Masks - Part III
Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Maya. Post-BDM. A little more about the crew of Cherokee, particularly her gunhand, and some fluffy fun too. NEW CHAPTER


The crew had split up, and were now spread throughout the two ships, each gravitating towards their respective interests.

Kaylee slid out from under Cherokee’s coil on the wheeled trolley, and looked up at Marcel. “You were right.”

“I know I was.” Marcel Delarue, his mid-brown skin shining in the glow of the worklights, sighed. “Just wish I wasn’t.”

Kaylee grinned. “Don’t. I figure you got a bad batch of fuel last time, and it’s all the gunk from that that’s tacked the router.”

“Oh, don’t I know it.” He went down onto his heels next to her, his hands resting between his thighs.

A year or so older than Kaylee, he was almost as tall as Jayne, but less bulky, and although he was much more at home taking engines apart than people, he was handy with a gun in his own right. His blonde, almost white hair made him stand out, especially against the cappuccino skin, but he always claimed that his colouring came from his father’s side of the family, after a dalliance his great-grandma had with a freighter mechanic that left her with a smile on her face and a little extra present some nine months later. The rest of his family were redheads with pale skin, and even his baby sister teased him about being a changeling.

He grinned, his teeth seeming to gleam. “Jez’s been on at me something cruel, as if it was my fault.” He shook his head. “My fault! I told her not to go to Ferelli’s on Ganesha, but did she listen?”

“No,” Kaylee supplied, feeling as if she was right at home, listening to one of her brothers moaning. “Seems to be sometimes captains just don’t know what’s good for ‘em.”

“Oh, ain’t that the case.” Marcel let his ass fall to the deck with a thump. “I mean, money’s one thing, but even I can’t work miracles.”

“A’course you can,” his friend said stoutly, sitting up. “You keep Cherokee going fine.”

“Until something breaks and I have to ask for help.”

She patted him on the knee. “It ain't exactly every week.”

“Sometimes …” He suddenly laughed. “Jez thinks I do it on purpose.”

“It ain't your fault. That feller Jez bought her off of didn’t spend nearly as much on the engine as the rest of the boat, and she has to understand that. And she’s ex-Alliance, which makes a big difference.”

Marcel smiled. “I will never get used to calling Cherokee ‘she’.”

“All boats are.”

“Oh, I know that. But it just seems wrong somehow.”

“Well, she only needs a good scrub, new filters and router, then some flux on the joints.”


This time Kaylee was the one laughing. “Don’t worry. I’ll help, and we’ll get it done in no time. And I’m pretty sure there’s some stuff I got off Leo that we can make fit.”

“Kaylee, you’re a gorram lifesaver, and if you weren’t married I’d take you to bed.”

“And if I wasn’t married I might take you up on it.” She remembered Bester, the tattoos adorning his body. “Something about mechanics …”

Marcel’s laugh rang through the engine room.


Jayne and Noah were in the cargo bay, setting up the table for all of them, and even though Cherokee’s pilot couldn’t walk, he was more than capable of being of assistance. At the moment he was holding one of the planks in place as Jayne hammered it into position.

“You been working out?” Jayne asked, impressed by the wheelchair-bound man’s arm muscles.

“This thing keeps me fit,” Noah said, glancing down. “And Ida makes me have physio a couple of times a week, so my legs don’t waste.”

“That woman’d make men twice her size weep.”

Noah chuckled. “Most men are twice her size.”

“True.” Jayne laughed deep in his chest. Ida O’Brien was a diminutive woman with a heart the size of Cherokee, and a will even stronger than Mal’s. “That don’t stop her.”

“Oh, I know. You should see the letters she gets when we stop off at the Skyplex. Makes me blush to read 'em. And everyone single one of ‘em declares undying love for her.”

Jayne shook his head. “It ain't even as if she’s that pretty.”

“Innate magnetism.”


“I figure it has to be that. Just like she looks at you when she’s stitching you up, as if she’s only doing this until something better comes along, only the other way around.”

Jayne nodded this time, understanding completely. “Must be something like hypnotism.” He peered at the younger man. “You never thought of taking her for a turn around the decks yourself?”

“And end up dead instead of in this chair? And not just dead, but cut up into lots of little pieces and scattered throughout the system.”



“Not that you would, either, would you?”

“Nope.” Noah put his head onto one side. “You do realise they’ve changed us, don’t you?”

“Our womenfolk?” Jayne exhaled heavily. “Yeah, I reckon maybe they have.”

“Do you mind?”

“Do you?” the big man countered.

“Not a bit.”

“Me neither. Sad, ain't we?”

“Married, Jayne.”

“Got that right.”

There was a moment’s companionable silence, then Noah asked, lifting his head, “Do I hear a baby?”

“You ain't the only one,” Jayne said darkly, heading to the other side of the bay and picking up the first of the crates they were going to use as chairs.

Simon appeared on the top catwalk, David Gabriel in his sling, yelling to the ‘verse that he wasn’t happy and everyone should know it. The young doctor had to raise his voice to be heard clearly. “Ida said can someone go and get the oregano.”

Noah grinned. “I’ll get it.” He nodded up at the baby. “He always like that?”

“He’s only a month old – I don’t think ‘always’ counts.” Simon closed his eyes briefly. “But, Buddha, I hope not.”

“I only wondered why he was crying.”

Simon shrugged. “He was born on Phoros, so it’s possible he’s not used to space flight yet.”

“Might have an inner ear imbalance,” Noah suggested.

“I checked that,” the doctor explained. “And his temperature. And his food, his stomach … everything I can think of.” He looked down at his son and sighed. “I’m beginning to think he’s doing it to annoy everyone.”

“Only beginning?” Jayne put in, putting the crate into position.

Noah laughed, and would have commented more, but River walked through the adjoined airlocks, Caleb on her hip. “Simon, he’s done it again,” she said, looking up at her brother and sighing.

“What with this time?” He started down the steps.

“I think it’s a ball bearing.”

Jayne crossed to his wife, lifting his son’s chin so he could see up his nose.

Caleb looked up into his father’s face. “Daddy?” He grinned, showing a few little white stubs of teeth and …

“Yep,” Jayne confirmed. “Ball bearing.”

“At least it’s not a bullet this time,” Simon said, joining them.

“That weren’t my fault,” the ex-merc growled. “Wasn’t even one o’ mine.”

“Well, we’d better see about getting it out.” Simon glanced down at David in his sling, considering the logistics of removing a small, spherical metal object from his nephew’s nostril while wearing a baby.

“Give him to me,” Noah suggested.

“No, I can –”

“Honestly. Jez keeps saying I mother everyone, so I might as well do it for real.” Noah grinned.

“Well, if you don’t mind.” Simon was already unhooking the sling.

“Course I don’t. I’ll take him back to Cherokee and get those herbs for Ida.” His face softened as he took the baby in his arms, cradling him against his chest. “Hey, there, young feller,” he crooned quietly, his breath washing the tiny boy’s face. “You’re a handsome one, aren’t you?”

David Gabriel filled his lungs once again, ready to scream out his indignation, then paused. He seemed to be considering his position, because his face screwed up slightly, and his lips pursed. Then he smiled.

“Wind,” Jayne commented, grunting slightly as River elbowed him in the ribs.

“It’s not wind,” she said softly. “He likes Noah.”

Indeed, far from filling the Firefly with the sound of a baby in distress, David started to gurgle happily, reaching up with his small hands to touch the man’s face.

“Well, I’ll be …” Simon couldn’t finish.

“You and me both,” Jayne agreed, dropping his arm around the doctor’s shoulders and almost knocking him off his feet.

“It’s probably the novelty value,” Noah said quietly, not taking his eyes off the child’s face.

“He likes you,” River said firmly, then turned to glare at her brother. “And Caleb needs that ball bearing removed.”

Simon sighed, half of him glad that David was quiet, and half wishing it had been him that had been able to accomplish the feat. “Fine,” he said, watching as Noah carefully fastened the sling around his neck, making soft little sounds all the while. “One ball bearing-ectomy coming up.”


Bethie hummed in satisfaction.

“You like that, do you?” Laura Addie asked, smiling as she moved the brush smoothly through the young girl’s honey coloured hair as they sat in the tiny lounge on board Cherokee.

“Mmn,” Bethie said. “Feels nice.”

“Your hair’s very pretty.”

“Thank you.”

They sat in silence for a minute, the only sound being Ethan reading aloud to Hope, Jesse and Ben from some of Laura’s books. Born with a form of word-blindness, Laura’s reading age was about eight or nine, mostly thanks to Jez and her patient tuition, so her material was simple enough for the boy to attempt, even if a few of the words defeated him. These he made up.

Listening to him talking about a dog called Harold, Bethie allowed her eyes to close, and inadvertently picked up on what Laura was thinking.

“Would have been a good Mama,” she said quietly.

The brush stilled for a moment, then continued on its course. “You think?”

“Mmn. Real good.”

Laura looked at the little girl, knowing that the thought that had gone through her mind was whether her own daughter would ever have looked like this, and wishing that she’d had the chance to find out. But circumstances had decreed she would never know. “Thanks,” she whispered.

“You’re welcome.”

Laura hadn’t ever intended to be a gunhand. In fact, growing up it had never occurred to her that she was going to be anything other than a wife and mother. As the oldest of seven children, she had done her fair share of looking after them, learning at a very young age how to change diapers, and her cooking, while not terribly imaginative, was at least edible.

Then her mother died, giving birth to a dead child. Laura was fourteen, her body barely beginning to show the curves she’d soon have, and now she had to be a full-time mother. And, for the most part, a father too, since hers had decided to crawl into a bottle and join his wife if he could at all manage it.

“I know it ain’t fair,” the local MD had said. “Not at your age. But there ain’t nobody else, Laura. And you know we’ll do what we can to help, even if it ain’t much.”

Not much was almost nothing, just a few extra credits she earned pulling weeds or washing for folks.

She killed her first man not six months later. He’d come off a ship put in for just a day and caught her in broad daylight, dragging her into bushes off the road. He’d held her down, despite her screaming and kicking, and was going to rape her, his stinking, alcohol laden breath foul in her face.

“Pretty little thing,” he’d mumbled. “And I got just what you want.”

He ignored her fighting back, backhanding her once across the cheek hard enough to make her vision darken a little, and sound to rush away from her ears.

As he fumbled at his pants, her questing hand found a rock, and she brought it up with as much force as she could muster, hitting him between the eyes, again and again.

She didn’t remember standing up, her dress torn, bloodied, but she did remember staring down at the body, and marvelling at how easy it had been. She should have been throwing up, or at the very least wanting to hide from what she’d done. Except she didn’t. She dragged the man back into town, bravado giving her strength she didn’t know she possessed, and dropped him at the airlock to his ship, telling the captain to take his trash with him and dump it in space.

The local lawman, called to deal with her, took one look at the blood on her face, the bruises already showing, and told her to get home to her family.

No-one bothered her after that, not even to be friends. Some looked at her askance, fingering the weapons hung from their hips, and she’d taken to walking out into the desert most evenings with her Daddy’s gun, practising. That came as easy to her as killing had apparently been, and as soon as her brother hit sixteen, she packed up her things, gave him what little coin she had managed to save, and left on the first transport.

She’d never intended to get caught up in a war, nor get pregnant from the first man to actually want her for her own sake, and not what he could get. He never even knew he was going to be a father, dying on some forgotten moon in a conflict he shouldn’t have been fighting. And least of all did she intend her tiny daughter, only one year old, to succumb to a virus that swept Praxis, and have to bury her there.

It was only meeting with Jez in a store, each reaching for the same pack of ammunition and recognising a soulmate, that stopped her lying in the gutter and waiting for the Alliance to roll over her.

She sighed, and Bethie leaned closer to her legs. Looking down, Laura asked, “Would you like me to braid it for you?”

Bethie nodded. “Yes, please. And don’t be sad. You have us now.”

Laura glanced at the other children, looking at the pictures in the books. Except for Ethan. His blue eyes were unblinking, and the expression on his face was one she recognised from his father. “Do you think so?” she asked.

The little Tam nodded again. “Yes. All friends. ‘Sides, you’re my Auntie Laura.”

She couldn’t help the smile. “Am I?”


Ethan was nodding too.

“Why do you like me, Bethie?” Laura asked, leaning down and barely whispering.

“’Cause I can see the real you. The you that’s inside.” The girl tapped her own chest. “You hide it, but I can see it.” She grinned. “All warm and fuzzy.”

“Don’t think anyone’s ever described me as fuzzy before.”

“You are.”

Ethan got up and walked across to them, putting his small arm around her shoulders. “’N’ you remind me of my Mama.”

“You think?”

“’N’she’s my Mama,” Ethan went on. “I love her. Love you too.” He kissed her cheek.

Laura had to laugh. “Is that a fact.”

“Surely is.” He grinned, then looked down at the hairbrush. “Me next?” he asked, running his fingers through his hair and pushing it back from his forehead.

“You want me to braid yours too?”

He appeared to consider the possibility. “Might stop Mama wanting to trim it,” he allowed.

Bethie pushed him away. “Later,” she said, sitting back around and settling against Laura’s knees. “Much later.”


Mal and Freya were sitting in Cherokee’s kitchen around a wooden table much like their own, Zoe and Hank next to them, Jez pouring from a bottle of sake.

“I heard about Burt, but I didn’t know you were involved.” she said, finishing with her own mug, her face serious.

“My fault,” Mal said. Maybe one day he’d be able to think of the crew of Road Runner and not see the other ship torn apart, the body parts they collected, but not today.

“No,” Freya put in firmly. “You didn’t set that bomb, that was Becca. And she’s dead, so you have got to stop blaming yourself.”

“Can’t.” It was just one word, but there was a wealth of sadness behind it.

“Sir, Frey’s right.” Zoe leaned forward, her own mug forgotten on the table in front of her. “Guilt will only get you so far, then it eats you alive from the inside. I know.”

“Zoe –”

“I blamed you and River for a long time after Wash died. Maybe her more than you, but that’s debateable. But I realised I had to let it go.” She glanced at Hank. “Else it’d kill me too.”

Mal put his hand on hers. “Still my fault.”

“We didn’t have to follow you.”

“I still failed you.”

“And I’ve got a husband and a son. Life moves on, Mal. It has to. I still miss Wash, and I always will. But I know Hank misses Risa.” She glanced at the man in question, who was nodding. “I don’t resent that. But you have to let go what you can’t change.”

Mal was impressed, not least by the fact that she used his first name, reserved for high days and holidays. And when she wanted him to understand her full meaning. “I guess I’ll try, Zo.”

Freya raised her eyebrows. “So I tell you to stop feeling guilty and you say you can’t, but your first mate tells you the same and you say you’ll try?”

He leaned over and kissed her on the cheek. “I love my wife.”

“That won’t … gorramit.”

Mal grinned.

“I hate to bring us back to earth,” Jez said, “but I’m still waiting to hear the why over Road Runner.”

Serenity’s captain sobered a little. “I guess it’s right you should know,” he said, and told her, with only a few interruptions from the others, of their adventures on first Ephesus with Niska, then at Serenity Valley, and Mara Tam. The only bit he left out was his torture at the old hwoon dahn’s hands, which he felt wasn’t really anyone’s business but his own.

“I didn’t know,” Jez said, shaking her head.

“No reason you should,” Mal replied. “’Less you’re one of ‘em.”

“A New Browncoat?” She smiled slightly. “No. I get into enough trouble being an old one.”

“That’s the truth,” Noah said, wheeling expertly into the kitchen. “I’ve never seen a woman more attracted to making people mad.”

“Only you, my love,” she said sweetly, venom coated in sugar. “Only you.”

Noah chuckled. “Hank, you ever feel the need for a trade, you let me know.”

The pilot shook his head. “Zoe’d kill you, before you even managed to get out of that chair.”

“But a hell of a way to go.”

“So I’m not woman enough for you?” Jez asked.

“Didn’t say that,” Noah backtracked, still grinning. “Might’ve thought it, but …”

“Maybe I feel like a change too. Hank looks about my size … maybe I’m the one who should suggest it.”

“And miss out on all the fun?” He blew her a kiss. “Nah.”

Mal leaned over and whispered into Freya’s ear, “Sound familiar?”

She glanced at him, about to answer, then caught sight of what Noah had around his chest. “Wait a minute, is that David?”

Everyone stared at the sling, and, more importantly, at the sleeping occupant.

If Noah could have grinned wider, he would have. “Seems like I have the touch.”

Mal turned to Jez. “Sorry, honey,” he said, in the most non-apologetic tone he could muster. “Noah’s gonna come with us as permanent babysitter.”

“Over my dead body,” she responded lightly.

“Considering the noise that kid’s been making the past two days, that could be arranged.”

Ida, in her early forties and with her long blonde hair caught into a messy bun at the nape of her neck, stuck her head around the door. “Grub’s up,” she said with a grin.

“Thank God for that,” Jez said, pushing her chair back with a squeal and standing up. “Too much more of this mawkish sentiment and I’d be cutting someone’s throat.”

“Not your own?” Freya teased.

“Oh, not far gone enough for that.”

“What about the oregano?” Noah asked.

Ida shrugged. “Didn’t need it. I just wanted Simon out from under my feet. That man does fuss.” She disappeared again in a puff of what looked like smoke but was probably flour to a chorus of laughter.

to be continued


Wednesday, September 23, 2009 8:47 AM


Let me say that Bethie telling Laura she would have made a great momma was just heartwarming. And I really am liking Jez. She and Noah are quite a pair.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009 12:21 PM


Everyone on the Cherokee is just too good to be true. I just hope not knowing you.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009 3:04 PM


“A New Browncoat?” She smiled slightly. “No. I get into enough trouble being an old one.”--Best line, hands down! :)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009 6:04 PM


Loving the peaceful feeling of old friends meeting up and visiting. I sure they are creating their own form of culture by living in the black all the time.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009 11:29 PM


I really enjoyed this. The folk on the Cherokee seem such good people and it is nice to have some friendly folk to interact with our crew. Too often there is the dark and nasty turning up so this makes a welcome change. As for Noah having the touch with little David, it might simply be that Simon really *does* fuss too much and that's why he wasn't settling. Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"


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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?”
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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.

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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.

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“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!]