Secrets - Part I
Sunday, March 3, 2013

“There something here I need to know about?” Mal asked from the doorway, shucking his oilskin and shaking it out but having done little more than glance at them. “I mean, not down five minutes and I already see my wife being a mite too close to another woman.” (Maya. Post-BDM. Everyone has secrets, but some are more deadly than others ...)


Serenity settled into the good, clean earth of Lazarus, and sank twelve inches on her starboard side.

“Uh ... Mal ...” Hank half-turned then grimaced and stopped. It was his first day back in the saddle, or pilot’s seat, and he was feeling sore.

“Did that feel right to you?” Mal asked, his arms crossed, standing behind him and leaning slightly off centre.

“Rain.” River said, in the co-pilot’s seat with her knees up to her chest and sitting on her hands so she didn’t reach out and usurp Hank’s place. “It has been raining for the past eight days, and the ground is waterlogged.”

Mal peered at the water still lashing down on the bridge windows. “On one side?”

“The stratigraphy of the terrain suggests a spur of igneous rock some eighty centimetres below the surface, which extends ...” She stopped, mainly from the look on Mal’s face. “Yes.”

“The house in any danger?”

River shook her head. “It sits on the rock. The rock I mentioned before. Where the spur comes out under our port side.”

“Okay, captain-dummy-talk aside, you don’t have to be quite so ... River.”

She wrinkled her nose at him. “You asked.”

“That I did.” Mal surreptitiously eased his stance, putting his weight onto his right leg to relieve the pressure on his own healing wound. “And you answered.” Frey had offered him one of her old sticks that she used when recovering from what Xavier Wing did to her, but he’d given her one of his looks and she’d subsided, just watching him awkwardly climbing the ladder from their bunk and shaking her head gently.

“Don’t be snarky.”

Xiao nu, if I snark, you’ll know it.” He leaned on the back of the pilot’s chair, attempting to look nonchalant. “We likely to sink any further?” he asked Hank.

The pilot studied the screens, keeping a surreptitious eye on River as he did so, knowing she was itching to do it quicker. “Nope,” he finally said. “Looks like we’re okay for the time being. If it rains much more, though, I don’t care what River says about igneous rock – we might be better off heading for higher ground.”

“I’ll keep it in mind.”

The ship shuddered slightly. “Well, that didn't take long,” Hank added.

“Cargo doors?”


“They’ll get wet.”

“I doubt they care.”


“Hello, Auntie ‘Nara!” Bethie shouted, pelting through the open front door and up the stairs, barely pausing to catch breath, shedding her raincoat as she went.

“Nice to see you, Bethie,” Inara said. “Almost.”

The other children followed the young Tam, only Ethan stopping.

“Auntie ‘Nara,” he said formally, hitching his thumbs into his suspenders and looking like a tiny version of his father. “Missed you.”

“I missed you too, Ethan.”

His eyes travelled down to the obvious mound at her waist. “Baby?” he asked, his father coming through even more.


His mouth twitched. “Does Bethie know?”

“Has she said anything?”

“No.” The smile grew. “Then she don’t, ‘cause she’d never be able to keep it to herself.”

There was a slight scuffing noise above them and the little girl herself appeared at the turn of the stairs, her eyes wide as saucers. “Baby?” she breathed.

“Yes,” Inara confirmed, picking up the raincoats and hanging them on the rack.

Ethan sighed, and Inara knew it was with deep resignation. He had probably relished those few seconds of being the only one to know, but he had to have been aware Bethie would pick it up.

Bethie sat down on the stairs with a thump, and rested her head in her palms. “I like babies.”

“So do I.” Inara glanced towards the back of the hall where the swing door to the kitchen was gently moving. “Mrs Boden has hot chocolate ready.”

The distraction worked. “Ooh,” Bethie said, smacking her lips. “Can we have it in our rooms?”

Inara smiled. “Of course.”

“Yummy!” Bethie got to her feet and ran off again.

“Would you like yours upstairs?” Inara asked Ethan. “Or you can join me in the drawing room.”

He bit his lip, torn between being a grown-up and sitting with Inara, or seeing if his room was the way he’d left it. “Um ...”

“Go on,” Inara laughed. “We’ve got lots of time to chat.”

He grinned and ran off, clattering up the stairs.

“You’re too good to them.”

Inara turned to see Freya standing in the outer doorway, shaking the rain from her hair. “You’ll catch a cold, coming over like that.”

Freya glanced down at the dark brown shirt and pants, sticking to her skin. “Oh, I was intending to have a long, hot bath to warm up. Besides, you know that’s a fallacy, don’t you? An old wives’ tale?”

“Well, it is me saying it.”

For a moment Inara knew Freya had paused into total stillness, her brain digesting the various connotations. Then the older woman shrugged.

“Nope. You wouldn’t get married without us being there. You wouldn’t give up the opportunity of making Mal dress up and give you away.”

Inara laughed. “I think you know me too well.” She linked her arm through Freya’s. “I’m presuming you were aware.”

“About the ...” Freya gestured at waist height.

“Baby, yes.”

“Well, I might just have had an inkling.”

“So I suppose everyone knows?”

“By everyone I’m guessing you mean Mal.”


Freya smiled. “As it happens, no. You can have the pleasure of telling him, although if he sees you even he’ll probably be able to figure it out.”

“He might just think I’m getting fat.”

“Mrs Boden’s cooking will do that to you.” Freya smiled. “And in case you were wondering, no, nobody else does either. Except River.”

“And she hasn’t told either?”

“I explained it was up to you.”

“Thank you.”

Freya looked into her friend’s eyes. “Happy?”

For answer Inara threw her arms around her, hugging her tightly. “Oh, Frey ...” Her joy was palpable.

“That’s a yes, then.” Freya hugged her back. “And where’s the expectant father?”

“In town. Since we weren’t sure when you were arriving he went to get me a couple of things.”

“Morning sickness?”

“Actually, no. But I have been getting some odd cravings.”

“Have you seen a doctor?”

“Of course. In the town. But I’ve got a copy of my notes for Simon.”

“Good. He’ll be miffed if you didn’t.”

“I miss Simon getting miffed.”

“There something here I need to know about?” Mal asked from the doorway, shucking his oilskin and shaking it out but having done little more than glance at them. “I mean, not down five minutes and I already see my wife being a mite too close to another woman.”

Freya let go of Inara and turned a hard glare on her husband. “You should have waited.”

“Frey, I’m pretty much healed. And I can walk on my own.” He hung the slicker up and pushed his hands through his hair to get rid of the worst of the rain, idly checking his reflection in the mirror and wondering about the odd grey interloper here and there.

“Simon told you –”

“Simon said I could take gentle exercise. And I ain’t exactly run all the way here.” He turned to Inara. “Just ‘cause I can’t wait to ...” His mouth dropped open. “’Nara?”

“You’re late,” the woman in question said, her poise as perfect as ever.

“Had us a bit of trouble on the way from Jubilee.” His mouth was running on automatic as he stared at the ex-Companion. “The engine kinda seized up, and if we hadn’t got help from an ice hauler we’d have been more than a couple of weeks, and Kaylee’s already giving me lists of stuff she needs to buy ‘afore we can take off again but ... ‘Nara?”

“Yes, Mal?” She clasped her hands, all prim and proper.

“You ... Sam ...” He swallowed. “Cao.”

“Mal,” Freya admonished gently.

“Not sure I’d have believed it if I hadn’t seen it with my own two eyes,” he said quietly, almost to himself.

“Yes, Mal,” Inara said, smoothing her dress down over her bump. “I am pregnant. Yes, it is Sam’s. No, I have not buried him under the floorboards, that would be very messy. And yes ... I am happy.”

Mal, be glad for her, Freya dropped into his mind. I think she’s wanted this for a long time.

You knew?

Yes. But it wasn’t my secret to tell. Even to my husband.

For a long time, huh? Unbidden an image of himself and Inara came to mind, her holding a baby with brown hair and blue eyes. He saw Freya’s eyes tighten. Sorry. I ... that wasn’t ...

You can't help what you think.

You’re my wife, Frey. Mother of my kids. And I wouldn’t want it any other way, not for all the money the Alliance could throw at me.

This time her lips curved. Nice side-stepping.

I learned from the best.

Inara looked from one to the other, knowing an entire conversation was going on that she could never have a hope of hearing. She coughed politely. “Excuse me? But wasn’t I supposed to be the centre of attention?”

Mal glared at her. “So you’re shen yun.”

“Pregnant. Yes.”

“How far along?”

“If it’s any of your business, nearly five months.”

“You ain’t showing that much.”

“That’s what having good posture does for you.”

“’Cause when Frey was five months gone she looked like she’d swallowed –”

“You might want to reconsider finishing that sentence,” his beloved wife put in. “Unless you want to make reacquaintance with the couch.”

Mal was unrepentant, a grin flitting across his face as he turned back to Inara. “So, you and Sam got hitched and didn’t tell me?”

“No. We’re not married.”

“Why not?”

“Because it’s an old fashioned notion that a person has to be married to have a child. Ask Kaylee. Or Zoe.”

Or me, Freya added silently, and they both knew she was thinking about little Alice.

Mal shook his head. “Something about people on my boat, doing everything ass-backwards.”

Inara patted her hair, and Freya had to stop the smile, understanding all too well the classic displacement activity of doing that or hitting Mal. “Sam and I haven’t decided yet, that’s all. We don’t need a piece of paper to know we’re going to be together for a very long time. Forever, perhaps, if such a thing exists.”

“Thought you believed in reincarnation.”

“I believe in a lot of things, Malcolm Reynolds, and one of them is that one day you might actually learn to open your mouth and not put your foot in it.”

He laughed. “Now that’s the Inara Serra I know. And congratulations. I mean it.”

Inara looked at him. “I think you actually do.”

“No, honest. Having kids ... well, it was something I never thought’d happen to me, but when it did ... there’s nothing like it.”

“This isn’t my first.” She was referring to Colm, the son who’d been taken from her and raised by another woman. It had only been a few years ago that she’d learned he hadn’t died at birth as the Guild had told her.

“First you’ll get to keep. To raise.” Mal gave a theatrical shudder. “Diyu, another Inara in the ‘verse. Not sure it’ll be able to cope.”

“Or another Sam. I want it to be a boy.”

“Don’t you know?” Freya asked.

For a moment Inara looked ... not embarrassed, but ... if Freya didn’t know better she’d have said her friend was scared. Then it was gone, and she was her normal, poised self.

“Sam doesn’t want to,” Inara said firmly. “So we haven’t asked.”

There was more going on that met the eye, Freya was sure of it, but there was also time enough to get to the bottom of things without peeking. “Simon can probably tell you. Or I can.”

“I don’t need him to examine me.”

“You think you’re gonna be able to stop him?” Mal asked, hitching his thumbs into his pants pockets.

Inara ignored him. “And Sam and I want it to be a surprise, so I’d be grateful if you could warn River and Bethie not to peek either.”

“I’ll make it plain,” Freya promised.

“Thank you.”

Mal snorted. “Good luck with that.”

“Mal?” Hank stuck his head through the still open front door, for once his always untidy brown hair slathered to his scalp.


“River says, if you’ve stopped arguing with Inara, there are other people who want to come indoors.”

to be continued


Monday, March 4, 2013 10:08 AM


Great chapter glad this storyline is going strong after all the years you have put into it.

Friday, March 8, 2013 11:45 AM


Lovely to see a new MAYA story, Jane0904. Love, love, Love it! But oh my, seems Inara has some secretive darkness clinging to the happy approaching babyhood. Just hope it is not anything too terrible. The banter as always put a smile ten feet wide upon my face. Shiny! Ali D :-)
"You can't take the sky from me!"


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