Tall Ship - Part II
Monday, December 3, 2007

Maya. Post-BDM. Serenity's crew believes Mal is dead, and they begin to deal. NEW CHAPTER


Simon had brought Freya round from her faint, waving a broken capsule under her nose, but it was as if she’d left part of herself behind in the darkness of unconsciousness. There was something missing from her as she walked out of the sheriff’s office, carrying Mal’s browncoat, the others following as they headed back to the Firefly.

“What do we do now?” Simon whispered to Zoe.

“I … I don’t know,” the dark woman admitted. “It’s not like we can have a funeral, but … I don’t know.”

“I can’t believe Mal’s dead.”

Zoe looked at him. “There were times when we neither of us thought to be coming home, to Serenity or anywhere else,” she said softly. “When we thought it was gonna be our last sight of the sun, or the moon, or the shell-filled darkness of a battlefield. But we always came for each other. Were there, to save each other.” She shook her head. “Only this time I wasn’t.”

“Do you think there’s any chance he might have survived?”

For a long moment she allowed herself the possibility of hope, then she saw again in her mind’s eye the river, the huge lumps of debris crashing into the rocks. “Don’t see how, Simon. Not with the way that water was running. But without a body …”

“Then maybe -”

“No. No, there ain’t.” She glanced towards the woman walking in front of them. “Most I think we can look forward to is news of his body being found, and if that river goes into the sea, that ain’t likely either.”

“It’s my fault,” Jayne said, his arm wrapped around River’s shoulders as she stumbled along, lost inside his coat that he’d insisted she put on. “Told me to get the cash back to the boat.”

“Why’d he do that?” Hank asked.

“In case Barrick tried to get a refund, I guess.”

“You think it was him?”

“Nah. He ain’t one to do that. Too afraid of his own shadow.”

“But if someone thought Mal had cash on him …”

“We don’t know it was because of that,” Zoe put in quickly.

“Yeah, but if I’d been with him -”

“No-one’s blaming you.”

“Hell, Zoe, I am! If’n I’d stayed, walked back with him, Mal … Mal’d still be alive.” His face darkened. “And Freya’d not be dying inside right now.”

“Pain,” River whispered. “So much pain she’s trying to hide from it.”

“That what she’s doing, moonbrain?” He looked down at her. “Anything we can do?”

“Bring Mal back.”

“Wishin’ we could,” Jayne said fervently as Serenity’s bulk loomed up. “Truly wishin’ we could.”

Freya walked up the ramp.

Kaylee was standing in the middle of the cargo bay, Bethany holding tightly to her leg. “Frey?”

She didn’t answer, didn’t even see her, just climbed the metal staircase, a pile of stiff brown leather in her arms.

The mechanic turned to the others. “Tell me it ain’t true,” she begged, tears coursing down her cheeks. “Not the Captain.”

Simon pulled her into his arms, feeling Bethany shivering against him. “I’m sorry, bao bei. It’s true.”

“No …” Kaylee wailed. “Mal …”

Jayne helped River up the stairs to their shuttle, closing the door, but not before the sound of crying reached those left in the bay.

Hank swallowed. “We … we have to tell Inara,” he said, feeling numb.

“I’ll do it. Better coming from me,” Zoe said quickly.

“Not good coming from anyone,” Simon pointed out, half turning towards her.

“No. But with Freya like this …”

“Are you sure you don’t want me to?” the young doctor offered. “I’ve … I’ve passed on bad news before.”

“Thanks, but … I’m first mate - it’s my job.” She walked slowly up the steps towards the bridge. “Better look to your wife and daughter.”

“God, what about Ethan?” Hank said suddenly. “If he’s picked up on any of this …”

“He’s in the nursery upstairs,” Kaylee said, trying to control the sobs that wanted to break out fresh. “Zoe, he knows. He’s -”

Before she could finish the door to the shuttle above them flew open, and River ran along the catwalk, disappearing through the doorway, even as Jayne followed her out and stood staring after her.

“I think she’s taking care of that,” Zoe commented, feeling as if the weight of the world were on her shoulders.


“No! Dear Buddha, no!” Her hand was at her throat, and from the paleness of her complexion Zoe wondered whether Inara was about to faint. “Tell me you’re joking.”

“I wish I was, Inara.” She wanted to break down herself, but she had to keep control. “I really wish I was.”

“But are you sure?” Tears were falling onto the satin of her dress, the stains almost hidden amongst the embroidery. “I mean, did you … did you see him?”

“No.” Zoe couldn’t stand the sudden look of hope on Inara’s face. “He went into the river. But we have his coat. There’s a bullet hole right where -”

“No!” Inara almost screamed, and Sam hurried into range of the vid.


“Oh, Sam! Sam!” She clung to him, her body shaking.

“What is it?” He looked at the screen. “Zoe?”

“Mal’s dead.” There. She’d said it again. So easy. Two words. Eight letters. And it felt like every single one of them were cutting into her heart.

All trace of colour left Sam’s olive skin, and his grip tightened on the woman in his arms. “What happened?”

“Not sure.” Zoe went over the bare details, the few facts they knew, seeing Inara collapse even more.

“Are you … do you know he‘s dead?” Sam asked, but the grey tone in his face made it obvious he believed her.

“Pretty much.”

Fo bang yu-zhou.” He closed his eyes for a moment. “How’s Freya?”

Inara looked up, her face a mask of guilt. She hadn’t asked.

“Not good.” Zoe glanced over her shoulder. “She’s just sitting in the galley, staring at the Captain's … at Mal’s coat.”

“Is that all -”

“All we found.” She tried to swallow back the lump forming in her throat. “She‘s just sitting. Hasn‘t even been to see Ethan and Jesse, and that little boy‘s -” She stopped, aware even with the grief planted in her chest that this wasn‘t necessarily a secure line. “She just sits. And it‘s been more‘n seven hours since she … since we lost him.”

“We were … we were out on a picnic,” Inara said, a complex range of emotions in her eyes, but mostly disgust that they should be having fun when her friends were dying.

“You couldn’t know, Inara,” Zoe assured her, wishing someone would do that for her.

“You have to get her to talk,” Sam put in. “Zoe, you have to get her to talk. It’s imperative.” He let his profession give him a veneer of calm. “Shout, scream, throw things … anything except just sitting.”

“She’s not said a word either, not since we got back.”

“Then you have to make her. Zoe, talk to Simon. He’ll know what to do, and if he needs help tell him to wave me.”


“And watch her.”

Inara stiffened. “Sam, you don’t think she’d -”

“I hope not. But from what I saw of their relationship, the way they‘re so jian zhen bu qu …”

“No, please, not that.” If anything Inara went even whiter in his arms.

Sam looked down at her. “I’m not saying she will, but it’ll be wise to keep an eye on her.”

Zoe nodded, understanding, remembering what it was like to lose a husband, to have half of herself ripped away. “I will.”

“If there’s else anything I can do …”

“Not sure there is.”

“Are you coming here? I can talk to Freya, help her to -”

“I don’t know, Sam. I suppose it’s up to her now.”

“Zoe,” Inara broke in urgently.


She nodded her head, having seen behind her what Zoe hadn’t.

The first mate turned, then stood quickly, facing the woman standing in the bridge doorway. “Freya.” She glanced back at the screen. “I was just -”

She may as well not have spoken. “Get hold of Barrick. We need to know the arrangements Mal made.”


“He got us a job, and it’s a tight schedule, I know that, and if we don‘t go now we won‘t make it. Got paid half, too. Jayne has the money.”

“Frey -”

“We have a reputation to think about. So we do the job. Get it done.” She turned and walked away, passing Hank as he turned the corner from the cargo bay. He watched as she went back into the galley, sitting down again by Mal’s coat lying on the table.

“Honey?” Hank climbed the steps to the bridge.

Zoe shook her head and turned back to the screen. “Sam …”

The therapist was firm. “I need to speak to her. Soon. Can you get her here?”

“You heard her. She wants us to finish the job.”

Sam thought for a moment. “Then you’d better do it. But get to Lazarus soon as you can.”

They gazed at each other over the wave, and Zoe nodded. “I will.”

“We’d better go. Let you do what you need to,” Inara said, drawing herself up. “But please … let me know if you hear anything else.”

“Goes without saying, ‘Nara.”

“Thank you.”

The screen went to static and Zoe turned it off.

“You can’t be serious,” Hank said softly.

“I am. So was she.” She took a deep breath. “Get hold of Barrick.”

“Zoe, how can she …” He couldn’t find the words.

“Just get him.”

“But what about -”

“Do it, Hank.”

He nodded, about to slide into the pilot’s chair, but a sound behind them had them turn. The hatch above the captain’s bunk had opened, and River climbed out, followed a moment later by Ethan, still clutching his stuffed alligator. He looked up at her, and she nodded. Hesitantly at first, then picking up speed until he almost fell down the steps into the galley, he ran to his mother, skidding to a halt in front of her.


She dragged her eyes unwillingly from the coat on the table, looking at him as if she didn’t know who he was at first, then recognition bloomed in her eyes, and she leaned forward, lifting him onto her lap. He wrapped his arms around her, tangling his hands in her shirt, his little chest heaving with sobs as his tears soaked into her clothes.

“Mama!” he whispered, and all the pain he was feeling reflected back to her, filling her mind.

“It’s okay, Ethan,” she murmured, holding him close. “It’ll be okay.”

“Daddy …”

I know. She couldn’t speak, couldn’t do anything but hold him as she stared at the leather coat over his shoulder. It was so stiff, unyielding. So empty …

- - -

He’d had a coat. He was sure of that. But it had snagged on something, tried to drag him down, and he’d … he thought he remembered pulling his arms out of it, but maybe that was a dream.

He wished the pain was a dream. His head hurt, but the worst was the biting agony in his belly. He managed to turn over and tried to find out what … oh, no. Not going to do that again. He’d screamed as his fingers explored the hole, the blood still oozing thickly from it, and he almost blacked out again. The pain in his hand and head was almost secondary.


A voice. A voice pulling him back to the cold and the …

“Mister? You dead?”

Another, different this time, but still …


He managed to force open his eyes, seeing a face swim into view.

“You lie still.” The words were there in his brain, so he must have heard them, but he didn’t know what they meant. “Jonah, go get the cart.”

“Yes, Ma.”

“He gonna be alright?”

“I don’t know. Not sure he ain’t dead.”

“He ain’t, Ma. Saw his chest move.”

“Well, he will be if we don’t get him into the house and warm him over.”

He wanted to tell them to leave him be. Moving would be worse than just lying here, and he just wanted to go back to sleep. Easier. He tried to speak, to …

“Lie still, mister. Else you’ll tear yourself open, and then nothing on God’s earth is gonna save you.”

God? Since when did He ever do anything right? He drifted into the darkness.

to be continued


Monday, December 3, 2007 7:43 AM


Poor, poor Ethan. Somehow even worse than Freya, though Freya was bad enough. And Zoe. And Kaylee. And River. Geez, just everybody!

Monday, December 3, 2007 8:57 AM


Freya taking charge and doing the job even though she's tore up. Very well done.

Monday, December 3, 2007 1:53 PM


HA! I knew you wouldn't kill Mal, lol. Great by play between everyone though. Everything seems just right, especially Zoe assuming the responsibility for notifying Inara. And Frey stepping up to make sure they can keep flying. Great work, but I've come to expect that from you :)

Monday, December 3, 2007 2:00 PM


Angst, sorrow and a little hope at the end. Well done as always!

Monday, December 3, 2007 2:27 PM


Oh Wow, I was that close to my gorram heart stopping, the only thing keeping a little hope still going the fact that they hadn't found a body. Glad to see at the end that our doughty Captain isn't dead and that kindly folk are looking to do their best for him. Boy though, you are so good at piling on the angst. Poor Freya, poor Ethan - gorramit, poor everybody! And Jayne feeling all manner of guilty for not waiting and walking back with Mal. Ali D
You can't take the sky from me

Monday, December 3, 2007 6:09 PM


You've managed a new level of angsty here, even for you. Wow. Loved the way you worked Sam into this and in a way that's just perfect for him. Looking forward to more! Why do I get the feeling that the head injury was on purpose?


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“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!]

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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.

“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!]

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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.

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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.

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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!]