'Twas the night
Friday, December 18, 2009

Maya. Post-BDM. Just a little festive two-parter, set maybe six months after MASKS (which will be continued shortly). Kaylee is angry because Mal can't take time out for the kids to have a white Christmas this year ...


They’d dressed up the cargo bay with lights, stringing popcorn chains from the catwalk and wrapping ribbons around the stanchions, and still Kaylee groused.

“Just a day,” she said yet again. “Ain’t gonna make us that late, is it?”

It had been the tradition in years of late that Mal would make sure they were near a planet or moon at Christmas that had a place where they could land and make snowmen, enjoying the cold air that reddened hands and cheeks, making it that much more pleasant – and mildly painful – when they headed back into the Firefly. This year, however, work meant they were away from the normal trade routes, and there wasn’t a civilised landfall within a week’s travel.

“Can’t do it.” Mal shook his head at her across the table, the remains of their meal still on the old wood. “It ain’t like we can pick and choose at the moment, not with the way the Alliance is cracking down on unlicensed transports.”

Hank stirred. “Just who was Harbatkin?” he asked.

“No idea,” Mal admitted. “Just a name the guy came up with when he made the papers. But the point is we need to make cash where we can, ‘cause there are gonna be some hard days coming up.”

“I know that, Cap’n,” Kaylee said. “But it’s Christmas.” She nodded significantly towards the children.

“Can’t be helped. Maybe after we’re done we can find someplace to sit a day or two, but right now we’ve got business.” He leaned forward, his hands resting on the table. “I let you dress up my cargo bay like some kinda bordello. What more do you want?”

She glared at him then pushed her chair back, grabbing the meat platter right from under Jayne’s fingers as he went to stab the last slice.


Kaylee ignored him, taking the plate to the kitchen area, muttering under her breath.

“If’n I hear anything about tyrants I might be persuaded to make you take down that frippery too,” Mal pointed out.

The muttering didn’t stop, but it did get quieter.


River gazed out of the bridge window.

“Whatcha doing?” Hank asked, coming up for one final check on their course before heading to his warm bed and warmer wife.


“Watching what?” He peered out into the infinite depths.

“For a large man wearing red and white in an outmoded form of transport pulled by six Rangifer tarandus.”

For a moment Hank was confused, then … “You’re watching for Santa Claus?”

She turned her head and her dark gaze landed on him. “No.”

“Then what –”

“Sarcasm is a dying art.”

“Your brother’s right, you’re a brat, you know that.”

“Yes.” She waited a beat. “If you must know, I’m looking at that star.”

“Honey, the black’s full of ‘em. Any one in particular?”

She pointed. “That one.”

He peered out. “You mean the bright one just right of centre?”


“That’s –”

“I don’t need to know the name. But it’s the Christmas star, leading travellers to witness a miracle.”

“Well, we ain’t exactly going that way. And if you don’t get up, I can’t check we are going the way we’re supposed to be.”

“You don’t have to,” River said airily. “I already have. And we’re exactly on course.”

“Trying to do me out of a job?” Hank joked.

“Oh, please. Do,” Mal said, climbing the steps to the bridge. “At least that’d get him out of my hair.”

“I don’t like you that much,” Hank said, grinning at his captain. “Anyway, I was trying to do what you pay me for. Sometimes.”

“The sometimes you do it, or the sometimes I pay you?”


“Well, tonight it’s neither. I’ll turn everything down low. You get on to your bunk. I think Zoe’s waiting for you to help her wrap some presents.”

“Ooh, pressies.” The pilot rubbed his hands together. “I like pressies.”

“You’re as bad as Bethie.”

“Are you saying I'm childish?”


Hank was unruffled. “Okay. Just so’s I know.” He grinned again. “Besides, you know my skills at gift wrapping leave something to be desired. Or do I have to remind you of previous experiences?”

Mal shuddered. “Not really,” he said, his mind skittering across the parcels he and others had been presented with. “Then maybe you’d better go and supervise.”

Hank appeared to consider this option. “Could.” The grin grew that much more lascivious. “Mind, I think I’d rather go unwrap Zoe.”

Mal threw his hands into the air. “Fine. Shiny. You go and do that.”

Almost prancing off the bridge, Hank chuckled. “Those kinds of orders I don’t mind obeying.”

“Just make sure you close the hatch this time!” Mal called after him.

“Aye aye, captain!”

A chuckle of his own slipped from his throat. “That man’s gonna be the death of me,” he murmured, dropping into the co-pilot’s chair.

“No, he won’t,” River observed. “That will be Freya, one day in the far distant future, when you die from a surfeit of love-making.”

“That the case, albatross?” His blue eyes twinkled.

“It is.”

“Well, can’t say that’s too unpleasant a prospect. Long as it really is a long way off.”

“Years. Years and years.” She paused. “Years and years and years and years.”


“And years.”

“I get your point.”

She settled back into the seat, her eyes back out on the starfield. Her hands, though, were playing touch and run with the controls. “Do you want me to?” she asked, not looking at him.

“You know?”


“And you ain’t told anyone?”


“Then you just keep it to yourself. Frey’s the only other person I talked it over with, and that was just ‘cause the witch plucked it out of my mind.”

“Excuse me, but she’s not the only psychic on board.”

“No, that’s true. But you’re a witch too.”

A smile flitted across River’s face. “Thank you.”

“And yes, you can if you like.”

Almost before he finished speaking he could see the view out of the window change minutely as River pulled Serenity gently onto a new heading, so delicately that not even Hank would be aware of the change.

“A good man,” she said quietly.

“Nope. But those puppy-dog eyes can be lethal sometimes.”


By breakfast the following day Kaylee’s mood hadn’t really improved. She had already almost snarled at Simon for getting in her way, even though she apologised immediately and kissed him thoroughly.

“So what do you have planned, mei-mei?” Mal asked her, risking her wrath.

“Chores,” she said shortly. “Serenity needs some of her fuel joints recaulking, and even though it’ll last another month or two I thought I might as well. Seeing as I ain’t gonna be doing anything else over the next coupla days.”

“River was talking about organising a carol concert for tomorrow,” Freya said. “You could always help her write out the song sheets.”

“We don’t need ‘em,” Kaylee said. “We all know the words.”

“Yeah, but some of ‘em aren’t the ones I recall singing in church,” Mal pointed out, and for some reason shot a glare towards Jayne.

The big man shrugged. “Depends on the church, I guess.”

“No, Jayne, it doesn’t.”

“I guess I could do both,” Kaylee said, not wanting to see bloodshed even the way she was feeling. “I'm gonna have plenty of ...” She stopped, her eyes widening.

“What is it?” Simon asked, as always very protective of his young wife. “Are you all right? Do you feel ill?”

“No.” She waved him to silence. “Serenity’s landing.”

“What?” Hank listened carefully. “Gorram it, I think you’re right!” He pushed his chair back, the squeal of the wood on the floor joining the others as they all headed for the bridge, colliding in the doorway as they each tried to push through first. A shudder ran through the ship, and the engine note changed.

“We’re down,” Kaylee said, getting to the front by dint of using her shoulder as a battering ram. She ran down the corridor and up the steps. “Da-shiong bao-jah-shr duh la doo-tze,” she breathed as everyone crowded up behind her.

Mal, bringing up the rear with Freya at his side, smiled. “And you complain about us cursing in front of the kids.”

“Oh, yeah, sorry.” She didn’t turn, though, just kept staring out at the snow swirling in front of the bridge windows.

“According to our pilot here ...” Mal smiled at River, still sitting at the controls but smiling widely. “... the storm’ll blow itself out ‘fore morning, so you’re gonna be having that white Christmas you’ve been nagging about.”

“You mean ...” She span on her heel.

“Yeah. We’ll be staying, least until day after tomorrow.”

Kaylee squealed with happiness. “Cap’n!” She pushed past the others and ran to him, wrapping her arms around his neck and kissing his cheek.

“Hey, be careful,” Mal said. “Your husband might get jealous.”

“I think this time I’ll let it slide,” Simon said dryly.

“What about the job, sir?” Zoe asked.

“O’Malley can wait a day or two, it won’t hurt him. And he owes us for last time.”

“I thought you wanted to keep that debt until we really needed it.”

Mal shook his head. “I think this is worth it, don’t you?” he asked, watching the children jumping for joy on the steps behind him.

“So where are we?” Hank wanted to know, peering over River’s shoulder at the co-ordinates.

“It doesn’t rightly have a name,” Mal said, disentangling himself from Kaylee’s embrace. “Just some number. Nobody lives here, and this is the only place flat enough to put down. The rest of it’s pretty much mountains and rock.”

“I don’t care,” Kaylee said stoutly, her internal sunshine switched back on and burning brightly. “It’s going to be a white Christmas after all.”


“I thought there wasn’t anything out there worth hunting?” Hank stared at Jayne, all done up in his cold weather gear, his orange and white hat sitting incongruously atop his head.

“Not going hunting,” the big man said. “Kaylee wants a tree, so I’m gonna go find her one.”

“Out there?” Peering through the thick glass of the small window, all he could see was a white swirl.

“I got me a comunit,” Jayne said, patting his pocket. “And a good sense of direction.”

“You’re going to need one.” Hank shook his head. “Although if you get lost just wave that hat of yours and we’ll be able to see you miles away.”

“Watch it,” Jayne warned. “Or I’ll decide I need some help bringing it back and make you come with me.”

Hank swallowed. “Um, actually, you know, it looks really warm. And ... and comfortable.”

“It is.”

“Then wear it in good health.” He darted forward. “Here, let me.” Struggling just a little, he pulled the small outer door open, snowflakes bustling inside and wrapping around his legs.

Jayne grinned at him, somewhat ferally, showing all his teeth. “See you in a few,” he said, then plunged into the white.

Hank hurriedly closed the door, wondering if a man could get frostbite from only half a minute’s exposure.

“Where’s he going?” Mal asked, walking down the stairs with a sack over his shoulder, Freya just a pace behind him.

“To get a tree for Kaylee.”

“That’s nice. Why?”

“Who knows why Jayne does anything?” Hank countered.

“A truer word ...” Mal stepped down to the deck, waiting for Freya before slipping his free arm around her waist, his gaze still on the pilot. “You hang tight until he gets back, dong mah? Then make sure we’re locked up.”

Hank was surprised. “I thought you said there wasn’t anyone around.”

“There isn’t. But I also don’t want certain little people taking it into their heads to open the doors and let the storm inside so they can build snowmen.”

“Ah.” Hank nodded. “Gotcha.”

Mal looked down into his wife’s face. “So ... wanna help me do some wrapping?” he asked.

“I could maybe be persuaded,” Freya said warmly.

“Shiny.” He glanced back at Hank. “We’ll be in one of the spare bunks for a while. In case anyone needs us. Doing fancy stuff with paper.”

“That’s some kind of euphemism, isn’t it?” Hank said. “Some kinda code for ... it.”

“If it is, you ain’t ever gonna find out for sure.”


Forty minutes later and Jayne was back inside, shaking snow from his shoulders and stamping his feet.

“Close the gorram door!” Mal called from the infirmary, having had to stop what he was doing and get a weave to put on a particularly nasty papercut. “You’re letting the heat out!” He could feel the chill from there.

Hank, entangled in greenery, pushed a branch out of his face and managed to say around a mouthful of needles, “Jayne? Could you? I’m kinda ...”

The big man grinned, and grabbed the handle, lifting the heavy metal with barely a grunt and letting it fall into the frame. Just as it closed with a rumbling metallic thud there was a final swirl of cold air that slipped around the opening, making the pilot shiver as he tried to control an errant twig and stop it burrowing into his ear.

“Ooh,” Bethie said, stepping into the bay with the other children at her heels. “Uncle Jayne, is that for us?”

“Sure is, short stub.” He pulled his hat from his head and brushed the remaining flakes from it. “Think it’ll do?”

“It’s beautiful,” the little girl answered.

“Yeah,” Jayne said, nodding slowly, a grin forming on his lips. “It is, kinda, ain’t it?”

“Neat,” Ethan agreed.

“You gonna help decorate it?”

Bethie’s eyes were as wide as they’d go. “Can we?”

“Don’t see why not. Better go get your Ma, though. She’s gonna want to make sure we’re doing it right.”

“Okay!” The little girl ran back into the common area, almost colliding with Mal as he came to see what the fuss was.

“Sure it’s big enough?” he asked, eyeing the ... whatever it was.

“Gotta get all the presents underneath it,” Jayne explained, dumping his wet coat on a convenient crate.

“I think it’s lovely,” River said from above them, having stepped silently from the shuttle. “My Jayne did well.”

The big man preened a little.

Mal hurried to restore his authority. “I didn't say it wasn’t ... well, lovely ain’t exactly the word I’d’ve used, but it’s okay. Nice, even.” At her look he added quickly, “Okay, it’s pretty. Happy?”

She smiled. “Yes.”

He rolled his eyes.

“Um, Jayne?” Hank could barely be seen beneath the branches, and was in danger of disappearing entirely. “Help?”


Whatever the make or model of the tree, everyone enjoyed decorating it, even if some of the decorations seemed to have gotten themselves mislaid.

Kaylee hung her head out of the common area doorway. “Honey, you seen those little candles I bought a while back? I was figuring on putting them on the tree.”

Simon looked up from where he was stringing yet more popcorn on thread, under River’s close supervision. “Didn't you put them in the bottom drawer?”

“Yeah, that’s what I thought, only they ain’t there now.” She looked disgruntled.

“Maybe you got them out ready and they’re in plain sight. You know how it is sometimes, when you can’t see something for looking.”

“Believe me, I know that, but it’s not like our bunk’s that big.” Now she was chewing on her lower lip.

“Then don’t worry for the moment. Come and help me finish, then I’ll help you search. Although maybe we shouldn’t put naked flames on the tree,” he went on, gasping slightly as he ran the needle into his thumb again, a tiny jewel of blood appearing on his flesh until he sucked it off. “Not with children around,” he added, slightly indistinctly, his gaze flicking to his daughter in particular who was busy making paper chains with the others.

“I guess.” Kaylee stepped back into the cargo bay.

Up on the catwalk, leaning over the railing so he could get at the very topmost branches, Hank nodded in agreement. “It wouldn’t take much,” he said, attaching a large, shiny bauble. “Just running about, playing, someone doesn’t look where they’re going and ... woof.” He mimed flames leaping up into the superstructure.

“But they’re so pretty,” Kaylee murmured.

“And we’d be careful, Uncle Simon,” Ethan said, wiping his glue-covered fingers down his pants.

“Don’t do that, sweetie,” Freya admonished him gently.

“Sorry, Mama.” He glared at the offending digits.

Freya smiled slightly. “Kaylee, why don’t you get the emergency lights out, and we can make some glows to put around instead.”

Kaylee lifted her head. “Glows?”

“Coloured ones. I’m sure there’s something we can use, some thin fabric maybe, and since they’re cold they won’t be a fire risk.”

“That’s a great idea.” Kaylee’s grin could have lit the bay all by itself. “I’ll go find ‘em.” She ran up the stairs towards the stores.

Mal chuckled, planting a kiss on his wife’s cheek before handing the traditional origami Firefly to Zoe to place at the heart of the tree.

Finally River and Kaylee were satisfied, and everyone stood back to admire their handiwork, the glows the young mechanic had managed to whip up shading the very air all the colours of the rainbow.

“You know, if we’d put just one more bit of frivolity on that there tree, I don’t think it could have stood the strain,” Mal commented, his arm tucking Freya into his side.

“Maybe one more,” she said, breathing deeply of his masculine scent, overlaid with the green perfume from the tree.

“Nope. I think that would’ve been the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

“I thought it was Frey had all those little sayings, sir,” Zoe teased.

“Must be proximity.” Mal squeezed a little tighter. “I’ll try and restrain myself from using ‘em.”

“Probably a good idea, sir.”

“Anyway, I think it’s perfect,” Kaylee said.

“So very pretty,” Hope said, gazing in awe, her fingers reaching for her mother’s.


“And I’m hungry, so I think I’ll go make some food,” Freya volunteered. “It’s getting late, and some people should be thinking about going to bed soon.” She looked down at the children, standing and staring at the tree.

“But we don’t want to!” Bethie implored. “We’re not tired, are we?” She looked to Ethan for support, and he shook his head in agreement.

“Not tired, Mama.” Then he yawned, and Bethie looked disgusted at him.

“Really?” Freya asked.

“Besides,” Hank put in, “if you’re not in bed asleep, Santa Claus won’t come.”

Bethie opened her mouth, about to tell him that Santa wasn’t real, that she knew because Auntie River had shown her a whole article on the Cortex where she’d read all about the myths and traditions of Christmas and how Santa Claus was just a variation on the green man and ... Then she saw the look on Jesse’s face, part wonder and part hope. “Okay, Uncle Hank,” she said meekly.

Freya’s eyes narrowed just a little, but she didn’t peek. “Want to help me get something ready?” she asked instead, holding out her hand.

“Okay.” Bethie took hold, and they went up the stairs.

“Hang on,” Simon called. “I’ll give you a hand.”

“Me too,” Jayne put in quickly, knowing he could beg scraps as he went.

“Tell you what,” Kaylee said, looking at the other children. “Why don’t we get you all ready for bed, then you can have a tray in your room? Just in case Santa wants to come by early, seeing as he has the whole ‘verse to get round?”

“’Kay, Momma,” Hope said. “Can Ben stay with me tonight?”

“I don’t see why not,” Zoe put in. “Just this once.”

“Me too, Daddy?” Jesse asked, her wide brown eyes on her father’s face.

Mal warmed through. “Okay, JJ. Just this once.”

She beamed at him.

“I’ll get her things, if you like,” Zoe offered. “Got to get Ben’s anyway.”

“Thanks. I’d be grateful.”

“I’ll help,” Hank volunteered, the pair of them heading for the upper corridor.

“Wait a minute, what about the mess?” Mal asked.

“All done,” River said, picking up the last of the fragments of paper from the floor and placing it in a sack.

“You didn’t have to.”

“Wanted to.” She laid the burlap against one of the cages.

“I’ll do it next time,” Kaylee said, ushering the children ahead of her towards the common area. In the doorway, though, she paused, turning back. “Sorry?”

“What?” Mal glanced at her.

“You said something.”

“Nope. Not that I’m aware of.”

“Are you sure?”

“Kaylee, I may not be in the first flush of youth no more, but I’m pretty sure my lips didn’t move.”

“Oh.” Her forehead furrowed. “I could have sworn ... oh, well, never mind.” She carried on towards the lower crew quarters, rubbing at her ear.

“Girl must be hearing things,” Mal murmured, glancing at River, who was staring into the corner of the bay. “You okay?” he asked, seeing her preoccupation. When she didn’t answer he put his hand on her arm. “Xiao nu? You all right?”

She smiled at him, lit from within as she always was when he called her ‘daughter’. “Yes, father.”

He shook his head. “Then if I’m playing that role tonight, you’d best be getting to the kitchen ‘fore your other half eats us out of house and home.”

“Yes, sir!” She ripped off a smart and very accurate salute, then ran up the stairs on bare feet that barely brushed the metal.

Mal grinned, letting the warmth he felt for his extended family wash over him as he followed more slowly, but that warmth was pricked half way up as the hair on the back of his neck raised, and goose bumps clustered across his skin. He half-turned to look into the corner of the bay, where River’s attention had been caught, and where it felt like he was being watched from. There was nothing there, of course. Not that there would be. Still, he hurried up, taking the steps two at a time until he was through the top hatch.

to be continued


Friday, December 18, 2009 11:49 AM


Oh no Mal, should'a checked that corner out! Anything that grabs River's attention then his has to be worth taking a really close look at. Love this, just hope our heroes stay a little bit on their toes anyway. Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Friday, December 18, 2009 1:49 PM


A Christmas mystery. Mal better watch out, both for the corner and the kids.

Saturday, December 19, 2009 4:09 PM


Wonderful and wanting the next part up. Mysteries are always good for a holiday!!

Sunday, December 20, 2009 3:22 PM


Waiting on pins and needles for the rest....

And Yes, Jane... you guilted me into commenting from your Tweet


You must log in to post comments.



Now and Then - a Christmas story
“Then do you have a better suggestion? No, let me rephrase that. Do you have a more sensible suggestion that doesn’t involve us getting lost and freezing to death?”

[Maya. Post-BDM. A little standalone festive tale that kind of fits into where I am in the Maya timeline, but works outside too. Enjoy!]

Monied Individual - Epilogue
"I honestly don’t know if my pilot wants to go around with flowers and curlicues carved into his leg.”
[Maya. Post-BDM. The end of the story, and the beginning of the last ...]

Monied Individual - Part XX
Mal took a deep breath, allowing it out slowly through his nostrils, and now his next words were the honest truth. “Ain’t surprised. No matter how good you are, and I’m not complaining, I’ve seen enough battle wounds, had to help out at the odd amputation on occasion. And I don’t have to be a doc myself to tell his leg ain’t quite the colour it should be, even taking into account his usual pasty complexion. What you did … didn’t work, did it?”
[Maya. Post-BDM. Simon has no choice, and Luke comes around.]

Monied Individual - Part XIX
“His name’s Jayne?”

“What’s wrong with that?” the ex-mercenary demanded from the doorway.

“Nothing, nothing! I just … I don’t think I’ve ever met a man … anyone else by that name.”

“Yeah, he’s a mystery to all of us,” Mal said. “Even his wife.”

[Maya. Post-BDM. Hank's not out of the woods yet, and Mal has a conversation. Enjoy!]

Monied Individual - Part XVIII
Jayne had told him a story once, about being on the hunt for someone who owed him something or other. He’d waited for his target for three hours in four inches of slush as the temperature dropped, and had grinned when he’d admitted to Hank that he’d had to break his feet free from the ice when he’d finished.
[Maya. Post-BDM. The Fosters show their true colours, Jayne attempts a rescue, and the others may be too late.]

Snow at Christmas
She’d seen his memories of his Ma, the Christmases when he was a boy on Shadow, even a faint echo of one before his Pa died, all still there, not diminished by his burning, glowing celebrations of now with Freya.

[Maya. Post-BDM. A seasonal one-off - enjoy!]

Monied Individual - Part XVII
Jayne hadn’t waited, but planted a foot by the lock. The door was old, the wood solid, but little could stand against a determined Cobb boot with his full weight behind it. It burst open.

[Maya. Post-BDM. The search for Hank continues. Read, enjoy, review!]

Monied Individual - Part XVI
He slammed the door behind him, making the plates rattle on the sideboard. “It’s okay, girl, I ain't gonna hurt you.” The cook, as tradition dictated, plump and rosy cheeked with her arms covered to the elbows in flour, but with a gypsy voluptuousness, picked up a rolling pin.

[Maya. Post-BDM. Kaylee finds the problem with Serenity, and Jayne starts his quest. Read, enjoy, review!]

Monied Individual - Part XV
“Did we …” “We did.” “Why?” As she raised an eyebrow at him he went on quickly, “I mean, we got a comfy bunk, not that far away. Is there any particular reason we’re in here instead?” “You don’t remember?” He concentrated for a moment, and the activities of a few hours previously burst onto him like a sunbeam. “Oh, right,” he acknowledged happily.

[Maya. Post-BDM. A little with each Serenity couple, but something goes bang. Read, enjoy, review!]

“Did we …” “We did.” “Why?” As she raised an eyebrow at him he went on quickly, “I mean, we got a comfy bunk, not that far away. Is there any particular reason we’re in here instead?” “You don’t remember?” He concentrated for a moment, and the activities of a few hours previously burst onto him like a sunbeam. “Oh, right,” he acknowledged happily.

[Maya. Post-BDM. A little with each Serenity couple, but something goes bang. Read, enjoy, review!]