Masks - Part XIII
Sunday, January 10, 2010

Maya. Post-BDM. Jez's son, Flynn, makes an appearance, and the girls enjoy a mud bath. NEW CHAPTER


At the tender age of fifteen, before she’d ever met Noah Thacker, or dreamed fitfully of becoming a Browncoat and owning her own boat, Jezebel Youngblood did what her family considered the ultimate sin – she fell in love. And worse still (if there can be a worse after the ultimate sin) she became pregnant.

Her father ranted and raved, her mother looked at her with something like disappointment in her eyes, while Jez stood in the centre of the Sihnon-weave carpet, her hands held tightly in front of her still-flat stomach, the natural stoicism of her heritage about the only thing keeping her from falling apart.

“You’ll never see him again,” her father insisted.

“I love him.”

If anything her father’s face congested even more. “Love?” he scoffed. “What do you know about love? You’re a child.”

“I’m going have his baby.”

Her own mother put her hand to her mouth and ran from the room.

Her father glared at her. “Now look what you’ve done.”

“Alan loves me. We’re going to be together.”

“You think?” He stopped in his pacing. “Do you really think he’s going to want to be tied down to a wife and child at his age?”

“Yes.” She gazed at him, her stubbornness radiating from every pore, as sure in her love as she was in the world turning. “He loves me,” she repeated.

Unfortunately, her father was right. As much as Alan denied it, he was heir to the family fortune, and no matter that the Youngbloods had money, it wasn’t old, and to the Tennysons that was all that was important. He was shipped off to the family estate on Londinium, and in barely a month the engagement was announced between him and the youngest daughter of … Jez couldn’t read any more. She closed the Cortex link and rolled up into a ball on her bed, her heart breaking.

Shortly after her sixteenth birthday, Jez was delivered of a healthy baby boy, his lungs announcing that he wasn’t happy to be thrust into the cold, cruel world. She named him Flynn.

For six months she fed, changed and otherwise did for her son, learning from servants and her own mistakes what worked and what didn’t, with little or no help from her parents. Then she went to see her father.

“You don’t want me here,” she said, standing straight in front of his desk. “You’ve made that perfectly clear.”

You’ve brought shame on your family.”

She didn’t rise to it. “If you’ll give me some money, I’ll leave. Be out of your hair. You can make up any story for your friends that you like.”

He studied her, his eyes narrowed. “And the child?”

“He comes with me.”

He snorted. “You’re little more than a child yourself. What can you give him, Jezebel? A life with nothing?”

“My love. He’s my son.”

A smile, small and hateful, slid across his features. “No, Jezebel. It won’t be like that. We’ll raise him. I’m willing to settle a large amount on you, enough to keep you comfortable, if you’re careful. But the boy stays with me.”

Tears prickled her eyes. “You can’t do that.”

“Oh, I can.” He sat forward. “You haven’t reached your majority yet, at least not on this world, and according to the local law you still belong to me. As does any of your off-spring. And if you fight me, I'm willing to take you to the full extent of that law.”

At that moment she loathed him, any love she might have had for him burned out of her. She blinked hard, determined not to cry in front of him, sitting there in that green leather chair, surrounded by books he’d never bothered to read. “He’s my son.”

“No. He’s my grandson. And I’ll make sure he’s brought up to respect his elders. Unlike you.” He glanced down at his hands, loosely clasped on the old wood. “You have two choices. Leave, with the money I give you, or – as you seem so determined to ignore my wishes – I will place you in a home. Five years, Jezebel. Until you’re twenty-one.” He laughed humourlessly. “Do you really think you can survive that?”

He’d been planning it, Jez realised. Probably from the moment he’d found out she was pregnant, waiting for her to have had enough. And now she knew she had no choice, not if she wanted to keep her sanity. “I want to hear about him. To be able to talk to him.”

Her father nodded, but it turned into a shrug. “We’ll see.” Now he had what he wanted, he was all business. “I’ll have the money transferred to your account. And as I'm not a complete barbarian, you can take a week to say goodbye. But after that date, you’re no longer my daughter.”

Jez tossed her head back and steeled her shoulders. “I haven’t been your daughter for a long time.”

The week came and went at the speed of light, at the same time dragging its heels until she thought she would scream, but finally she had to leave, the belongings she couldn’t bear to leave behind in a carpet bag, with a few choice pieces of her mother’s jewellery wrapped in one of her sweaters, just in case. Except the most precious thing she had to leave behind, and she almost couldn’t bear to walk down the drive, knowing they’d closed the door on her, not even waiting to see her leave the property.

Her father was as good as his word, at least at first, and sent the occasional wave, a capture or two, but they were few and far between, and these trailed off. By then Jez was embroiled in the war, learning that hating and fighting were two different things, but that both of them could equally get her killed. And if thoughts of her son kept her warm at night, it was only wishful thinking.

Then one day, one hot summer day on Boros, when the smells of the factories mixed with the dry dust and blew in through Cherokee’s open airlock …


Jez almost fainted. She hadn’t seen him in the flesh for so many years, and yet she knew him right away. He looked like his father in that he was blond haired, taller and more muscular than herself, but with her nose. “Flynn?”

His hands rested on the gunbelt around his hips. “I came to find you. To ask you why you didn’t want me.”

She tried. For a long time she tried, taking him on board, introducing him to the crew, wanting to make him feel a part of the family. They spoke for hours, but it always ended the same way, with Flynn striding from the room, his anger wrapped around him like a red, fiery blanket, and nothing she said made any difference. As far as he was concerned, his mother had abandoned him, leaving his grandparents to shoulder the responsibility.

On a couple of occasions they met up with Serenity, spending a week in each other’s company one time, near a month the next, working side by side, and Freya attempted to talk some sense into him. Even Mal took him in hand, speaking man to man, but Jez’s father had done his job all too well. The resentment was too ingrained, too deep. Flynn asked Mal to drop him somewhere, anywhere, and it was with a heavy heart that the captain agreed.

As the boy stood on the cargo bay ramp, preparing to walk off into the crowd of Eavesdown Docks, he settled his belt around his slim hips, and Freya tried once more.

“Wave her. Once in a while. Just to let you know you’re alive. She deserves that much, at least.”

For once Flynn didn’t automatically disagree, but looked into the older woman’s eyes, an odd sadness etched into his face. “I know you see the best in people,” he said. “But …”

“But nothing. I like Jez. Very much. And I don’t see the best in people. What I can do is read them, something I’m pretty good at. And your mother loves you. She never wanted to give you up in the first place.”

He sighed. It was an old argument, and no closer to being resolved. “Right.”

“Just … wave her. Please.”

“I’ll … think about it.” He picked up his rucksack. “See you,” he said, and marched away into the crowd, disappearing from view all too quickly, not to be heard from again.

Until the hotel in Oracle City, Delphi, and now Flynn Youngblood was staring at Freya, his eyes wide, his mouth open.

Zoe, feeling an odd trickle of amusement, looked from one to the other. “Come on,” she said. “I think we’d better be having this conversation inside.”

“What?” Flynn shot her a glance, then nodded. “Yes. Yes, I think … yes.” He stood to one side, letting the two women into his room.

Zoe looked around the small room – a single bed, a chair and a drawer unit, clean but very much functional – then turned to gaze at Flynn. A quick glance told her that Freya hadn't quite regained her self control, so she took it upon herself to say, “Well, unless you’ve turned sly and he’s hiding someplace, I take it you’re using the name Will Everett.”

Flynn pushed his hands into his pants pockets and hunched his shoulders, looking less like the gunhand and more like a teenager caught out in a lie. “It’s what folks call me,” he admitted grudgingly.

Freya found her voice. “How come?”

“People know the name Youngblood. It’s not like it’s that common.” His voice, only a little belligerent, still held traces of his upbringing, the careful enunciation only hidden, not vanished. This young man wasn’t likely to use words like ain’t, at least not unless he consciously chose to.


“I’m not going to trade on her reputation.”

“Her? She’s your mother, Flynn.”

“She abandoned me.”

Freya could feel the resentment still inside, but it was tempered, and a small spark of hope flared to life in her chest. “Not by choice.”

Zoe wondered if they were going to get into the same old argument, but Flynn surprised her.

He glanced down at the threadbare carpet under his boots. “How ...” He cleared his throat. “How is she?”

“Physically, fine. But she misses you.” Freya wanted to read him, but held back. Now wasn’t the time to destroy any trust.

“Yeah.” He obviously didn’t want to talk about it, as he asked instead, “How did you find me?”

“We weren’t looking,” Zoe said.

“Then how ...” Realisation dawned. “You’re Malfrey’s friends.”

“Dillon, yes.” Freya looked him up and down. “He seems to think you’re okay.”

“I’ve done a few things for him. I'm trustworthy.”

“Did he tell you what the job was?”

“Bodyguard. A couple of girls out on a cruise. He didn’t tell me it was you, though.”

“No more he should,” Zoe said firmly. “We don’t like our business broadcast over the ‘verse.”

“No. No, of course.” He took a deep breath. “So ... what do we do now? I mean, it’s not like I've any references I can show you, but if there’s anything you want to know, I’ll try and answer it.”

Freya was surprised. “You still want the job?”

For a moment he didn’t answer, then he sighed heavily. “Look, I’ve no money. The freighter I was working on, well, their old gunhand wanted back, so they had to let me go. I had a few coins scraped together, and I’ve been lucky at cards, but I’ve nowhere near enough to get a ride off planet. And it’s not exactly the kind of place the ships I usually work come to.” He straightened up, gaining an inch or two. “So yes. I want the job. And I'm good, you know that.”

Zoe nodded faintly, remembering the very odd occasions they’d had the opportunity to see him in action. While he wasn’t quite as fast as Mal, he was close, and very accurate. What’s more he was slow to rile, at least when it came to things other than his mother, but when he knew there was a problem, he was capable of resolving it quickly, often without resort to bloodshed.

“How old are you now?” Freya asked suddenly.

He looked surprised. “Twenty-five.”

“And how many men have you killed?”

The surprise turned to a slight shock. “Is that relevant?”


His shoulders slumped again, as if he was seeing the possibility of leaving Delphi disappearing over the horizon at a rate of knots. “I don’t know. Face to face, in a one on one gunfight, probably a dozen or so. But with the kind of work I do, there are ambushes, general fights, that sort of thing. I don’t know how many might have died at my hand under those circumstances.”

“And you were always on the right side?”


“Well, at least you’re honest.”

“I've come to realise there isn’t usually a right side. Just shades of grey.” He squared his shoulders again. “But I don’t kill women or children, and try not to take innocent lives.”

“And you’re a good enough shot to be able to stick to that.”


“Your grandfather taught you well.”

“He didn’t know. Someone else showed me how to use a gun.”

Zoe’s curiosity got the better of her. “Who?”

“Just someone on the estate. He said I needed to know how to defend myself.” Flynn allowed a tiny smile to crease his lips. “He knew I wasn’t going to be staying.”

It was the first time Flynn had talked about his life between Jez having to leave and him looking for her, and as much as Freya wanted to push, to ask more questions, she knew that if she did that the little foothold might give altogether, so she reined in her curiosity. Instead she glanced at Zoe. “Well?”

They stared at each other for a long time, then the first mate shrugged, turning back to Flynn. “You’ve got a week to prove to us you’re the right man. If you are, fine. You can finish the cruise with the girls, making sure they ain’t put into any harm’s way. But make no mistake, we’re gonna be talking to Dillon too, seeing if he can put a couple of other names our way, because if we find we don’t trust you, for any reason, you’ll be put off, and we won’t care where that is. Dong mah?”

Flynn nodded. “I understand. And I won’t let you down.”


Freya suddenly smiled. “Well, you’d better get packed. The shuttle leaves for the Empress at dusk, and I for one don’t want to miss out on all the fun.”


“This is heaven,” Kaylee said, sinking down just a little further into her mud hole.

“It’s certainly relaxing.” Inara looked around their private section. Carved from the pink rock itself but dressed up with gold filigree so it looked as if the precious metal had seeped from the granite, the floor had half a dozen small pits, each the right size for one person, or two if they really wanted to be intimate. Although, in all honesty, the gently bubbling mud might not have been conducive to that kind of extra-curricular activity since Phoebe had been right, and the silkiness seemed to get everywhere.

Currently, though, five of the six baths were occupied.

“I wasn’t too sure,” Kaylee went on, her eyes closing. “You know, wondering who’d been in here afore me, but when they said they change the mud every time ...”

“A place like this can’t be too careful over health,” Inara said, sipping from a tall glass of something cold and feeling a single trickle of sweat making its way down her neck towards her shoulders.

“Oh, ain't that the case,” Joy agreed, draining her own glass and holding it out for a refill. A slender young man in a pure white sleeveless vest and pants was more than happy to oblige. “I mean,” Joy went on, letting her gaze rest on the waiter’s perfect backside for a moment as he headed to the bar, “my Ma works in a bakery, and you’d never believe the regulations she has to contend with. It’s a wonder anything gets made at all.” She grinned at the waiter as he brought her the fresh drink. “Thanks, honey.”

“You’re welcome.” His eyes didn’t dip below her face, but there was something seductive in them, all the same.

“So,” Inara said, quite loudly. “Do you think your mother’s going to continue working now, since your family won the Lottery?”

“Don’t know.” Joy dragged her attention away, and the young man faded into the background again.

“Not sure I could,” Kaylee said, moving through the mud so she could rest her elbows on the edge. “Not just sit and do nothing. I’d get bored.”

Joy laughed. “Give me the chance to find out!”

Phoebe brushed a lock of her hair out of her eyes, leaving a soft smear of mud across her forehead. “Did you see that feller this morning?” she asked in a conspiratorial whisper to her sister that rang from one side of the room to the other. “Really suai.”

“And which young man was this?” Inara wanted to know.

Phoebe blushed, or would have done if she hadn't already been pink in the face from the warmth. “Oh, just a boy.”

“I think he’s some kinda champion,” Kaylee put in. “I saw him showing someone a handful of medals.” She grinned. “And I saw you ogling him.”

“I wasn’t!” Phoebe was indignant.

“You were,” Val agreed, far too relaxed to do more than gently needle her sister.

“We don’t mind, you know,” Inara said quickly. “If you want to meet young men. That’s one of the reasons you’re on the cruise. Just so long as you remember they aren’t all honourable.”

“You mean like Uncle Mal?” Phoebe asked.

“Exactly.” Although Inara wasn’t sure if Phoebe meant he was or wasn’t honourable, but gave her the benefit of the doubt.

“Oh, I think I know how to handle ‘em,” the young woman said contentedly.

Val sighed heavily, and Inara felt a thrill of concern.


Kaylee was delighted to see Flynn, having taken to him before in her usual sunshine bright way, and as he sat awkwardly in a seat as the shuttle took off she linked her arm through his.

“It ain't that bad,” she whispered, patting his arm. “You’ll like the girls, and they’ve been brought up by Inara, so they know what’s right and wrong. And they’re fun, too.”

“I won’t be having fun,” Flynn said, looking down into the young woman’s face and wondering if she ever saw the bad in anyone. “That’s not exactly part of the job description.”

“I don't think you’ll be having a choice.”

“I might not get the job.”

“Sure you will. It ain't like Frey and the rest don’t know you.”

“They don’t.”

“Sure they do. You’re Jez’s son.”

“And that makes it all right for you?”

“Sure it does.”

He shook his head, his eyes catching sight of the Reilly twins. “They’re staring at me,” he commented.

Kaylee glanced across at Val and Phoebe. “Well, you’re a pretty good looking kinda guy.”

“It won't last.”

“What, your good looks?”

“A man in my line of work tends to accumulate scars.”

“Do you have many?”

“A few,” he admitted.

“Nowhere noticeable.” She grinned. “And talking about being a man, that's crazy. You’re younger’n me.”

“I’ve been a man for a long time, Kaylee. It’s just people don’t want me to grow up.”

“We never do,” the mechanic said. “To our parents, we stay about six years old forever.”

“You say that like it’s a good thing.”

Kaylee chuckled. “Of course it is. Going home, well, it’s the one place they have to let you in.”

“Not always, Kaylee.”

“If it’s a good one they do.”

“And you think Cherokee’s one of those.”

She nodded firmly. “A’course it is.” She laughed again. “And don’t you worry about the girls. They’ll get used to you having to follow ‘em everywhere.”

He stared at her. “Everywhere?”

A little way down the shuttle, Inara was talking quietly to Freya and Zoe.

“Is this a good idea?” she asked.

“What do you mean?” Freya looked surprisingly innocent.

“I mean that I never met the boy, but I’ve heard about him. Can he be trusted?”

“Kaylee likes him.”

“Kaylee likes everyone until it’s proved otherwise.” She glanced at the young man. “What do we know about him?”

Zoe shifted slightly in her seat, her shoulder aching a little. “We’ve got a week to find out. And I'll be asking a lot of questions, don’t you fear.”

“Then I want to talk to him too.”

The other women looked at her.

“Why?” Freya asked.

Inara almost sighed. “Because these girls have been my responsibility for some time, and I don’t intend to let them out of my sight with someone I don’t trust one hundred percent. For any reason. I mean it.”

“Neither do we,” Zoe said placatingly.

“Then I want to interview him. I might not be a Companion any more, but my training was very extensive. And working with Sam has only honed my skills. Flynn has to prove to me he’s worthy of the job.”

“Inara –” Freya began.

“No. I mean it,” she repeated. “And you know Mal would agree.”

“That’s not fair.”

“I don’t care.”


Inara was right – she wasn’t the only one with objections, although oddly enough Mal’s were of a different kind, and that night, at least as far as they were concerned, Freya was having a difficult conversation with her husband.

“You can’t fix this, Frey,” Mal said firmly, using his voice for emphasis as he sat on the bridge, taking the late watch.

Her response was quieter than it had been on previous occasions, the distance between them growing as the Empress of Sihnon powered towards her next stop. I can try.

“It’s up to Flynn. You know that. You can’t make him want Jez as his Ma. It’s his choice, always has been.” She didn’t respond, and for a moment he wondered if she’d left his mind and he hadn’t noticed. “Frey?”

No, she was still there. I want to give him a chance. The words came through quite clearly. Dillon obviously thinks he’s trustworthy or he wouldn’t have recommended him.

“Dillon recommended Will Everett,” Mal reminded her. “How do we know it’s him?”

I know.

“Okay, maybe you do. But that don’t mean –”

I can keep an eye on him.

“Nag him, you mean.” The words were out before his brain engaged.

Nag him?

He had a quick flash of the couch in the common area, and he had to grin. “Frey, honey, I’ve a notion you can't make it worse than it already is, what with not having you next to me in the first place.”

The frost melted. Me too, zhang fu. But I’m still letting Flynn try the job for size.

“What about the girls? Do they like him?”

Phoebe couldn’t take her eyes off him. Now it was the impression of a smile. Val was a bit more standoffish, but then she’s always found it hard to get to know people sometimes.

“You mean boys. Unlike Phoebe.”

True. But I'm sure they’ll get along fine.

Mal sighed. Freya had a stubborn streak a mile wide. Almost as wide, in fact, as his own. This time, though, he knew it was better to give in semi-gracefully. “Fine. Just you keep that eye on him.”

I will. Thank you.

“Couldn’t’ve talked you out of it anyway, xin gan.” He felt a spectral hand caress his chest, just running softly down the scar.

I love you.

“And trying to get round me that way ...” He heard her laugh in his mind, and gave himself over to his wife’s many and varied mental talents.

to be continued


Sunday, January 10, 2010 5:22 AM


So good....thought mental talents can get you in trouble....:) I like Flynn. He is quite a character!! NO killing him! :)

Sunday, January 10, 2010 6:46 AM


I love that we feel we have to warn you against killing of the good ones...

Sunday, January 10, 2010 8:17 AM


If Freya wasn't a psychic, I'd be on Mal's side here. There's a lot of unknowns.

Plus, the story IS called Masks... River found her hideaways and brought up the allegory, but it absolutely HAS to have some relevance with this part of the storyline too.

Sunday, January 10, 2010 9:54 AM


Hmmmm. Bringing disjunct threads together to coincide with a climax. Social masks, personal masks, masks for hidden motivations and manipulations. Hmmm. Very interesting.

Sunday, January 10, 2010 11:56 AM


I think I missed a chapter some time over the holidays but you're writing is easy the follow on one level and quite complex on another (sure you aren't related to Joss in some way?)

As to Will, I'm not quite sure about him yet. He has a lot of baggage to deal with.

Monday, January 11, 2010 11:06 AM


Interesting. I have the feeling that Flynn would like to know his mother but has been so turned against her by his grandparents that he is having trouble finding the truth of it and wary of trying. Have a feeling all kinds of things are coming slowly to the boil behind the gorram scenes. Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"


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“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?”

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"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 ...]

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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?”
[Maya. Post-BDM. Simon has no choice, and Luke comes around.]

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

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

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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!]