Secrets- Part XXIV
Sunday, June 21, 2015

“My love, you must wake up,” Sam said so quietly it was doubtful anyone outside in the common area would have heard. “You must. If only to laugh at me and tell me how ridiculous I am. To touch my cheek and tell me I have to have faith. Please, Inara. Please.” A tear fell onto their hands, but he didn’t wipe it away, not caring if anyone saw. [Maya. Post-BDM. Mal and River discuss life, and there are more visitors. This will all soon be coming to a head.]


There were many things he didn’t understand. Quite a lot of them had to do with how a woman like Freya could love a curmudgeonly old bao jun like him, but he conjured he wasn’t alone in that. Jayne, Hank and Simon probably felt the same way. Not that Freya was too good for him – that was a given whichever way he looked at it – but how their own wives could have fallen for them. Especially Jayne.

Jia yan.”


“No, you’re not.”

“Well, you shouldn’t be peekin’.”

“I have to, in case I’m needed.”

“It’s just … I’d swear the clocks’ve slowed down.”

“Time cannot go faster or slower,” River said, letting the soil in one of her garden containers filter through her fingers. “It is a constant.”

“You sure about that?” Mal, unable to bear the waiting yet feeling guilty for doing so, had run away to – well, sidled in a manly fashion – the room the crew called Eden, where large lights simulated day and River grew vegetables and fruits that supplemented their often bland diet.

“Any change is merely a perception. Albert Einstein called it a form of relativity. Even for those travelling near the event horizon of a black hole, or near the speed of light, time travels at a uniform rate, even if it appears to have slowed for observers. In reality, of course, it …” She stopped. “Sorry.”

“No, you’re not. And it’s okay, xiao nu,” Mal said, smiling. “You’re worried about Inara.”


“You always do seem to get more … Rivery when you’re worried.” He shook his head. “So, if I run really fast it’ll make the future come quicker?”

“No. But your perception may lead you to believe so.”

It had been nearly forty hours since Simon had given Inara the serum. Hank and Jayne’s thrilling ‘liberation’ of an incubator from a hospital the other side of the planet would become the stuff of legends, if only because they’d walked in and out without anybody getting shot, stabbed, challenged or otherwise inconvenienced, but right now the tension on board Serenity was so high nobody could see over the top.

At least they hadn’t had to use it yet. Inara was still alive, which, according to Simon, was something of a miracle in itself. She wasn’t awake, but lay like a statue on top of a catafalque, if statues had tubes and sensors attached. Some were giving her nutrients, because the baby would keep taking what he needed, regardless of his mother’s state of health, while others dealt with more basic bodily functions.

Sam hadn’t left her side to do more than deal with his own bodily functions, and those as quickly as possible. He hadn’t changed his clothes, a haze of beard covered his chin and his hair was unkempt, but he could not be persuaded to leave, even for sleep. Instead he dozed next to her, as if every second he spent in her company was so precious he couldn’t bear to lose even one.

He wasn’t the only one, as the rest of the crew gravitated to the common area. Just like before, nobody was going anywhere until they knew for sure. Only the children were absent, asked to stay in the house where Molly and her parents could look after them.

“Of course,” River went on, lifting out one of the weeds that had dared to push its head above the soil horizon, “the unaccustomed exercise of trying to outrun a black hole may also give you another heart attack.”

Mal put his hand on his scar. “Hey, I exercise!” he protested.

“Sex with mu qin is not exercise.”

“It is the way we do it.”

Her nose wrinkled. “I know. I hear.” She laid the weed carefully in a pail next to her.

He waggled a finger at her. “Told you, shouldn’t be peekin’.”

She mirrored his action, her own finger brown with dirt. “Shouldn’t be feeling guilty.”

“Can’t help it.”

“Neither can I.”

“Right pair, ain’t we?” he said, smiling.

“In another life, perhaps.” She turned back to the bin.


River shrugged, teasing another green shoot from the earth. “Everything happens somewhere. But only if the cargo bay were painted sky blue …”

Mal relaxed. “We may’ve picked up a couple of mice since we’ve been here, but I’m fair sure we ain’t got elves.” It was an old joke, that fairies would one day spontaneously decorate his ship, but it was easy to fall back on.

“And you’re changing the subject.”

“Captain’s prerogative.”

“Guilt is non-productive.”

“Yeah, but it’s like an old pair of slippers. Falling apart with holes in, but they’re comfortable and you can’t bear to throw them away.”

“You don’t wear slippers.”

“And you’re splitting hairs.”

“I will buy you a pair. Red tartan.”

He almost laughed as her eyes almost closed, and he knew she was visualising it. “Am I that old?”

“And a seeing eye dog.”

This time he let the chuckle form, but it was short-lived. “Maybe I coulda done something sooner,” he admitted, so softly it was almost as if he hadn’t spoken at all.

“You didn’t know.”

He gazed at her for a long moment. “Did you?”

Her dark eyes were pools, deep and unreadable. “If I did, it wasn’t my secret to tell. And no, you couldn’t have done anything sooner.”

“You sure?” He uncrossed his arms, then didn’t know what to do them and hooked his thumbs in his pants pockets. “I mean, if she’d told us, or you’d let on she was sick, the first time your bro worked out the Super Reaver formula –”

Jia yan, even if I had, we had no idea it was all connected. That was Kaylee.”

“You ain’t gonna let me wallow, are you?”

She shrugged delicately. “If you insist on continuing there are some pigsties close to town. I’m sure I can persuade my Jayne to take you. He might even take a capture with him.”

“Okay, ‘tross.” He held up a hand in defeat. “I know when I’m beaten.”

“No, you don’t.” She’d been holding the weed, and now placed it reverentially in the pail.

“What are you doing?”

“Weeding.” Her brows drew together as she surveyed the green threads misting the soil. “I have been lax, and have more work to do because of it.”

“Funnily enough I got the weeding part. But that I don’t get.” He pointed at the bucket. “Ain’t you being a little … gentle?”

She sat back and examined him, the concern hanging about him like grey haze. “Life is precious.”

“I figure we’re all feeling that.”

All life.” She picked up the pail, tilting it so he could see the inch or so of tenacity. “Even weeds have the right to live, so I intend to take these outside and give them a chance.”

“So Lazarus can live up to its name?”

River smiled, her youth and beauty almost blinding him. “Exactly.”

“Think it’ll work for Inara?”

“I could try putting her feet in soil, but I think that would be a last resort.”

Raised voices from the infirmary had Mal striding out of Eden before he could make some semi-scathing comment, and across the common area.

“You have to!” Sam’s voice, loud with anger, was something none of them had ever heard before.

Simon was trying to remain calm. “You don’t understand. If I don’t keep her sedated –”

“It’s been two days!”

Mal stepped into the cool room. “You wanna tell me what the diyu’s going on? ‘Cause this ain’t the most appropriate of times to come to blows, as fun as it might be to watch.”

Sam pointed a slightly trembling finger at Simon. “He won’t let her wake up!”


Simon pushed both hands through his hair. “Sam doesn’t understand. I … there’s no sign that the serum worked, or did anything at all, and if it hasn’t and I let her wake up she could go into cardiac shock.”

“She’s still alive, though.” Mal glanced at Inara, seeing her chest rise and fall. “So it must be doing something.”

“I admit I’m surprised Inara hasn’t suffered massive organ failure. But I’m not an expert on this disease. For all I know this might be the natural progression.”

“You’ve done nothing but study it for days.”

“I know. And I thought I understood it, but …” Simon swallowed, aware he wasn’t giving a good showing of himself. “Mal, I told you, I needed a scalpel, not –”

“A sledgehammer, I remember. So how will you know if it does work?”

“I’m monitoring all of her vitals. Taking regular blood samples, running deep gene scans as best I can with the equipment I’ve got …” The doctor shook his head. “I don’t know what else to do.”

“Let her wake up.” Sam’s voice cut through the infirmary.

“She probably wouldn’t.”

“Probably.” Sam’s hands were curled into fists and he stepped around the medbed towards the younger man. “Might. Maybe. Are they the only words you know?”

Mal moved between them. “Sam, best you take a breath here ‘fore –”

Sam turned on him. “She’s not yours, captain. Not anymore. She’s mine. My lover. The mother of my child, not yours!”

They were face to face, only half a step between them, and the collective breath of everyone out in the common area was being held, each person well aware of Mal’s occasionally tenuous hold on his temper. This time, though, he surprised them.

He took a pace back. “And I never laid claim to her, Sam. Not like that. And believe me, I’ve been in the same position you’re in right now, you know that. Praying to a God I didn’t trust that the woman I love wasn’t gonna be taken away from me.” He glanced at Freya, just visible through the doorway. After the briefest pause he went on, “But all I said was to take a breath. Before you’re on the other bed having an aneurysm or something.”

Sam closed his eyes, and Mal watched as the older man pulled himself together by enormous strength of will. He made himself relax his hands, and when he reopened them he was back in control. “My apologies. I shouldn’t have said that.”

“Hey, I ain’t gonna hold this against you. Like I said, I know how you’re feeling.” Mal turned to look at Simon. “Well, doc? ‘Cause next time I might not be around to stop him.”

Simon gazed at him for a long moment then said, “Fine. But I do this my way. I’ll slowly counteract the sedation, but if there’s any sign she’s in pain, or the baby is in distress –”

“I understand,” Sam interrupted, stepping around Mal. “And I’m sorry, Simon. Whatever happens you’ve given our son two more days inside his mother, and that’s two more days closer to him being born safely.” He swallowed hard. “If you need to …”

“Not unless I have to,” Simon said shortly then turned back to the counter and prepared a series of tiny hypos.

Mal watched Sam walk slowly around the medbed again, not losing contact with Inara, before sitting down and taking her hand again.

“My love, you must wake up,” Sam said so quietly it was doubtful anyone outside in the common area would have heard. “You must. If only to laugh at me and tell me how ridiculous I am. To touch my cheek and tell me I have to have faith. Please, Inara. Please.” A tear fell onto their hands, but he didn’t wipe it away, not caring if anyone saw.

An uncomfortableness spread over Mal at being witness to such intimacy, and he turned away, coming face to face with River. “What?” he asked.

“We’re about to have company.”

Mal felt his shoulders tense. “Alliance?”

“Not unless Monty sold them Carrie-Ann.”

Mal’s eyebrows raised and he slid out of the door, picking up Zoe on the way as he hurried up the steps into the cargo bay. Freya, sitting on the old yellow sofa with her arm around Kaylee as the young mechanic leaned against her, followed their leaving curiously then unfocussed, her eyes widening.


Mal and Zoe watched Carrie-Ann change her angle of descent and take a wide circle to come in to land away from the house to cause as little disruption and downdraught as possible. It would be Mae Kim flying, not Monty (as the big man was of Mal’s persuasion, considering there was no point in keeping a dog and barking himself), and she was a pretty good pilot, so the large ship settled gently into the landscape with barely a tremor.

“Did he say to you he was coming back?” Mal asked Zoe as they waited for the engines to stop.

“No, sir. But then, you know he’s always had something of a minor crush on Inara.”

“You think Inez knows?”

“I don’t doubt it.”

Monty didn’t wait for the Leviathon to raise up on its sturdy legs, but hurried round from the side ramp. “Mal.”

“Monty. Didn’t expect to see you back here. Any problems?”

“No. No, like I waved you, it worked just like River said it would. Went up like a Roman Candle, even better than on screen. And we just picked up an Alliance ‘cast on the Cortex as we came in to land with old Harper Lecomb asking for more relays to be put up so’s this kind of accident can’t happen again.” Monty scratched his chin. “I almost feel sorry for the bastard.”

“Only almost?”

“Always only almost.” The big man’s face took on a much more serious aspect. “How’s Inara?”

“Still alive.”

“Well, that has to be good.”

“We kinda think so.”

“I hope you don’t mind,” Monty went on. “Us coming back. I know we can’t do anything, but after Hank’s message it seemed like the right thing to do.”

“What about that job you were talking about?”

“I … we thought this was more important.”

Mal’s mouth tilted at the corner. “That the royal ‘we’?”

“All of us. It was pretty unanimous.”

“Well, Inara’s in the infirmary if you want to look in.”

“No, no.” Monty held up his hand. “We’ll be staying on board. Don’t want to feel like we’re in the way.”


“But if you need anything, supplies, something we can get you from town, you just say.”

“I will.”

Monty suddenly picked Mal up, holding him so tight the younger man could barely breathe. “We’ll see her through this, you know.”

“I’m hoping so,” Mal gasped. “Zo, would you shoot him so he’ll put me down?”

Monty didn’t let up, saying instead, “Nah, she loves me too much to do that. Still don’t know why she won’t run off with me, though.”

“Probably doesn’t … wuh duh muh … want the broken ribs.”

The big man chuckled deeply but let Mal down. “By the way, we ain’t the only ones coming.”

“What?” Mal was trying to get air into his abused lungs. “What’re you talking about?”

“Sir …” Zoe was looking up.

He followed her gaze to see a bright spark of light rapidly dropping through the atmo, quickly resolving itself to be a ship just a little bigger than Serenity, whose pilot wasn’t as good as Monty’s and came into land almost straight down, throwing dirt and debris into the air.

Monty laughed again. “I think I’ll leave you all to get reacquainted.” He ambled back into Carrie-Ann, a little lighter in his step than he’d arrived.

Mal realised he had his hand on his gun, which, when he came to think of it, was just a tad stupid. “I’m guessing this ain’t Alliance either,” he said, ducking his head down to try and keep the worst of the dust out of his eyes.

More friends. River’s distinctive mental voice slithered into both their heads. And mu qin is angry.

At me? Mal thought.


Makes a change.

As the crud began to settle and the new arrival’s engines turned from a roar to a purr then to silence, Mal blinked hard, his fingers still hovering over his gun butt as the airlock door opened and the ramp extended.

“I’d be obliged if you didn’t,” Dillon Malfrey said, smiling and stepping out into the Lazarene sunshine.

“Well, I’ll be a …” Whatever Mal was considering died quickly as four young women pushed past Dillon and rushed out to flutter around him.

“Uncle Mal – ” “Is Aunt Inara –” “We’re not too –” “We had to, as soon as we –”

The Reilly girls talked over and above each other, each of them anxious to be heard and a little tearful until he held up a hand.

“Whoa, there. Stop that,” he commanded, and they subsided somewhat. “Now, I don’t know much more than you do, so why don’t you go through and find Frey? She’s in the common area with everyone else.”

“No, she isn’t,” the woman herself said, coming up behind them. “But Kaylee’s waiting for you.”

Valentia Reilly, oldest of the two pairs of twins, drew herself up. “But Aunt Inara is still alive?” she asked, spokesperson for her sisters.

Freya nodded. “Yes, she is. And Simon’s working hard at keeping her that way.”

“And the baby?”

“Him too.”

“It’s a boy?” Val’s eyebrows raised.

Phoebe almost smiled. “Looks like you’re out of the pool.”

“You betting? At your age?” Mal managed to look sternly at them.

“Well, after Flynn left to spend some time with his mother –”

Val’s glare successfully stopped her twin, but from the look on her face it wasn’t going to be for long.

“Go,” Mal said, waving them off. “And we’ll be having words about gambling.”

“Yes, Uncle Mal.”

Each girl turned, trying to maintain their poise, but it didn’t work as they all took to their heels and ran for the Firefly.

“Zoe,” Mal said softly, “if’n we see Cressida dropping out of atmo, I’m making for the hills.”

“I’d be joining you, sir,” Zoe responded, equally quietly, glancing at Freya and Dillon as they embraced.

“You know, it ain’t my fault.” Mal shook his head. “I didn’t tell ‘em all to come.”

“And yet here they all are.” Zoe gave one of her secret smiles. “I’d better go and speak to Mrs Boden, see if she’s got enough supplies in.”

“Good idea.” Mal pulled a thin roll of bills from his pocket and peeled off half a handful. “Here. Use the hover if you need to.”

Zoe took them but said, “Inara won’t be pleased when she finds out you’ve bankrolled her.”

“Yeah, well, most of us are mine, one way or the other. And she can shout at me later.”

Zoe nodded and disappeared towards the house.

Meanwhile Freya and Dillon had stepped back and were studying each other.

“Where’s Breed?” she asked. “Don’t tell me you’ve bought yourself a ship and have run away.”

“It’s not mine. And Breed is still on board. I think he might have got trampled in the rush.”

“Then it really is …”

“It is. He’s just shutting everything down.”

Freya tutted, her face serious. “Dillon, he shouldn’t be out here. It’s not safe.”

“You think I could’ve talked any sense into him? After that wave?”

Mal was looking from one to the other, confusion making him squint. “Who? Gorramit, Frey, who’re you talking about?”

They ignored him. “And the ship?” Freya asked.

“The Katya. We’ve kept in touch, and when we heard about Inara, he –”

“Wait a minute. Katya?” Mal interrupted, stepping forward to remind them he was still around. “Wasn’t that your grandma’s name?”

“It was,” Freya confirmed.

“So the pilot is …”

“Alex.” Freya sighed heavily and turned to look at the man coming down the ramp.

“Hey, sis,” he called.

“Alex …”

“What?” Alexander Rostov managed innocence quite well. “They needed a ride. I was available.”

“How, exactly?” Mal asked, crossing his arms.

“You know, I thought you might be more pleased to see me than this.”

Freya’s eyes opened wide. “Sometimes I wonder if you finding me was ever a good idea!”

Alex looked at Mal. “Is she mad at me?”

“I conjure it’s more general. Mostly at ‘Nara.”

“Oh, I’m not going to be selfish about this.”

Her brother smiled. “Freya, we were all on Daedalus when the wave came through, partaking of the champagne festival. And I offered.”

Dillon broke in. “Besides, the liner was going to swing back towards the Core, so we were happy that a friend was willing to pick us up. Otherwise I was afraid we might be too late.”

“Not so far.” Mal glanced at Alex. “But friends, huh? Do I need to worry about you two?”

“Not since my younger days,” Freya’s brother said with an airy wave of his hand. “But I would be obliged if Kaylee could take a look at Katya’s engine. She’s very new, and I wasn’t supposed to be pushing her quite as much as I did. Something has been clanking for the last few hours.”

“Clanking? That a technical term?”

“I thought she was about to blow up.”

“Well, I’m fair sure Kaylee’ll jump at the chance, soon as we know.”

“About Inara.”

“Yes.” Mal gestured towards his own ship. “Best come inside and wait with everyone else. Nobody’s going anywhere until … well, they ain’t doing much beyond sitting.” He glanced at Alex. “And maybe later you can explain exactly what you meant by that remark about not since your younger days.”

“I have a really good bottle of vodka on board that may make my lips loosen. But not where my wife can hear.”

“Your …” Mal glanced at Freya then up at Alex’s ship. “Are you telling me you have your family on board?”

“No. Not all of them. Just Ellen. The girls are with my mother, running her ragged. With any luck.”

“Must’ve been a bit crowded.”

“Mal, shut up,” Freya said suddenly. “Alex, go and get your wife. I want to meet her.”

“Check her out, do you mean?” Alex asked, his eyes twinkling.

“Just … bring her over to the house. I’ll go and make some tea. Or something.” She strode away, her back ramrod straight, and Mal just knew her tattoo was flaming righteous indignation.

to be continued


Tuesday, June 23, 2015 1:01 AM


Wow. Gathering the family like this is awfully Funereal. Makes me wonder if you might actually kill off Inara.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015 3:22 PM


There must be a blow up coming with so many relatives present!


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[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!]

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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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“His name’s Jayne?”

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

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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.]

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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!]