cortex. It was a computer made image of the back of the house, except where there was now a flat sheet of snow, there was a back porch, then to one side there was a long patch of lawn with a jungle gym and playhouse, while there were hedges that separated the yard down the middle so that the right side was more of a traditional garden, like the one at her mother’s estate.

“See, on the left side is Meilin’s side of the yard,” he pointed “got a lotta grass, big apple tree in the middle with a play gym thingy and a little house for her to play in too.” The captain smirked, satisfied with his plans “Other side is a meditation garden, peach tree, cherry tree for all those pretty blossoms you Sihnon folk treasure so, Japanese maple by the little water feature. All fenced in of course, then we got those oak trees, two’ll go in front, other ones’ll go in the horse pastures.”

“You… bought all of those plants to make us a yard?” She had been frustrated with that purchase, he had to pay for extra cargo when they journeyed home, and haven’t given an explanation to the spending.

“Well, pretty soon she’ll be able to toddle around and play, gotta have somewhere to do that. Plus, figure you could use a place of your own outside the house.” He shrugged. “Y’know, where you can relax, drink tea, meditate on the wonders of ranch life.”

“This… is perfect.” Inara felt her eyes sting with tears, and she wished she wasn't so emoptional about it. However no one had ever done such a thing for her. Not her mother, nor her clients, had ever designed something for her, made something just for her. Buying some item as a gift was what she was used to, but Mal’s gift came from the heart. A haven for both herself and Meilin. “Thank you Mal, this is wonderful.” She turned, and reached into a pocket in her gown. “I um… I’ve done some searching on the Coretex and I looked into your brother Ezra and apparently he’s a pilot on a ship with this Coretex registered address.” Slender fingers pressed a piece of paper into his palm.

Mal gazed down at the small, curled paper.


Dancing with Fiyero, didn’t have too many steps.

In the end, she had her arms around his neck, he had his hands on her hips, and they were moving side to side. Boston was on a chair, giving himself a well needed after-dinner bath. Though it was simple, River felt as if it were the most beautiful night in the world. It was like a prom, of course she had never been to a prom so she could not compare it, but to her it was like prom. Granted they weren’t dressed up or in high school, but there was dinner and dancing, and she felt special. She felt pretty, she felt loved, she felt as though they had leapt over the moon and were floating down in ecstasy.

“You have to teach me to dance.” He whispered, embarrassment about not being able to dance gone, replaced with happiness and a feeling of accomplishment, her belated Yuletide gift was going well.

“Don’t want you to hurt yourself.”


River giggled and kissed his chin, staring into his green blue eyes. “Fiyero?”


“Why do you like me?”

His brows creased in the middle.

“Broken, shattered, a girl in a million fragments.” She explained, her eyes lined with shame. “Not normal, not... you could find someone else. Someone like you.”

“But you are like me.” He told her. “And.. listen… I haven’t… been with a lot of girls. The ones I have been with, none of them I felt as comfortable as I do around you. You’re just as ridiculously immature as I am, you’re not like other girls in all the right ways. And I don’t care if you’re broken, or if you could think hard enough and blow up a person.” Fiyero gave a lopsided smile. “I kind of dig having someone a little more badass than me. Granted if we get in a fight, I’m in trouble.”

River nodded her head in slow agreement. “A lot of trouble.”

“I’m glad we both realize that.”


The feast was delicious.

After some music, and Kaylee and Jayne subsequently having a snowball fight out on the way to the barn to feed the livestock, it was time to finish preparing their Yuletide meal. After the goose was set in to cook, everyone chipped in in some way. Mal cleaned, cooked and mashed the potatoes (his ma’s recipe), Zoe cleaned and made corn on the cob and green beans, Inara made a rather delectable combination of squash, mushrooms and asparagus, Kaylee worked on the stuffing, and Jayne impressed everyone with made from scratch cornbread. Simon was left in the living room, playing a little music, but more often than not he kept to the couch and tended to Meilin, for the littlest needed attention.

Food was cooked, set on the table, a few said a belessing in their heads yet none was a loud, and the meal was passed around. Everyone ate too much, however they sat and lingered, talking, chatting, laughing, playing a few games of cards, enjoying the moment. A moment when there was no stress, no danger, just family. Dishes were put in the sink, food was covered, and eventually dessert (Kaylee’s doing) was served. Retiring to the living room with dessert occurred, logs were put on the fire, Shan-shan was brought inside and dried off after spending most of the day snow drift diving, and everyone relaxed.

“Pie was delicious baobei.” Simon kissed her cheek as she sat down. It was the perfect Yuletide for him, down to the soft falling snow outside.

“Your tongue’s purple.” Kaylee giggled.

“I think my second slice was better than the first.” Zoe sighed.

“It was, may not be any left come breakfast.” Jayne hinted as he stretched out in a chair.

“Other people tend to like pie for breakfast too.” Mal hinted heavily, if not possesively as he felt he was the captain and being so gave him first dibs on breakfast pie.

Shan-shan groaned by the fire, her paws twitching as she dreamed of ranch life. York wasn't too far away from his new friend.

“You outdid yourself Meimei.” Inara smiled, her arms holding Meilin who was under a blanket suckling for her own dinner.

“Well, what if I said got somethin’ else?” Kaylee hinted meekly, drawing their attention. “Cap’n ya wanna go check the tree?”

Mal got up and went over, immediately, to the tree, where he found a mailing tube on one of the branches.

“When we dropped off the shepherds, I went and checked the post office to see if we gotta letter, and we did.” She beamed excitedly.

The warmth on Mal’s face spread as he took the cylinder and sat back down. His fingers tore the side off, where he reached in and pulled the paper scroll out. It was rough on his fingers, homemade rice paper that he unrolled to read the fine calligraphy allowed to everyone. A small stack of papers rolled into the scroll fell out. Calligraphy, Chinese watercolors, all by River. Mal picked them up and studied them, a painting of mountains and a temple, a painting of a dragon, one of a panda eating bamboo, a painting of Serenity with horses running underneath her, a calligraphy piece that was the characters for Serenity, and another that had the characters for love. He passed them to Zoe and cleared his throat.


Dear Family,

Miss you all very much, especially since the commercialized holiday of the celebration of the Christ figure is coming up.

Can’t complain though, love the new life at this temple. I feel stronger and more confident every day, my mind feels like it’s being fixed, pieces coming together, helping me realize my potential. Love my training, my teachers, the forms I learn. Fiyero helps too, we’re good friends, keeps me laughing and happy.

Don’t want to talk about myself, have to tell you your gifts. Wish I could have sent other things, things I made, however monks cannot afford such postage. Thus calligraphy and paintings will have to suffice.

To the Head Cowboy: Painting of Serenity with running horses for both the pirate and cowboy in you (kiss my horse for me).

To Inara: Serenity calligraphy as you bring serenity and balance.

To Simon: The piano, want you to have the joy you did when you used to play. Also, serenade Kaylee, you can be romantic.

To Kaylee: Love calligraphy because you are full of love.

To Xiao Xiongmao: the panda for the panda.

To Zoe: The temple and mountains is another form of Serenity, like you.

To Jayne: The dragon because you are big and powerful, but I can still kill you with my brain.

Wish this could be longer, but I’m running out of paper and must go. Love you all, and wish you a Merry Yuletide. You are all always in my heart and thoughts.


*** *** ***


‘Yero your hero: In the book Wicked, after making passionate love to Fiyero the prince, Elphaba the witch calls him ‘Yero my hero’

zuitian daozi: Sweetest knife

Xiao Xiongmao: Little Panda

baobei: Darling

meimei: sister

A/N: So this is it for this saga, it will continue in another, but I have some prior writing commitments I need to work on first.

I want to thank everyone for reading and everyone for writing feedback, I know I haven't responded much, but I read every one and enjoy every one. This was a pretty big labor of love for me (more love than labor) with some new writing approaches and with so much research to make sure all of the elements were as true was possible and every facet was vivid and canon. I'm just glad that I was able to paint my picture to you along the way and you were entertained by it.

And for the last time on this fic, comments of any kind are welcomed by the author.


Saturday, August 16, 2008 12:30 AM


The letter from River was the perfect way to end it, and I loved the gift exchange,
"Every time I stab somethin’ I’ll thinka you." How... sweet?
And the cats getting along was adorable.

Fantatstic series, I hope to see more.

Saturday, August 16, 2008 7:21 AM


The Yuletide exchanges were wonderful, and a Shinon Garden for Inara and a play area for his daughter... that's why Mal bought the trees... nice romantic arc for their family.

Love River's letter, it's like she is away at college finding her way and growing up.

As usual looking for more, and thanks for all your research and keeping the verse as canon as possible, after Miranda.


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