Secrets - Part V
Thursday, May 2, 2013

This was what Kaylee in particular didn’t really understand. She thought Jayne had changed, that something new had overcome him when he joined Serenity. That wasn’t the case, of course. His ability to be gentle and loving had always been there, just reduced to some embers and a black and white striped shirt. Now they burned bright, while his mean streak had shrunk in comparison. But it was all still there, only the balance changing. [Maya. Post-BDM. Mal gets some answers but raises more questions.]


Zoe stood by the lake, her fingers resting lightly on the Mare’s Leg at her hip. Unlike most of the others, she’d been armed since they arrived, wearing her gun like her necklace, as if she’d been born with it. Her eyes scanned the horizon, unable to shake the impression of being in crosshairs. As far as she could see there was no-one watching her, beyond an opportunistic bird paddling determinedly towards her across the still lake, hoping for crumbs, but she was too experienced a warrior not to take the feeling seriously, and far too often had found she was right. This time there didn’t seem to be any cause, but …

The bird, its iridescent green plumage shining in the sun, had reached the small boat house, his fast moving orange legs showing through the clear water, then something startled him and he took to wing, scattering droplets like silver rain as he squawked a warning.

Zoe turned, dropping to a low crouch, her gun almost leaping to her hand. She approached the wooden hut with caution, sliding silently along the wall to the tiny window. She leaned down and peered inside.

Ah. Somehow she wasn’t surprised, although it was a wonder the children hadn’t discovered her. The boat was tied up to the short wharf, so maybe with the bad weather they hadn’t had a chance to venture inside yet.

For a moment she pondered the options, but that vanished as something stabbed at her well-honed senses. Turning back towards the house she could just make out something moving in the distance, and it seemed to be getting closer. Without a second thought she started to head back, keeping to the long grass so she couldn’t be seen.


“And the dinosaur bellowed ‘Are you my dinner?’” River looked up from the storybook at her husband who had hold of Hope around the waist and was lifting her high in the air.

He grinned, pulled back his lips even more and made such an almighty noise that it shook the rafters and caused a rain of soft dust to catch fire in the pale sunlight through the window. Hope was laughing so hard that she could barely breathe, and when he started worrying at her belly she was hiccupping.


He looked at his slip of a wife and nodded, tucking the girl under his arm so she could recover a little. While he was distracted Jesse ran at him and grabbed his leg, making little growling noises herself, but he quickly picked her up and tossed her across his shoulder, all the while roaring so much that the small ornaments on the shelf danced.

River watched him closely. He was so good with the children that sometimes she forgot he was a stone-cold killer, capable of shooting first and never asking questions. Especially if he was being paid. But then again, so was she.

This was what Kaylee in particular didn’t really understand. She thought Jayne had changed, that something new had overcome him when he joined Serenity. That wasn’t the case, of course. His ability to be gentle and loving had always been there, just reduced to some embers and a black and white striped shirt. Now they burned bright, while his mean streak had shrunk in comparison. But it was all still there, only the balance changing.

She fingered the bullet on the ribbon around her neck. Sometimes she saw futures, the could bes, the what ifs and the mights. The one where elves painted the cargo bay sky blue still hadn’t happened, although she was looking forward to it when it did. But she’d seen one possibility that made her even more determined to keep her family safe, to keep them alive. Blood rushed it into fire, and all were dead except Jayne. He went insane. Walked, talked, killed, but with no man inside, all the goodness sucked out until only hate and cold rage filled the dry husk. That she would never allow. She would kill him first.


She looked up. “Jayne.”

“You okay?”

She was about to smile, to say it was something and nothing, then she paused, absolute stillness overcoming her. “Guns.”

He immediately put the kids down. “Trouble?”


“Ethan, get everyone hidden,” Jayne said firmly.

“Yes sir.” The little boy took hold of Jesse’s hand and reached for Bethie.

“No. I want to stay. To help,” the girl insisted.

“The time for that will come,” River assured her, not sure why she said it. “But not today. I think Inara’s wardrobe will be enough.”

“You don’t want ‘em down in the cellar?” Jayne was surprised.

“I ...” River’s brow furrowed. “I don’t think so. Although ...”

“Better safe than sorry.” He nodded at the children. “Go on now.”

They followed Ethan outside, Bethie glancing back all the time.


“Mrs Boden?” Inara stood in the kitchen doorway.

“Madam.” The housekeeper wiped her floury hands on her apron. “Dinner will be ready on time.”

“I’m not worried about that. You always work miracles. It’s you I’m concerned about.”

“You don’t need to be. I’m fine.”

“You didn’t look fine. And I got the feeling there was something you wanted to tell me before.”

“No. No, I ...” Mrs Boden looked around quickly. “Tea?”

“Thank you. Perhaps I will have some. And you should join me.”

“I have too much to do.” She put the kettle over the hob and started collecting the delicate china.

“Where’s your husband?”

“Cutting me some fresh vegetables. They always taste better cooked straight from the ground.”

“Then you can tell me. Molly’s here, isn’t she?”

Mrs Boden span to look at her, clutching the teapot to her chest. “No, Madam. Jacob said –”

“Mariah. Tell me the truth.”

The older woman looked stricken for a moment, then dropped unceremoniously into a kitchen chair. “Yes,” she admitted, her voice so quiet it was hard to pick up the words. “She didn’t have anywhere else to go.”

“And she’s your daughter, of course.”

“She was wrong to take those things, I know. But what he did ...”

“Believe me, I understand. And I’m not blaming her, not in the slightest. Is she all right?”

Mrs Boden nodded. “She’s not hurt, not physically. It’s more ... she thinks it was her fault.”

“That’s a common reaction. Perhaps Sam could talk to her. Or I can.”

“I don’t know. Jacob might not ... he won’t like it that I told you she’s here.”

“She’s close by, though, isn’t she?”


“Then why don’t you go and get her? She can at least have a proper room. And I would be more than happy to counsel her.”

Mrs Boden bit her lip. “I –”

Whatever she was going to say was lost as the kitchen door slammed open, making them both jump, and Jayne strode into the room.

“Might wanna stay away from the windows,” he said as he hurried through and out the back.

“Madam?” Mrs Boden was on her feet.

“Stay here,” Inara ordered, walking purposefully towards the front of the house.


Mal stood outside Serenity, looking relaxed, his thumbs tucked into his suspenders, watching the vehicle approach.

It was a fairly new single-seater hover, just a couple of dents here and there, slipping across the ground with barely a dust cloud to mark its passing. In its wake were four horses, keeping up at a stiff gallop.

In no time at all the hover pulled to a halt, the driver taking off a pair of mirrored sunglasses and standing up. He signalled his men to wait then jumped down to the ground.

Mal took a deep breath, letting it trickle slowly from his nostrils as he waited, apparently with nothing better to do.

The man pushed the hat on his head back a little and approached the Firefly. He was taller than Mal, well-built, and bore more than a passing resemblance to Jayne with the same brow, the same jaw. It was almost a relief when he spoke.

“Name’s Philo Cobb. You the owner of this place?” He gestured with his thumb over his shoulder towards the house.

“No, sir.” Mal had discovered, a long time ago, that a friendly smile and a courteous attitude could be extremely useful at defusing an awkward situation. “But I’m sure I can find her for you. Can I tell her why you need to see her?”


“The owner.”

“And she would be …”

“Happy to help as soon as she knows why you’re here.”

Cobb narrowed his eyes, but Mal stayed still, wondering if he shouldn’t have followed Frey’s advice some time back on always being armed, even on Lazarus.

We are, Freya assured him, sending a mental picture of herself just inside the cargo bay doors, Hank on the catwalk at the back, and a quick flash of Zoe somewhere in tall grass, all of them with guns in their hands.

Just don’t hit me, xin gan. She didn’t respond but the overwhelming feeling was of a raised eyebrow.

“We’re looking for someone. Two someones, for that matter.” Cobb glanced around. “Wondering if you’ve seen ‘em.”



Mal, keep calm.

“Hmmn. Who from?”

“Who else? The Alliance.”

He’s lying.

We know that.

Just saying.

You wanna be out here instead? This time it was more than a raised eyebrow, and Mal’s smile became more genuine as he said, “And they’d be?”

“A man and a woman.”

“You’re not exactly being forthcoming. Who are these desperadoes?”

Cobb looked down at his boots, then up again, a wry smile twisting his lips. “You know, I’m thinking I’m at something of a disadvantage. You know my name. Maybe you should return the favour.”

For a moment Mal considered lying, making something up, maybe even falling back on the old favourite of Harbatkin. Except these men had come from the direction of town, and Serenity had been to Lazarus too often that the people who lived there didn’t know the name of its captain.

“Reynolds. Malcolm Reynolds. This here’s my boat.”

Cobb barely glanced at the Firefly. “The Grogans. A husband and wife.”

“Never heard of ‘em. Should I have?”

“Guess not. ‘Less you’d been around Marlow around about six years ago.”

“Marlow? That’s out Borodin way?”

“Small moon, not much to speak of.”

“What did they do?”


“Well, I conjure they did something, else you wouldn’t be looking for them.”

Cobb shrugged, then glanced at his men. “We’re doing a job. Getting paid.”

“You’re a bounty hunter?”

“Damn good one, too.”

“Just here on Lazarus?”

“Don’t you ask the questions.”

Mal shrugged. “Being friendly. And Lazarus is a long way from Marlow.”

“Friends I don’t need. Information … now that’s a different matter.”

“Yet you’re asking for some of that very information for nothing. The least is you can tell me what you want them for.”

Cobb was obviously pondering, and after a moment he nodded, just once. “Sure. I suppose you do need an incentive to let me know if you’ve seen them. Murder, Mr Reynolds.”

“It’s Captain. And who’d they kill?”

“That’s a point too far.” He half-smiled. “In fact, if I’m not mistaken my man here spoke to someone from this very estate.” One of the mounted men lifted his head a little. “Pretty little woman, according to Linc.”

Mal let a chuckle slide from his lips but the humour didn’t reach his eyes. “Could be. Only ...”


“Your man told my mechanic it was because of money coming to ‘em. It’s not quite the same thing if they’re like to get strung up because of something I said.”

“I thought you didn’t know them?”

“I don’t. But the idea of handing ‘em over to the hangman kinda niggles at me.”

“You can stop your niggling. They’re wanted, that’s all you need to know.”

“Well, it’s lucky then that like I said I don’t know these Grogans. So I’d be obliged if you’d just be on your way.”

“I haven’t spoken to everyone yet.”

“Yes you have. Through me. And I can assure you that nobody on board my boat, or in the house, knows the Grogans.”

“And if I don’t take your word for it?”

“Mr Cobb, I’m just a law-abiding transport captain.” He managed to say the words without his tongue tangling over them. “Me and mine scratch a living. You really think we want to fall foul of the Alliance for two people we don’t even know?”

“That would be kinda stupid.” Philo glanced up at Serenity. “So you wouldn’t mind if we took a look inside? The house too?”

“The ship, sure. Got nothing to hide. Can’t give you permission about the house, but I’m sure the owner will be just as forthcoming.”

“I’m sure she would.” He appeared to consider his options, probably wondering just how many guns were trained on him at that moment in time. “Well, I don’t see the need. Today.”

“Shiny.” Mal shifted his stance a little. “Since we’re being so amicable, you mind telling me how you got out here? I mean, your feller there was in town, and far as I know nobody followed my mechanic home.”

Philo looked almost shame-faced. “Sorry to say, Linc here doesn’t have the most trusting of natures. He ... uh ... tagged your mule.”

“Really. And why’d he do that, exactly?”

“Like I said, he don’t believe folks. And he thought the girl wasn’t telling him the whole truth.”

“Why? Seems to me she’s the last person to lie to anyone.”

“He had a feeling.” This last was wrung from Philo, as if he was embarrassed to admit it.

He’s not a Reader. Mal heard River’s voice in his mind. He has some small talent, but only in certain ways.

Good to know. As if nobody had dropped thoughts into his head he went on, “And you trust his ... feelings?”

“I’ve learned not to ignore them.” Philo shook his head. “’Sides, someone a bit more forthcoming in town mentioned that picture looked a bit like the people who work here.”

Mal allowed himself to nod, wondering if he could duck out of the way quickly enough if there was gunplay. “Yeah, kinda, least from the picture my mechanic showed me. And lots of other folk too. Hell, there was this couple on ... I think it was Mead ... fleeced my pilot out of half his earnings a few months back, coulda been them. It’s a big ‘verse, and they do say we all got doppelgangers somewhere.”

If Philo was surprised that Mal would use a word like doppelgangers he didn’t show it. “Heard that myself.” He took a deep breath. “Well, I guess I’ve taken up enough of your time. You’ve got the flyer. My details are on it in case you recall anything you haven’t told me.”

“I’ll be sure to wave.”

Philo touched his hat and slid his sunglasses back on. “Be seeing you.”


Mal watched him climb back on board the idling hover, gun the engine and turn it around. His men in tow, he headed back towards town, disappearing rapidly into the distance.

“Interesting specimen.”

Mal turned to Freya, who had appeared at his elbow. “You think?” he asked as Hank and Kaylee joined them from the ship.

“I think he knows damn well the Bodens are here, but he’s not willing to exchange bullets quite yet.”

“Me too.” Mal sighed. “Harper Lecomb sure has the hots for those jewels.”

She narrowed her eyes slightly. “You think there’s something else going on, don’t you?”

“Don't you?”

“Yes. But I’m naturally suspicious.”

He smiled. “Me too. Probably why we’re such a good fit.”

River ran from the house, Jayne from the outbuildings, while Zoe appeared from the orchard.

“At least we’d have avenged you if he had shot you,” Freya added.

“Good to know.” He looked at the others. “I take it you were listening?”

“Riv kept me up to date,” Jayne admitted.

“I could hear, sir,” Zoe added. “Do you trust him?”

“Philo Cobb? Not even an inch.” Mal sighed. He looked at Freya. “Can you find her? Molly?”

His wife raised an eyebrow. “If you’re asking me to read the Bodens, I –”

“No. But if she’s about, like we think, can’t you ... cast a net or something? Listen for her?”

“I don't know her.”

“But you know the Bodens. What they feel like. Can’t you use them as a baseline?”

“You mean extrapolate.”

“If you say so.”

She slapped his arm, knowing full well that he understood the word. “I suppose I could try.”

“’Cause I’d kinda like to hear all this from the horse’s mouth.”

“That’s not necessary, sir,” Zoe said quietly. “I know where Molly is.”

“How ...” He took a breath. “Close?”

“In the boat house on the lake.”

He turned to Freya. “You want to go get her? She might not be scared of a sympathetic face.”

Freya nodded. “Be right back.” She loped off towards the lake.

“Sir.” Zoe nodded towards the house, where Inara, Sam and Simon were heading towards them.

“You gonna tell her?” Jayne rumbled. “What he said?”

“No reason not to.”

“And what was that?” Hank put in. “Philo Cobb?”

For once the big man looked almost sheepish. “Heard tell there was a branch of the family went into the bounty hunting business.” He sounded as if it was so much worse than being a merc.

Mal wondered about the distinction, but it took Hank to voice it.

“So how’s that different to what you used to do?”

River rolled her eyes, and Mal saw Zoe balance on the balls of her feet in case she needed to break up the fight. Well, the beating up of the pilot anyway.

As it was, Jayne showed remarkable restraint. “You know, you sure can be a shagua chunzi sometimes.” He sighed. “I was a merc, sure. Still am, under all this fancy civilizing. I did what folks paid me to do. But bounty hunters … they got no conscience, not even a little bit. And you don’t got to look at me like that. Knew one once killed a man’s whole gorram family, just so’s he could take him at the funeral. There’s no … style … in that.”

“Style?” Hank must have been feeling particularly suicidal.

“Maybe that ain’t the right word, but … yeah, hold ‘em at gunpoint ‘til they tell you where the guy is, even shoot the dog, but killing kids? Even I ain’t as far gone as that.”

Hank was about to put his head in the noose then his eyes widened and he looked sharply at River. “Fine, fine. You don’t have to do that quite so loud.”

She smiled sweetly at him as the others joined them.

“I can't believe he tagged my mule,” Kaylee said, shaking her head. “I didn’t even notice.” She was visibly angry. “How dare he?”

“The bounty must be pretty big,” Mal said, his thoughts elsewhere. Taking a breath he brought himself back to the present and said, “Hadn’t you better be finding it?”

“I want to hear what’s going on.”

“I think it's better it’s just me and Frey talk to Molly, xiao mei mei. She’s like to be skittish, all the things that are going on.”

“I think I should be there,” Sam said. “It’s my job, after all.”

“Too many people may make her clam up,” Mal said, shaking his head. “Frey and me she can probably just about handle.”

“Actually, I think it should be just Freya and myself,” Inara said. “You’re a man.”

“So Frey tells me.” He studied her. “You think I’m gonna scare her?”

“You scare me.”

He thought for a moment. “Fine. But I’ll be listening outside the door.”

Inara gazed at him. “Why break the habit of a lifetime?”

to be continued


Friday, May 3, 2013 7:04 AM


Fun, fun.

Poor bounty hunters.

Girl's got some splaining to do.

Friday, May 3, 2013 2:02 PM


Ooops, skeletons rattling in the Cobb family cupboard. Hope Kaylee removes that tag and makes sure there aren't any others. I like the way everybody was prepared for trouble and the conversation between Mal and Philo. Shiny, Ali D :~)
"You can't take the sky from me!"


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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!]