Communication - Part XXI
Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Maya. Post-BDM. Mal has a plan to use the Agreement for something other than it was intended, and Simon plays his part. It's a long concluding part to this story arc, apart from an Epilogue. Enjoy? Let me know!


Spring on Sihnon was beautiful. All the flowers coming into bloom, and the melting snow from the mountains powering down the cliffs in great waterfalls. The Guild House nestled against the protective canyon wall, spreading out across the floor, the gold leaf on the bell tower roofs glinting in the soft sunshine. In the far distance the city glittered.

The Firefly settled into the private port beside the House, next to a Lexer and one of the new Parthian C-10s. But if anyone had called Serenity the poor relation, Mal would’ve shot them.

“You’re staying put.” Mal said to Jayne, standing by the cargo bay doors, the big man bristling with weapons and grenades.

“Like hell. I’m coming with you.”

“No, you’re not. Mood you’re in you’d probably gut the lot of ‘em, and that’s not gonna help.”

“Mal, they killed the boy.”

“I know. And as much as I wish we could stop it, they’re gonna get away with it.”

“Ain’t fair.”

“No. But that doesn’t change the fact that you’re staying here.” He settled his gunbelt a little more comfortably. “We’ve got work to do, and I need you to watch our backs.”

“From a bunch of –“

“From anyone.”

“Mal –“

“Why’re you still arguing? It’s been decided.” Mal looked up at the catwalk, where Inara was just leaving her shuttle. “You ready?” he asked, his voice different to the way he’d spoken to Jayne.

“No. Not really.” She walked slowly down the stairs. “Do you actually think this will work?”

“Frey seems to think so.”

“Yes, but she’s not walking into the lion’s den.”

“Only because I told her she couldn’t.”

“And she listened?”

“Didn’t you hear the argument?”

“Was that what it was?” Inara tried a smile. “I thought it was thunder.”

“Well, sometimes I feel like I got struck by lightning, yeah.” He flashed a grin back.

Zoe and Hank stepped out of the common area, both armed. The pilot handed Mal a com unit. “Freya’s on the bridge in case we need to make a quick getaway.”

“She mention our slight disagreement?”

“In long and explicit terms.”

“Good. Give her something to think on while we’re gone.” He turned to press the button to lower Serenity’s ramp, then stopped at the sight of Simon following his first mate and pilot. “What the hell do you think you’re doing? Are you a total sha gua chun zi?”

“I have to, Mal.” Simon finished buckling the unfamiliar gunbelt around his slim hips. “What’s happening to River is their fault. I want to see this finished as much as you do.”

“And where’d you get that piece?”

“I gave it to him, sir,” Zoe said. “He is right, you know.”

“Right.” Mal shook his head. “Sometimes I wonder if I'm the only sane person on this boat.” He slammed his hand down on the button and let the spring warmth flood into the cargo bay. “Let’s go, people.”


Inara led the way through the twist of corridors, every so often coming to a section that led out onto open balconies, red drapes moving in the breeze, incense drifting in perfumed clouds.

“How come it’s so empty?” Hank asked. “I’d’a thought we’d be drawing a lot more attention to ourselves.”

“That’s Inara’s doing,” Mal said. “Everyone’s at meditation or some such.”

“Quiet contemplation,” Inara said, looking for all the world as if she were just taking an afternoon stroll with some friends. “Centring themselves before taking the afternoon’s clients.”

“So what sort of things –“ Hank began, but Mal interrupted.

“Ain't here to learn whoring stories,” he said firmly. “Got a job to do.”

Inara stopped outside an impressive entrance. “This is it. The inner sanctum.” There was disgust in her voice.

Mal nodded. “You stay outside ‘til we call.”

Inara nodded, then watched as her four friends burst through the heavy double doors.

Three people sat behind a long desk on a dais at the end of the room, heads bent over some long scroll, two men dressed in dark robes in front of them. They looked up at the sound of the doors crashing back into the wall, and the woman in the centre jumped to her feet.

“Who are you? What on earth … Get the guards!” she ordered, and the robed men ran for the door, only to stop in confusion as Zoe and Simon aimed guns directly at their heads.

“Not a good idea,” Mal said, stepping forwards. “My friends here ain’t exactly in the mood to speak nicely to anyone, particularly the young man. He has issues of his own with you, so …”

“What do you want?”

“Well, your attention would be good. And I intend to get it. Unless you want this broadwaved over the entire Cortex.” He tossed a sheet of paper onto the table in front of the Triumvirate.

The woman in the centre didn’t even glance at it. “This is an outrage. Invading the House is a criminal act. You will be bound by law and –“

“You ain't very bright, are you,” Mal interrupted, his tone conversational. “Seems to me you’d want to look at that before you start threatening folks.” He added quickly, “And it ain't the original, in case you were wondering. That’s safe. Secure. And if anything happens to us, it’ll be out in the ‘verse before you can squint.”

“Get out! Before the Alliance are informed!”

The man looked down at the paper, and his face paled. “Madam Dhow, I think you should look at this.”

“I'm not letting some pirate makes demands in my own –“

“Adrienne! Shut up and read this first!”

The head of the Triumvirate glared at him so fiercely he should have backed down, but he returned it with interest. “Well?” she finally said. “What is it?”

He handed it to her with trembling fingers. “Look.”

She took the paper, read it, her face becoming as white as her companion.

“Adrienne?” the other woman, so far silent, asked. “What is it?”

Adrienne Dhow sat down heavily, handing it across without thinking. “Shang di,” she whispered.

“I don’t understand.” The woman looked up. “What does this mean?”

“I guess you’re new,” Mal said.

“It’s a forgery,” Dhow blustered. “Something created to cast shadows on the Guild.”

“Really.” Mal nodded. “Not sure a forgery would be making such an impression on you.” Dhow grabbed the paper back, about to rip it in two. “And like I said, that ain't the original. Just a copy.”

Dhow glared at him. “What do you want?” she asked, trying to draw together the fragments of her dignity. “Money? Is that what this is all about? Are you intending to blackmail the Guild?”

Mal shook his head. “Much fun as that might be, no, that’s not my intention.” He stepped closer to the dais, possibly the first man to do so without showing proper respect. Ever. “It’s simple. You pull off your goons, and I don’t let everyone know the Guild are a bunch of goddamn spies.”

“Goons?” She sneered at him. “The Guild doesn’t employ goons.”

Mal shrugged. “Not really sure I care what you call ‘em. Whoever you sent to kill Inara Serra. And, by the way, we kinda saved you some money there. ‘Cause they ain’t coming back.”

It shouldn’t have been possible for her face to lose any more colour, but it did. “What are you talking about?”

“Ah, see, now, that wasn't the answer I was looking for.” Mal glanced at Hank, who nodded through the open door.

Inara strode in, her head high. “Good afternoon,” she said, not even attempting to hide her loathing.

“Serra.” Dhow glared. “What insanities have you been telling these people?”

“No insanities. The truth. Which you seem to be unable to recognise.”

Is this true?” the woman next to Dhow asked, staring at her. “What it says in this document? That the Guild made a partnership with the Alliance?”

The man looked at her. “It was war. You don’t understand. We were afraid the Houses would be overrun. At least with this we had some protection.”

“But to spy –“

“It wasn't spying,” Dhow spat. “Just a mutual business arrangement.” She returned her glare to Inara. “That’s what we do, after all. Business.”

“And how many people died because of your business?” Inara asked. “How many?”

“That wasn't our affair.”

“See, what I find odd is that yours is one of the names on that document,” Mal said, stepping onto the dais and looking down at her. “You knew all about this from the start. Something you condoned.” He leaned forward, his fists knuckles down on the hard wood. “How many men and women did you make into spies, Adrienne? How many played your dirty little game?”


“I don’t care what you call it. How many?”

Dhow shrugged. “I don’t know.”


“Perhaps thirty.” She looked down her nose at him. “You make it sound as if all Companions were involved. Of course they weren't. Most never contract with anyone important enough. And some we couldn’t trust not to make a stupid fuss.” She glanced at Inara.

Mal felt a small knot of tension undo in his belly. Freya had been right. “It was enough.”

“We were protecting ourselves,” the man insisted. “Who knows what could have happened if we hadn’t.”

“The Independents would never’ve attacked a Guild House,” Mal said, his voice low. “So the only people you were protecting yours from were those you got into bed with. The damn Alliance.” He couldn’t hold the bark of laughter inside. “It’s almost sad.” The laughter died. “No wonder you thought you could watch over yourselves by killing Inara.”

The ice in his voice chilled the three people in front of him.

Dhow tried to bluff. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Really?” Mal stepped off the dais, finding the air too close to them to be full of the scent of decay. “Halliday knows.”

“He doesn’t –“ Dhow bit her tongue but it was too late. “And if we did? One life over so many?”

The woman next to her was horrified. “Adrienne, you can’t possibly –“

“Oh, don’t be so naïve, Ciaran. We had to protect the Guild.”

“But to kill someone?”

“She’s not important,” Adrienne said, not seeing the look on Mal’s face. “She’s not even a Companion any more.”

“Mal,” Inara breathed, seeing his fingers tighten on the butt of his gun.

Mal made his hand relax. “You’re right,” he said. “They ain't worth it.” He looked up. “So. That’s the deal. You leave Inara alone, we don’t let everyone know what you did. Simple.”

The man on the dais nodded. “Adrienne, I think we have to –“

“No. How do we know he won’t release it anyway?”

“You have my word,” Mal said.

“And you expect me to accept that?”

“I don’t care. My word as a Browncoat. As a man. Long as ‘Nara remains untouched, not harmed in any way, then that document stays locked up. If she gets hurt, or just vanishes, I’m holding you responsible. Then you’d better say goodbye to all of this.” He indicated the lush furnishings. “And that holds true for me and mine. Better just hope nothing happens to us.”

Adrienne glared at him, the look on her face proof positive that she’d just love to see him burst into flames and die a horrible death right in front of her.

The man tugged at her sleeve. “We have no choice, Adrienne.”

She continued to stare at Mal, but something inside her had given up. “Very well,” she ground out. “We will make sure nothing happens to Serra.”

“Or?” Mal prompted.

“Or your crew,” Dhow agreed grudgingly. “At least from our side. Somehow, I don’t think you make friends easily.”

Mal smiled, but it didn’t reach his eyes. “See? That was easy.” He looked back at his crew. “Time we were off this mudball.”

Inara put her hand on his arm. “Not yet.” She stepped forward, looking at the Triumvirate with all of her beauty and poise intact. “I always thought the Guild was my home. That, no matter what, the Guild were moral and honourable. I even blamed myself for what happened with my child, that I broke the rules put in place for my safety, my well-being. Now I see you for what you are. Not the Guild as a whole, but those in charge.”

She paused for a moment, sadness suffusing her face. “A good man died because of you. Because of the machinations of just a few who should have known better. And you’re going to get away with that. Part of me wants to stand by and watch what another man wants to do to you, to see this room run with your blood. But I will do what’s right, instead, no matter how much it hurts me.”

She fixed Dhow with a glare. “I used to look up to you. I don’t any more. But I do have to thank you. You’ve taught me a valuable lesson today, the last I’ll ever learn from the Guild.” She lifted her head, proud and magnificent. “No matter what I am, what I become, I'm better than you.”

She turned on her heel and walked out.

Mal watched her leave, admiring the steel inside that amazing frame, then turned back to the Triumvirate, sitting in stunned silence. “You know, talking of money …”

“So you are going to blackmail us?” Dhow asked.

“No. Just making a suggestion. It might be worth your while to consider releasing Inara’s accounts. I’m of the understanding that you kept all her money when she came to her senses and resigned from the Guild.”

“It’s Guild rules.”

“Yeah, well, you see I ain't ever really been that fond of rules. So I suggest you think about it somewhat.” He went to the doorway but paused. “Don’t go thinking this was my choice,” he said. “Someone else with more of a sense persuaded me. Personally I’d have been glad to see you grubbing in the dirt for pennies.” He strode out, the others at his back, leaving the Triumvirate staring after him.


Simon walked into the offices of Belgrade and Chou, situated in one of the smartest parts of Ariel City, dressed in his finest suit, his hair freshly trimmed and shining, his most supercilious face in place.

“Mr … Smith?” The man behind the desk looked up in surprise.

“Do I have the pleasure of addressing Mr Belgrade or Mr Chou?” Simon asked.

“Neither. Both have in fact been dead for some thirty years. But I am the senior partner, Leonard Myers.” He extended a hand but Simon didn’t take it. Instead he looked at it as if it were something entirely foreign to him. Myers awkwardly dropped it. “And what can I do for you, Mr Smith? And please, sit.”

Simon lowered himself into the chair opposite. “Mr Myers, my family is … influential. Well known.” Simon saw the flash of understanding cross the other man’s features, and the level of unctuousness increased. “And it is a matter of some delicacy on which I come today. On behalf of a friend.”

The accent he put on the word friend left Myers in no doubt as to the nature of that friendship. “And what it is we can do for you?”

“There is a certain document I would wish to place into your safekeeping. It is not to be opened, or passed to any person other than myself or to one of those names I shall give you.”

“I see.” Myers sat back. “Of course we can accommodate this. For a modest fee.”

“There is one other stipulation. The person who owns this document … if any harm befalls her, or she should go missing, the other names are to be notified. In the event that is not possible, the document is to be released to the public via every available channel.”

Myers raised his eyebrows. “May I ask the nature of this document?”

“You may not.” Simon crossed one immaculately clad leg over the other. “It is highly sensitive in nature, and in the wrong hands it could cause … problems.”

“And in the right ones?”

Simon smiled chillingly. “Problems of a different sort.”

“Of course.” Myers became business-like, even as one part of his mind was wondering at the ramifications of what this superior young man had said. It was almost worth finding out what might happen. “Do you have the document with you?”

“I do.” Simon reached into his jacket and withdrew a sealed envelope, a small device the size of a coin attached to the flap. “As you can see, it is tamper-proof. It isn’t that I don’t trust you, but … you are a lawyer.”

Myers laughed. “Indeed.” He stood up. “Follow me.”

He led the way down to one of the basement levels, stopping outside a vault where his fingerprints, retina and DNA scan allowed access to a room full of safety deposit boxes. “It’s amazing how many people don’t trust Alliance banks,” he said quietly, as if he were in a library or a church.


“Do you have a preference for the position?” He indicated the numbers available, obvious by their green lights.

“Perhaps something with a seaview?”

Myers smiled. “Of course.”

Simon pointed to one of the boxes. “That one.”

Myers nodded and passed his hand over the scanner attached to number 9503. The door opened and a shallow drawer slid out. “Please.”

Simon placed the envelope in the drawer and watched it disappear back into the wall. The door closed and the light went red.

Back in the office Myers brought up the delicate subject of the fee, naming an exorbitant amount. “Annually, of course.”

“Of course.” Simon put his hand into his pocket and came out with a wedge of cash. “I hope you don’t mind. I would rather this didn’t go through any … official channels.”

Myers eyes twinkled. “We’re happy to deal in currency.” He almost snatched it out of the young man’s fingers.

“An identical amount will be delivered to you on each anniversary of this date.”

“Splendid.” He slipped the money into his desk drawer.

“If the sum is late, please wait one calendar month, and then release the document.”

“As you direct. And the names?”

Simon held out a single sheet of paper. “The top name is the lady involved. As for the others … they will know the number, and my name. Nothing else.”

Myers took it, perused it just once before it followed the money into the drawer. “That is, of course, acceptable.”

Simon smiled slightly and stood up. “It was a pleasure doing business with you.”

“Any time,” Myers said, showing most of his teeth. “And please, recommend us to your friends.” He went to put out his hand but stopped.

“I shall.”

Myers watched the young man leave, intrigued as to his true identity. There was a certain resemblance to one of the Parliament members … perhaps a nephew. Or even a son. Myers preened himself and went back to count the cash.


Freya opened the door. “Thank you, Dr Yi,” she said, about to step out but stopping short in surprise. “Mal?”

Her husband was standing in front of her. “Hey.”

“I didn’t think you were … did you come to meet me?”

“I had a couple of things to do. Some stuff I had to pick up.”

“Oh.” She smiled, a little shakily.


She shrugged. “Not good. But it’s helping.” She pulled herself together. “Dr Yi thinks after the other three sessions we should … I should be on the way to … Mal, what is it?”

He was smiling at her. “Frey, give me your hand,” he said softly.


“As Simon keeps saying to little Bethie, not what, but pardon.” His smile widened a little. “Give me your hand.”

She held out her right, but he shook his head. “The other one.”

“The other …”

“Frey, you only got but the two.”

Freya held out her left hand, palm upward. “What’s this about?”

Mal took hold, turning it over. “See, I figured this looked a little bare,” he said conversationally, reaching into his pocket. “So I decided I oughtta do something about it.” As Freya stared, he slipped the two rings back onto her finger before lifting her hand to his lips. “Can’t recall how many times I’ve put these on now,” he whispered, kissing them gently. He looked up into her eyes. “I got them fixed. And don’t ever take them off again.”

“I … it wasn’t exactly my choice,” Freya pointed out feebly, her heart thudding in her chest. “Mal, I love you.”

“Good.” The schoolboy grin was back. “Here.” He held something else out to her.

“Oh, Mal.” Sitting on the palm of his hand was another gold ring, this one bigger. “Are you sure about this?” She lifted it up, turning it so it caught the light.

“You said once you liked the idea of me wearing a wedding band. Well, so do I.” He nodded. “You gonna do the honours?”

Freya licked suddenly dry lips, then slid the ring onto the third finger of his left hand. “You do realise I’m not going to let you get away from me now.”

“Wouldn’t want it any other way.” He pulled her into his arms, her body moulding to his, offering up a silent prayer that it would always be like this. “And no more talk of you leaving me for my own good. My good is you being next to me, for the rest of my life.”

She breathed him in deep, the warm brown smell of leather, the tang of black powder, the soap he used, the … the Mal-ness of him. “I promise,” she murmured, his essence filling her almost as much as when they were making love, and she felt warm, complete.

“Good.” He let go and stood back, leaving her a little bereft. “Got me something else to do, too.”

“Are you ready, Captain Reynolds?” Dr Yi asked from the doorway.

“What?” Freya managed to say.

“Just coming,” he said, not taking his eyes from his wife’s astonished face. “Wait for me?” he asked.

“Always.” She laughed, relief sliding through her.

Mal grinned and turned towards the diminutive doctor. “Got me a whole lot to talk about,” he said, gesturing with his hand for her to go first, then felt his heart thud happily as he saw the light glinting off the ring on his finger. “A whole lot.”

to be concluded - Epilogue


Wednesday, March 28, 2007 12:02 AM


Absolutely brilliant! I love the way Inara, Mal et al dealt with the odious triuvirate at the Guild House. That was so beautifully done and with great class, showing them up for the grubby immoral manipulators they really are. And Simon putting the original in that safe deposit box was faultless. Very satisfying. But little shippy soul that I am, I melted at the little Mal and Freya interaction right at the end. *Sigh*. Perfect! Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Wednesday, March 28, 2007 8:50 AM


Yay for seemingly happy endings - but I know there is much more fall-out from River's grief and I honestly can't wait to see that. I'm really curious as to how Jayne, Simon, Kaylee and the rest are going to help her ... I hope you're working on it!

This was great in that Inara's character was so true to form. She wouldn't allow herself to sink to their level, no matter how badly she wanted too. And I love the idea of Simon being the one to secure the document. It's so great when he can do something in his old "world," which is knowledge that can still be useful to the group.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007 2:00 PM


Utterly and completely spectacular, Jane0904! This chapter just oozed brilliance and carefully crafted character moments, especially with Inara's final words to the Triumvirate over her final "lesson."

Gotta ask though....was the safety deposit box's number intentional or is it just a stroke of fate that both Inara's demerit and the deposit box bear the same reference number? Cuz the former option is just all kinds of juicy, and the latter would be the kind of thing Joss & co would throw in to muddy the waters;D


Wednesday, March 28, 2007 2:50 PM


Really liked how you handled this conflict resolution. Mal really has grown as a character in this and everybody gets a turn to shine. Really a pleasure to read.


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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!]