Monied Individual - Part III
Saturday, March 12, 2016

“You two really need to get a room.” Simon’s voice drifted through from the rear of the cargo bay. “We had one,” Mal growled. “And you shouldn’t be listening in to private conversations.” “Why not?” the doctor asked, walking towards them. “It seems to be the major preoccupation of this crew. When we’re not actually doing crime, of course.” [Maya. Post-BDM. The crew get their first sight of the Triskelion mansion, and Simon stirs the pot.]


The sun had barely vanished below the horizon when Callum picked up the children in the new hover, and the various parents barely got a goodbye from their off-spring before they all piled inside and Dillon’s factotum pulled smoothly away into the crowd.

“Anyone’d think they didn’t want to go,” Mal commented with a touch of sarcasm as he closed the cargo bay doors.

“Hmn. Sitting around on board with one of us, and perhaps having lessons, or getting as much as possible out of Dillon and Breed.” Zoe shook her head. “It’s a difficult choice, sir.”

“So you think the kids are reckoning on a Cortex spending spree?”

“More than likely.”

“Think Bethie can con a Firefly outta Dillon?”

“I think she’ll do her best, sir.”

“Well, I’d better be getting this Firefly … whoa.” Hank felt Serenity lift off. He sighed heavily then ran for the bridge. “River!”


Having wrested control from the psychic, Hank piloted Serenity out of Eavesdown and headed towards the nearby mountains where the Triskelion estate nestled. The short dusk had darkened to full night, and as he manoeuvred the ship in to land outside the main grounds, the down-draught from the engines threw the snow up into a thick cloud, obscuring the view.

A few minutes later Mal opened the small door in the ramp, pulling his gloves on a little more firmly. “It’s cold.”

“That’s something of an understatement.”

“You wearin’ your long underwear?”

Freya smiled and reached up to straighten the collar of Mal’s coat. “You know I am. You watched me putting them on.”

He chuckled. “I seem to recall taking ‘em off you, too.”

“Which is why we were late for lunch.”

“Not my fault you were looking … sultry.”

“In long johns?”

“Hey, can’t help the fact my wife gets me all hot and bothered!”

“That’s nice.” She stroked his cheek. “But I still say you need to get your eyes tested if you think I looked sexy.”

“Nothing wrong with my eyesight.”

“Not what River says.”

“And you can tell her to stop leaving the Cortex open on sites for eye glasses.”

“She’s just being helpful.”

“She’s bein’ River.”

“And you let her get away with it.”

“I know.” Mal shook his head. “Can’t help it. A sorry pair, ain’t we?”

Freya took a step backwards, her hands raised. “Don’t include me in this. You’re captain.”

“Only when it suits my mutinous crew.”

She moved back to his side. “You’ve changed.”

“No, I ain’t. How?”

“You’re … mellower.”

“Since when?”

“Since Miranda.”

An image of the dried, desiccated bodies they’d found and the outcome on Mr Universe’s moon swirled unbidden across his mind. “Can’t say I am,” he said shortly.

There was a pause, then Freya said, “My mistake, then.” She turned to look out into the snowy landscape, reappearing now the displaced flakes were settling back.

A new guilt dripped on top of the mouldering pile already there. “Frey … I’m a pingjun laotou, you know that.”

“You’re not old.”

His lips quirked. “But I am mean?”


Mal sighed deeply, making a first class production of it. “Knew you never really loved me.”

Freya’s head dropped, but when she looked up she was smiling. “Liar.”

“Prob’ly.” He pulled her into his arms. “Anyway, if I have changed it ain’t ‘cause of Miranda. It’s you.”



“That’s nice.”

“So you said. And I ain’t as nice as all that.”


His voice roughened slightly. “And if the rest of ‘em ain’t down soon, I’ll take you back upstairs and show you how not nice I can be.”

“You two really need to get a room.” Simon’s voice drifted through from the rear of the cargo bay.

“We had one,” Mal growled. “And you shouldn’t be listening in to private conversations.”

“Why not?” the doctor asked, walking towards them. “It seems to be the major preoccupation of this crew. When we’re not actually doing crime, of course.”

Mal reluctantly let go of his wife and glared at the younger man. “What’s put a burr up your … ah.”

“Exactly.” Simon glanced over his shoulder at where Sam was assisting Inara through the doorway.

“She not listening to you?”

“She said she joined us at Dillon’s so there was no way she was going to left out of this.” Simon sighed, rivalling Mal’s. “I don’t know why I bother.”

Mal laughed. “Well, no-one’s been shot or knifed in a week or two – what else’ve you got to do?”

“The day, Mal, is still young.”


Although the main drive had been cleared, everything else was muffled under a thick blanket of snow. As they walked between the high mounds, it wasn’t clear what was beneath, although vague shapes suggested a maze either side of the road.

River sighed.

“What is it, moonbrain?” Jayne asked quietly.

“I wish it was Christmas.” She sighed again, deeper this time, the sound seeming to come from her delicate feet. At least this time they were safely encased in heavy boots instead of their usual naked state. (Mal had insisted. “Don’t care if you ain’t cold. You make me feel like I’m gettin’ frostbite.”)

“Ain’t time yet.” Jayne’s forehead creased. “Is it?”

“No. Not for another four months and seven days. And this snow is unseasonable – this hemisphere of Persephone should be heading into spring. But it makes me feel … unsettled.” She bounced on her toes as if she was walking on hot coals.

“We can have Christmas early, if’n you’d like,” Jayne suggested. “Just you and me. I’m sure I can find something for a good little girl.”

“I’m not little.”

“You ain’t exactly good, either, but when’s that stopped us?”


Ahead of them, unfortunately within hearing distance, Mal took breath to comment.


He glanced down at his wife. “I feel like I want to wash my ears out.”

She smiled. We can make our own Christmas, if you like. The images she supplied with the mental words were detailed and erotic, bordering on the obscene, and with no sign whatsoever of long underwear.

“I’ll hold you to that.” He pushed his hands deeper into his pockets.

“Are you okay? I mean, apart from the ear washing.”

“Just thinking about Badger.”

“Is that a good idea? It’ll give you indigestion.”

There’d been a wave that morning from the self-styled kingpin of Persephone, saying he still hadn’t got any more information on the job, and to not bother bothering him.

“I don’t trust him.” Mal knew he sounded grumpy but couldn’t help it.

“Have you ever?”

“Do you know, I probably did. Once. Then he gypped me and I ain’t been that foolish since.”

“You must have been a babe in arms,” she teased.

“Just after I bought Serenity. Damn near lost her again ‘cause of his conniving.”

“But you didn’t.”

“Still think he’s involved in this somehow.”

“Oh, I agree.” Freya moved closer so he could put his arm around her shoulders. “But the moon is up, the snow is beautiful, and we’re together.”

He grinned suddenly. “Yeah, but we ain’t alone. I can’t pull you into the shrubbery and have my wicked way with you.”

“It might be a bit cold.”

“I’d keep you warm.” To prove it he dropped his hand and pinched her.

In the middle of the group, spread out down the path, Kaylee watched Freya wriggle then slap Mal on the arm, but her mind was elsewhere. “Do you think they’re all right? I mean, we know Dillon and Breed, and Bethie would tell everyone if there was a problem, but –”

Bao bei, if we’d said no there would have been a mutiny.”

“I know.”

“And Dillon’s not about to let anything happen to them.”

“I know.”

“And it’s only one night.”

“I know.”

He tucked her arm under his. “Kaylee, it is only one night. And they are going to have a better time than we are, I’m sure. Bethie will make sure of it.”


“I promise.”

Behind them Zoe half-smiled, but felt the tug of her own son. Hank didn’t say a word, but wrapped his fingers around hers.

At the back of the procession another conversation was going on, as the last couple walked a little slower to accommodate Inara’s pregnancy.

“Sam, do you think Freya’s okay?”

“Well, she is married to Mal …” He stopped as Inara slapped him lightly on the arm, and grinned. “Taking that into consideration, she seems fine.” He looked closer at her fine features, touched by moonlight. “You’re serious, aren’t you?”


“This isn’t just a little bit of getting your own back because she contacted your mother?”

“Of course not!” Then, for the sake of scrupulous honesty, she added, “Well, only a little.”

“You’re alive because she did.”

“I know. And I’ve more or less forgiven her. But this … is different.”

“Tell me.” It was a measure of his love, his commitment, that he didn’t dismiss her concerns out of hand as hormonal nonsense.

“I can’t say, exactly.” She bit her lip. “Just a feeling. After all that time we talked about … about Anthony Han, what he did, before you arrived …” Her eyes were glistening suspiciously, even in this low light. “I know she told me things she’d never told Mal. We built such a trust that I suppose it’s made me more … sensitive to her moods.”

“More than Mal?”

“Over this, yes, I think so.”

“Sisters. That’s what River calls you.”

“I wouldn’t know. I never had any.”

“Not even at the Training House?”

“Not quite the same.”

“My darling, if this crew have taught me anything it’s that family has very little to do with blood.” He watched her for a moment, then added, “Do you want me to talk to her?”

She took his hand. “Would you? Just in passing. Just to see if I’m going totally ga-ga.”

“You, my love?” He stroked her cheek. “Never.”

“I just don’t … oh.”

They’d rounded the final corner and joined the others in staring at the house, although that word didn’t quite describe what was set out in front of them under a fine haze of cloud, hanging like a veil over the moon and creating a soft glow that waxed and waned. Not that it helped.

“It is unloved.”

Mal squinted at River, then quickly smoothed out his forehead to prevent any comments about his eyesight. “You think?”

“It is crying out to be healed.”

“Jayne, you think maybe your wife should stay on board? If it’s one of those days I’d rather she didn’t take a kitchen knife to our hosts.”

The big man shrugged. “It ain’t a bad day particular. No more’n usual.”

“And that’s supposed to make me feel better?”

“I am here, you know.” River glared at both of them. “And I have promised to post a sign before I kill anyone.”

“Oh, good.”

“Hell, Mal,” Jayne said. “Even I can tell this place ain’t exactly livin’ high on the hog.”

Freya nodded. “That’s why rich people stay rich. They don’t spend any money they don’t have to.”

“I’d’a said making sure the roof don’t leak is pretty much an essential.” Mal gazed at the south wing, absently noting the fact that he could see clouds through a couple of the top windows, not reflected in glass that was no longer there. “Or falling in, for that matter.”

“Fire.” River used the toe of her boot to make patterns in the snow. “Ten years ago. They were more concerned with saving the furnishings than lives, and made the servants go back in for the paintings. Until the roof collapsed. Two did not make it out.”

“You pickin’ that up from the bricks and mortar, xiao nu?”

She lifted her head, fixing him with the dark depths of her eyes. “I read it on the Cortex.”


“And I hear their screams.” She shivered. “I’m happy to stay on Serenity.”

Mal put his hands on her shoulders, turning her so he could look directly into her face, and when he spoke his voice had gentled. “It making you uncomfortable, girl?”

“A little.” She wriggled, as if something was crawling up her spine. “So much hatred, it has soaked into the stones.”

“I’ll stay too, Mal.” Jayne stepped close to his wife. “Make sure she’s okay.”

“You?” Mal let go and glanced at his public relations officer. “Miss free food?”

“Aw, if you care that much you can bring me back a doggie bag.” Jayne batted his eyelashes.

Kaylee giggled.

“As gross as that is, we’ve plenty to eat on board. But shiny. ‘Sides, it might be a good idea to keep you two in reserve.” Mal shook his head. “I got an itch I can’t scratch yet.”

“I’d better make sure I have plenty of weaves to hand,” Simon commented dryly.

As River and Jayne started to walk back to the ship, the others returned to their study of the Triskelion mansion.

The main section, three stories high with gabled windows in the roof and faced with some light stone that seemed to glow in the moonlight, was wide enough for three Fireflies to sit nose to tail, and at either end wings thrust forwards and backwards, so that from above it looked like a giant ‘H’. Turrets surmounted the corners of each wing and made it look a little like a wedding cake, but only if the icing were stained and blackened in places. Wide steps led to a huge set of double doors in the centre, anchoring it to the ground in case it took a fancy to fly away.

Mal smiled slightly – his thoughts seemed to be fancier than … River?

There was a pause. I thought you might need my help.

And I thought you didn’t want to be here. Go annoy Jayne.

I am. But unlike some people I can do more than one thing at a time.

Not here, and not right now.

Another pause, followed by a mental impression of a sniff of disdain. Fine.

Still, he could feel her toes dancing through his mind. River …

Mal was alone again in his head, but he was under no illusion that his little psychic wasn’t going to be listening in.

He led the way across the open space and up the steps, half-heartedly swept and with an edge of ice to catch the unwary. The doors, seasoned oak with heavy iron hinges and an equally impressive lock, loomed over him, ready to repel boarders, let alone the Serenity crew. Still, as he reached up to lift the huge door knocker, in the shape of a comet with a fiery tail, the left hand side swung open.

“Mr Mills?” A short, portly man who looked almost as wide as he was high stood in the doorway, outlined in the light behind him.

“Not me,” Mal said, pointing over his shoulder. “But this is.”

Hank stepped up beside him, almost slipping backwards but stopping himself in time. “I’m Hank Mills.”

The man half-bowed, as much as his waistline would allow. “Mr Mills, the family are expecting you. I am Moggridge, the butler. Please, follow me.” He stepped back.

Hank gave a slightly scared smile and walked inside, the others following. “Wow.”

Moggridge closed the outer door to keep out the cold, but it didn’t seem any warmer in the huge hall. “Yes. Mr Triskelion was a stickler for protocol.” On that somewhat vague comment he slid past them and headed towards another set of doors, his heels clicking on the black and white tiled floor.

“Which one?” Hank asked Zoe out of the corner of his mouth. “Uther?”

“He’s not old enough to have been in service then.”

“Unless he’s a zombie. Like Pike.” Hank shuddered. “Or maybe Simon’s right and they’re vampires.”


“We … were chatting.” Hank peered into the gloom as they were led deeper. The subdued light from the flame-shaped sconces did little to alleviate the general air of shabbiness and decay, although everything looked scrupulously clean, with even the suit of armour standing guard by the stairs appearing highly polished. “And from the look of this place, I think he might be right.”

“And Simon suggested vampires?”

“Or zombies.”

“And you believed him?”

Hank was saved from answering by Moggridge opening both doors and announcing, “Mr Mills and guests.”

Hank walked though first, but Zoe grabbed Simon’s arm. “You told him Pike was a vampire?” she whispered savagely.

Simon shrugged. “I might have … suggested it.”

“Why? You know what he’s like!”

“I was bored. And I wanted to see what happened.” The doctor seemed curiously unapologetic. “On the psychological front.”

“Simon …”

“You comin’?” Mal asked.

“When he has nightmares he can come and sleep with you and Kaylee,” Zoe hissed, following her husband into the hot, bright room where four people were waiting.

to be continued



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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!]