Playing Parts - Part XV
Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Maya. Post-BDM. In which the final performance starts, Mal gets more than he bargained for, and we meet the real Janith. NEW CHAPTER.


Act VII cont – Borodin

In the room set aside for the actors to get ready, Jayne tugged the meat off a chicken leg with his teeth.

“I don’t know how you can do that at a time like this,” Freya complained, just the sight of the man eating making her feel sick.

“At a time like what?” He peered at her.

“Just because you’re not going to go on tonight doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have sensibilities for those of us that are.” She took a deep breath, trying to ignore the smell of food.

“With a spread like this?” Jayne swept his arm to take in the array of delicacies laid out for them by the Bose servants. “You crazy?”

“I wish I was playing Puck,” Noni said, her voice and face the picture of sadness. “I really enjoyed it.”

“You were good, too,” the big man said around a mouthful of chicken.

“Don’t suppose I’ll ever get the chance to do it again.”

River sat down next to Freya, leaning against her. “It will be all right,” she said softly.

“You sure about that? I can’t help feeling that something is about to go wrong.”


“Hope so.”

River nodded towards the professional actors who were congregated the other side of the room, checking each other’s costumes. “Have you noticed how, now they’re all together, we’re not?”

“You mean it’s us and them again?”

“The Troupe and the Firefly.” River giggled. “Sounds like the title of a play. Perhaps I should write it.”

“Is it a tragedy?”

“A mystery. With love thrown in.”

Freya finally smiled. “That I like.”


“Tesler, it’s time.” Clara stood in the doorway of the study. “And you’re neglecting our guests.”

He looked up at her, a mixture of amusement and resignation in his eyes. “Clara, you know you’re the one they’ve come to see.”


“They like you.”

She fluttered into the room, coming around the back of his desk so she could adjust his collar. “They like you too, silly.”

“They tolerate me. They have to. I'm their landlord, after all.”

“And they all have marvellous houses, big estates, thanks to you.”

“Which they have to pay for.” He stood up in an attempt to get away from her fussing hands. “And rich people never like to spend money. It’s why they’re rich.”

“Tesler!” She slapped him lightly on the chest. “You make it sound as if you’re poor.”

“I have been. I know what it’s like. And I don’t intend for it to be that way again.”

She laughed. “Of course it won’t be.” She took his hand, feeling his wrap his fingers around it. “But they will be wondering if you’re late for the performance.”

“Clara, do I have to? I've really got work to do here.” He indicated the papers spread across the leather-topped desk.

“No.” She was putting her foot down. “You’re coming.”

“Very well.” He sighed. “Let me just …” He turned to the safe, tucking a handful of documents back inside and closing the door. He span the tumblers, then pushed it back into its recess, the wall dropping into place.

“You know, you should get one of those handprint scanner ones,” Clara said, her head slightly to one side. “That’s so old-fashioned.”

“And all anyone would have to do is cut off my hand to open it. At least like this they’d have difficulty getting the numbers out of my head.”

She made a moue of distaste. “I hope you’re not intending to talk like that in front of our guests.”

“No, dear.” He held out his arm. “Shall we?”


Riley hurried back from the doorway. “Bose is here,” he said.

Theo nodded and looked at Kaylee. “Are you ready with those lights of yours?”


“Then, everyone … break a leg.”

Freya winced. “I hate it when he says that.”


Mikel watched as Bose and his wife took their seats among the other guests, and waited as the lights went down, and the ballroom was only illuminated by the great fires at either end, gentle music barely on the edge of hearing in the background. Then slowly the glow increased, and Theo and Etta walked onto the stage.

He studied the audience, making sure none were likely to get up and interrupt, and noted even a large number of the servants of the house had squeezed into the back of the room, intent on the action unfolding in front of them.

Taking a deep breath, he slid back around the pillar and out the side door, fading into the shadows like the professional he was.


Mal tailed her, not close enough so that he’d be easy to pick up, but not far enough to lose her. Not that she seemed to be worried about being followed. Which in itself was something of a worry. Most of the household staff might be peeking in on the big performance, but she still walked through the house like she owned it.

She went round a corner, and he paused, praying she didn’t turn her head. Seemed like his luck was in as she carried on.

It was just a second, less than that, a brief reflection in the mirror that she caught before he was invisible again.

That’s it, Janith thought. Come to Momma. She smiled.


Tesler Bose felt his wife nudge him every so often in case he fell asleep, and he was more than a little disgruntled. It was his own house, for heaven’s sake. He should be allowed to doze if he wanted. After all, it was warm, the lights were low … and here she was poking him with her sharp elbow like she did in bed. He sighed, but quietly.

At least the actresses in this damn play were easy on the eye. Particularly the little one playing … what was it? Hermia? He almost laughed out loud. Stupid name for a character, so he was probably wrong. And the other one, playing her friend. She was something, too. Tall and powerful. Just the kind of woman to warm a man at night.

I frown upon him yet he loves me still.

I give him curses, yet he gives me love.

Oh, and the language. Why couldn’t they just talk properly?

The more I hate, the more he follows me.

The more I love, the more he hateth me.

Bose sighed again and tried to see his watch in the gloom. How much longer was this going to go on for?


Janith had stopped by a heavy wooden door. She was listening, checking that there was no-one inside, then reached into her ample bosom. A few moments later there was a click and the door swung open. She stepped through.

Mal was in something of a quandary. Tesler Bose wasn't exactly a friend of his, and he didn’t care much if this woman stole the shirt off his back. But he wasn't alone here. Not just his crew, either, but the Hawkins Troupe. If she got caught, or even if she didn’t, it could make life really awkward for all of them. He cursed the fact that he hadn’t brought a com with him, couldn’t call Jayne or Zoe for help, and by the time he’d gone and found one or other of them she’d be long gone.

Still, he might be able to persuade her. Checking the corridor he moved forward, his booted feet making not a sound on the thick carpet. The door moved at his touch, its hinges well oiled, and he walked two paces into the room.

Hoe-tze duh pee-goo,” Mal muttered and stopped, feeling the cold of a metal barrel pressed against his neck. Very carefully, very slowly, he turned his head enough to see who had the drop on him. “Well, well,” he said. “Looks like I was right. Hello, Saffron.”

“Hello, hubby.”


Ill-met by moonlight, proud Titania.

What, jealous Oberon? Fairies, skip hence: I have forsworn his bed and company.

Bose was ready to order his men to kill, he was so bored.


Saffron smiled at him, like they were old friends.

“Not your husband. Proved that on Boros.” Mal hooked his thumbs into his pockets, making sure his hands went nowhere near his weapon.

“But to me you’ll always be special.”

“So special you’re holding a gun on me?”

“Absolutely.” She glanced down at his gunbelt, but her hand didn’t move. “Speaking of which, drop it.”

“Saffron, I really think we should talk about this.”

“After you take off the belt.”

Mal sighed heavily and unbuckled his gun, laying it carefully on the back of the chair. “Least you ain't told me to strip.”

“Don’t tempt me.”

“So now what?”

“I do what I came to do, and I leave you here to take the blame.”

“Really. Sounds almost familiar.”

“There’s jewels in Tesler’s safe, and I intend to have my share. Well, actually a lot more than my share, but who’s counting?”

“Tesler?” His eyebrow raised. “You know our host?”

“I know lots of people, sweetie.”

“Marry him too?”

She was saved from having to answer by the door bursting open and three men rushing in, armed with the very latest in stun rifles, the kind that were very painful as well as efficient.

“Don’t move,” the first one ordered.

Qingwa cao de liumang,” Saffron spat.

“You know, for once, I think I agree with you,” Mal said, wondering if his life was always going to be like this. Or, in fact, whether it was going to turn out to be surprisingly short.


Maybe not shoot. Perhaps roast, over a slow fire, with music to drown out the screaming.

Fetch me this herb, and be thou here again ere the leviathan can swim a league.

Or gutting. With a blunt knife.

“Sir.” One of his underlings was at his side, whispering close to his ear.


“Want to explain to me what’s going on?” Mal asked, sitting in one of the armchairs in front of the desk. He had to admit it was one of the more comfortable places he’d been held at gunpoint in, but that didn’t improve his temper.

“I was just taking a walk!” Saffron insisted, next to him.

“Looking like that. Oh, and, by the way? The hair colour? Nah.”

She glared at him. “You always were a gentleman.”

“And you were always after the main chance.” He crossed his legs carefully so that the man pointing the stun rifle at him didn’t take it personally. “So why are you here?”

“I'm an actress. With the Hawkins Troupe.”

He couldn’t help the laugh that burst from his chest. “You?”

“Me. I'm very good.”

“Oh, of that I've no doubt.” A light went on in his brain. “So you’re the elusive Janith?”

“I am.”

“How many names have you actually had, girl?”

“Always one more,” she said, sticking her tongue out at him.

“And your manners ain't improved.”

“That they haven’t.” Tesler Bose came into the room and walked past them to sit at his desk. “But then, your manners weren't what first attracted me to you, was it, Lorelei?”

“Lore … Lorelei?” Mal stared at her.

“It’s just a name, sweetie.”

“And not even her real one,” Bose said.

“Oh, I know that," Mal agreed. "My wife’d be the one to tell you all about her.”

“I don’t need to ask.”

“Then you’ll know all about her tendencies to marry any man that comes along.”

“You too?”


“I didn’t let her get that close.”

“You should be proud.”

”Oh, I am.” Bose shook his head. “But that doesn’t mean I don’t hate people trying to steal from me.”

“Hey, I was an innocent bystander here!” Mal insisted.

“Bystander, perhaps. But innocent? I doubt it.” He leaned forward suddenly. “I know all about you, Captain Reynolds. And I doubt you’ve been innocent for a very long time.”

“Not since the rehab camp on Santo, maybe.” Mal’s eyes hardened. “That’d break the innocence out of most folks.”

“Santo?” Bose shook his head. “Sorry, I don’t know what you’re talking about.”


“Where’s Mal?” Freya asked, dabbing at her face carefully to avoid damaging the make-up.

“No idea,” Jayne said. “He went back to the ship, last I heard. Mebbe he fell asleep?”


“Can’t you tell?” Kaylee asked, adjusting Bethany’s wings.

“It’s …” She tried to concentrate, but only got a vague impression of resignation tinged with anger. Everything else was overlaid with the play.

The big mercenary could sense her frustration. “Want me to go find him for you?” he suggested.

She flashed him a grateful smile. “Would you? And tell him from me he’s got some explaining to do when he finally does show.”

to be continued


Wednesday, November 14, 2007 2:11 AM


So finally the game has gone pear shaped for Mal. Hope they can talk their way out of this one. So we still have to learn what Mikel is doing, and Theo. Was Saffron their distraction? The plot is still very thick!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007 3:49 AM


I do love Mal and Saffron banter! Good chapter!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007 1:05 PM


Ah, that explains it! Janith is yet another of Saffron's false names. I just hope Bose doesn't think Mal is up to his neck in that little *pofu's* nefarious scheme. And why is it neither River nor Freya have an inkling of anything being wrong? Ali D
You can't take the sky from me


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