Indigo - Part XXI
Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Maya. Post-BDM. Mal and Freya discuss matters, Bethie decides to ask directly, and River gets annoyed. NEW CHAPTER


Freya had already stripped off her outer clothes and was now peeling the two pairs of thick underwear from her limbs.

“Hey,” he said, stepping down from the ladder.

“Hey.” She dropped the long johns onto the decking with a slight squelching sound.

“Looks like it wasn’t only your boots that leaked.”

She laughed lightly. “You’re right. It certainly seems as if the snow snuck in everywhere.” Running her fingers through her hair she flicked them, and he felt tiny droplets of water on his skin.

“Why didn’t you get changed first?” he asked wryly.

“I wanted to hear what Indigo said.”


She stopped, putting her hands on her hips as if it helped her think.

“He’s lying.”

Mal nodded slowly. “Figured as much. But you got any idea what about, exactly?”

She shrugged, quite expressive in her semi-naked state. “We’re not sure.”

“That the royal ‘we’ or have you and River been ... talking?”

“At least you didn't ask if I was pregnant,” she said, smiling, alluding to the fact that carrying both Ethan and Jesse had dampened her abilities somewhat.

“Frey, honey, if that was the case you’d be shouting from here ‘til Christmas.”

“Oh, at least. And I wouldn’t be the only one.” Her smile widened, but it faded just as quickly. “And yes, River and I have talked.”

“So what’s Indigo lying about? And is it likely to come back and bite me in the ass?”

“Not sure,” she repeated.

“Frey, what’s the point of having my own private lie detector – two, in point of fact – when neither you nor the ‘tross can decide what the lie is?”

“I wish I could tell you,” Freya said, her lips thinning in annoyance, but at herself, not him. “Something about this place ...”

“Then we’re gonna have to do this the old fashioned way.”

“Thumbscrews and whips?” she suggested.

“Hey, I keep them for us.” He shook his head. “No, I was thinking more of assuming Indigo ain’t telling the truth about anything, and trying to catch him out in one of the lies.”

“Or we drop him off and leave.”

“There’s that too. But if Indigo is lying, I got this itch.”

Freya sighed dramatically. “And until you can scratch it we’re all going to be irritated?”

“Something like that.” He grinned. “Anyway, you know I ain’t made up my mind yet.”

“Hmmn.” She smiled again. “Thank you, by the way,” she added, picking up a towel waiting ready on the bed.

“What for?”

“You asked Kaylee to turn the heating up in here.”

“Can’t have you catching your death, not now I’ve got you broken in.”

“Broken in, huh?” She undid her bra, letting it fall to the chair so she could rub her arms with the rough fabric.

“Well, not that broken.”

She chuckled, more than aware of where his eyes – and most of his attention – was. “Glad to hear it.”

“And I conjure Jesse’d be a mite sad if I lost you.”

“Oh, I’m sure she would.”

He watched her use the towel across her belly, reddening the skin in an attempt to warm up. “Hell, maybe even I’d be able to squeeze out a tear or two.”

“I hope so. Say something nice at my funeral.”

Suddenly it didn’t seem like a game anymore, and he said, quite seriously, “You know I wouldn’t survive long if that happened, don’t you?”

She looked up at him in surprise, then whatever expression she saw made her drop the towel and wrap her arms around him, her breasts catching on his suspenders. “Me too, my love,” she whispered. “Me too.”

He held her tight, until his body started to wonder if there was something more in the offing.

“Uh, Frey ...”

She laughed and let go, not needing to read him in the slightest. “No. I know. Later, though.”

“Damn straight. But I’ve gotta be captain now.”

“That you do.” She squatted down and opened the bottom drawer in the chest, giving him a view of her backside, the tattoo rioting above it, leaving him with palpitations.

“Rather see that any day than Indigo’s,” he murmured, quiet enough that she didn't hear, and if she did she only smiled a little.

Rummaging through the contents, Freya asked instead, “Why didn’t you make Jayne lock him in?”

“Frey, honey, you know as well as I do those quarters ain’t a match for anyone who really wants to get out. The only other option was one of the storage lockers, and ...”

“He might eat us out of house and home?” She pulled out the soft sweater he’d bought her when she was pregnant with Jesse, and was feeling the cold even more than now, then stood up to face him again.

“If he’s really like Jayne ...” Mal teased before adding honestly, “And it was more a case of a determined man doing a lot of damage to any number of ship’s systems that run along the back of the lockers, and that’d be worse.”


“Man says shooting Hank was a mistake.”

Freya understood – Mal had never liked manacles, having been in them too long after Serenity Valley. She tugged the sweater over her head even as she said, slightly muffled, “Do you believe him?”

For a long moment Mal didn’t respond, just watching her arrange herself, until Freya almost prompted him. Finally he said, “Nope. Like I said, I figure he’s lying about something, and I’m curious as to what.”

“So you've got an itch and you’re curious?” She exhaled heavily. “That’s a bad combination.”

“I just wish I knew what it was.”

“Maybe we’re right, and he wasn’t the man with the gun.”

“Covering for someone else.” He didn’t like that idea, especially since Hank was positive he’d seen a child just before he was shot. “That had occurred to me, oddly enough. And before we talked to Indigo.”

“I don’t like it either,” she said softly.

“Well, I’m not making up my mind too quick,” he said, eager to change the subject and allowing his eyes to run up and down her body. Somehow, the effect of his wife standing in the middle of their bunk in that baggy sweater, panties and nothing else was sexier than he could have imagined. “Frey, you stand around much longer like that and I’ll be forgetting those captainy duties.”

The slightly prudish streak she knew to be inside her raised its head and she crossed her arms as if to protect herself, only succeeding in making the sweater ride up another couple of inches. “You really think you need to be the one who’s in charge all the time?”

“’Til River incites mutiny and takes over, yeah.”


Down in the guest quarters Indigo looked at himself in the small mirror over the sink unit and sighed. He’d been wearing the same clothes for a couple of days, and freshness was a word that was rapidly losing the ability to describe them. Jayne had loaned him a clean t-shirt and a pair of soft sleep pants, taking the worn items away to wash. It occurred to Indigo that might be a subtle way of making sure he stayed put on the ship, but dismissed it – subtlety had never been the big guy’s strong suit.

He’d tugged the pants over his narrow hips and tied the drawstring as tightly as possible around his waist, but the top he just couldn’t bring himself to try on. It would always have been loose on him, but now, since he’d lost weight he couldn’t really afford, it was going to hang in folds, making him look even more like a man just getting over sickness.

“Not sick.”

He span, his hand going automatically to draw one of the many weapons he usually had on his person, and finding none.

Which was good, as it turned out, otherwise he might have shot the little girl standing in the open doorway.

“Gorramit,” he muttered. “Who the hell are you?” he asked, louder.

“Bethie.” She smiled, twisting a strand of her long brown hair ingenuously around her fingers. “Bethany, really, but everyone calls me Bethie. Or short stub.”

“I’m guessing you ain’t supposed to be here.”

“Probably not. But Fiddler wanted to meet you.”


She picked up the small brown dog that was sniffing around her feet. “This is Fiddler.”


Bethie wasn’t phased. “Did they hurt?”

“What?” He was nonplussed at her change of subject.

“The tattoos. Auntie Frey has one, not like that, but she says it hurt. Did yours?”

He glanced down at the multitude of pictures, and a shot of embarrassment surprised him. He quickly tugged the t-shirt on. “You shouldn’t be looking at things like that,” he admonished. “Not at your age.”

She shrugged. “I know about squicky things.”

“Squicky? You mean ... That’s ...” He gathered himself. “That’s not a good thing to admit to.”

Did they hurt?” She wasn’t going to let go, all the tenaciousness of her tender years in her clear gaze.

“A little,” Indigo admitted. “But most of ‘em were done a long time ago, and maybe it hurt more than I remember.” His eyes narrowed. “You know, you look a bit like that young hellion piloted the shuttle. You hers?”

Bethie shook her head. “That’s my Auntie River. My daddy’s the doctor, and Momma looks after Serenity.” She swung slightly from side to side. “I help sometimes,” she added, fluttering her eyelashes a little.

“You trying pre-emptive sweetness on me?” he asked shrewdly.

She grinned wider. “Yes.”

“It ain’t gonna work. I’m too old and mean, so best not to try.”

“That’s what Uncle Mal says, and we don’t believe him either.” Bethie fondled the little dog’s ears, making him twitch.

“Well, I ain’t exaggerating. And what did you mean, not sick?”

“Been hurt, but getting better,” she elaborated. “My daddy’s good at making people better.”

“I’m sure he is.”

“He could make the scar go away if you wanted,” Bethie went on. “Although it looked like a parasol.”

“How long were you standing there?”

“Uncle Jayne says anyone could get an education looking at your tattoos.” She grimaced slightly. “Except it’s all naked ladies and ... things.”

For the first time in his life Indigo felt just a little bit ashamed of the ink covering his body. “Like I said, it’s not meant for innocent young eyes to see.”

“Uncle Mal says I know too much anyway.” She leaned away from Fiddler’s tongue where he was trying to lick her nose. “He says he thinks everyone’s been a bad influence on me.”

“Do you think that?”

“No. But I’m trying to be a bad influence on everyone else.”

Indigo laughed, the sound an extension of his ‘gravel in a bag of oil’ voice. “You are going to be a handful when you grow up.”

“Daddy agrees with you.” She looked at him, her brown eyes thoughtful. “Why won’t you tell us the truth?”

“Who says I’m not?”

“Me. And Auntie Frey. And Auntie River. And Uncle Mal. And Uncle Jayne. And –”

“Basically everyone on board.”

“David Gabriel doesn’t.”

“Who’s David Gabriel?” Indigo felt like he was drowning.

“My brother.”

“There are more of you?”

“And Hope, but she’s ‘dopted. And David Gabriel’s still a baby, so he doesn’t really count.”

“Bethie, will you do me a favour?”


“When you’re all ready to spring yourself on the ‘verse, can you let me know? I’d kinda like to be the other side of the galaxy when you do.”

She basked in the back-handed praise. “All right.”

“So are there other kids on board?”

Bethie nodded. “Serenity brothers and sisters.”

“Is that what you call yourselves?”

“S’right. There’s Ethan and Jesse, Ben and Caleb.”


“Uncle Mal’s his daddy.”

“And named for his father, I’m guessing.”

“Mmn. Jesse’s his sister, Ben is Auntie Zoe’s and Uncle Hank’s, and Cal belongs to Uncle Jayne and Auntie River.”

Indigo felt his jaw slacken and sat down heavily on the bed. “Are you telling me Jayne’s ... got a kid?”


“With that ... the girl who piloted the shuttle?”

“The hellion.” Bethie grinned. “I like that word.”

“Well, don’t you go using it, else I'm the one who’ll be in trouble. Well, more’n I am already.” He shook his head. “You do know you really shouldn’t be telling me all of this,” he pointed out. “I’m not trustworthy. I could go and tell anyone.”

“Yes you are,” Bethie said, all of her conviction evident in her tone, and he found himself wanting to live up to it.

“Bethie!” Kaylee’s voice echoed down the stairs. “Time to wash up for dinner!”

Bethie looked at Indigo. “Got to go,” she said, putting Fiddler back down. The little dog galloped for the stairs, knowing that food was ready and intending to be waiting under the table for any titbits that might fall.

“Uh, yeah, sure.”

She smiled at him, so broad that it showed all her teeth, and made him feel like maybe he was a better man than he knew himself to be.

“Bethie!” Kaylee shouted even louder.

“Coming, Momma!” Bethie called back as she turned on her heel and ran.

Indigo stared after her, a smile growing under his moustache, then he closed the door slowly.


“It wasn’t him.”

Mal had been staring out at the still falling snow, barely able to glimpse the lights of Cason’s Point beyond. Night had fallen quickly, but how much of that was the sun going down or more the frost-laden clouds overhead would have to have been resolved by the chronometer. He moved the pilot’s chair round so he could see River standing in the doorway to the bridge. “Xiao nu, don’t go clouding the issue. Indigo said it was. Admits it. And I’d say a confession trumps your feelings.”

“Not if he was lying.”

He gazed into her dark eyes. “You saying he was covering for someone else?”

River’s brow furrowed and he felt her for an instant in his mind, just as a flash of annoyance crossed her forehead. “You already know.”

“Let’s just say Frey and I talked about it.”


“So ... what?”

“What are you doing to do about it?”

The pilot’s chair squeaked slightly as Mal swung back to stare at the flakes hitting the bridge windows. “What I’m doing. Being captain.”

“But he’s lying.”

“Not unusual in these parts.”

“I just wish I could ...” She dropped into the chair next to him, her usual ethereal elegance turned by exasperation into gaucheness. “It’s difficult to read him.”

“Is he ...” Mal lifted his fingers to his temple.

“No. Not the way you mean. But he’s like Jayne. Can be single-minded when on the hunt.”

“Is that what he’s doing? Indigo? Is he hunting someone?”

“I ...” River stopped, biting on her lip.

It wasn’t often Mal saw his surrogate daughter so frustrated. Normally, if she wasn’t sure about something, she could still bluff her way through, sometimes playing the crazy card to great effect, and if she didn’t work then her skills with a gun and a blade – often at the same time – were enough to get her out of trouble. Now, though, she didn’t even seem capable of dissembling.

“You want me to lie to you?” she asked pointedly.

He half-smiled. “You keep your dainty toes outta my brain, dong mah?”

She beamed at him, then became serious again. “Frey needs to talk to him.”

“You think she might be better able to get through? ‘Cause she says she can’t.”

“Then perhaps she could distract him enough so I can get inside his walls.”

Kaylee’s voice, calling her daughter, rang through the superstructure.

“Not now, though,” Mal said, scanning the control boards for a last time before standing up. “We’ve got her stew to get through yet.”

“I shall tell mu qin you said that.”

“Darlin’, I tell her that to her face.”

to be continued


Wednesday, October 26, 2011 6:39 AM


Nice to see this arc continue. I sure hope Bethie knows what she's doing! Whatever Indigo knows, someone has to get it out of him before the thrilling heroics can begin.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011 8:57 AM


I think Bethie got through his walls, probably because she is a child and thus surprised him. Though I would think better of Indigo if he would just once in his life be honest. If not with Mal and the crew then certainly with Jayne who has moved the equivalent of Heaven and Hell to find out what happened to him. Loyalty shouldn't be that one sided. Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"

Thursday, October 27, 2011 2:40 AM


I still don't trust Indigo, and I'm glad to see that the others are not trusting, either. Still working my way through the earlier part of this story arc to get oriented. :-)


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