Tall Ship - Part XIV
Sunday, December 16, 2007

Maya. Post-BDM. Mal remembers, and is reunited with his family. NEW AND CONCLUDING CHAPTER


“You did a good job,” Simon said, pulling Mal’s shirt back down. “A bigger scar than the ones he’s been used to lately, but it can’t have been easy.”

“No.” Hannah was standing stiffly, her arms wrapped around herself.

“And the cut will heal well. It isn’t deep. Probably not even leave much of a scar at all.”

“I've got enough of those already,” Mal said, smiling a little.

“I know. I've sutured more than I care to consider.” He dropped the detritus of his examination back in his bag.

“Watch it, doctor,” Mal added, the smile growing. “Or I might consider you’re not happy to have me back.”

“There were times I’d rather …” Simon stopped. “No. I am glad.” He pinked up a little. “But I think it’s time we got back to Serenity. Freya’s waiting.” He bit his lip. “Mal, there’s something I need to –“

“Can it wait a minute?”

“Well, I …” Simon began, then saw the look that passed between them. “Of course. I’ll … be outside in the mule.” He hurried out to where Zoe and Jayne were finishing cleaning up.

Mal stood up, pushing his shirt back into his pants. “I’m sorry,” he said, smiling sadly at her. “I wish I could be the man you wanted.”

She nodded. “I know.” A tear slipped down her cheek. “But you’ve got a family waiting for you. You’d best get …” She couldn’t stop the sob that broke out of her.

Suddenly Mal was standing close to her, holding her, his arms about her trembling body. “Shh,” he whispered. “Shh.”

“Don’t go,” she said through her weeping. “Stay here with us. Please, Ben.”

“Ain’t Ben,” he said regretfully. “Never was.”

“But we need you.” She leaned back to look into his blue eyes, so tender. “I need you.”

“Maybe you do.” He pushed the tears away with his fingers. “But I got a wife who needs me too. And more importantly, I need her. I love her, Hannah. With all my soul.”

“Don’t you care for me at all?”

He sighed. “I do. I care a lot. And if Frey wasn’t there, wasn’t waiting for me to come home, maybe …” He stroked her hair back. “But she is. I can feel her, Hannah. In here.” He tapped his temple. “And she loves me.”

“More than me?”

He nodded slowly. “Yes,” he said simply.

She looked at him, his face so understanding, so gentle, and pushed him away. “Then you’d best be getting to her. And tell her from me she’s lucky.”

Mal smiled. “No, Hannah. I’m the lucky one.” He glanced towards the bedroom, knowing Jonah and Rachel were inside. “Tell them goodbye from me.”

“Don’t you want to –”

“No. It’s hard enough without … just tell them …” He couldn’t finish.

She nodded. “Will you be back?”

He shrugged. “I … I don’t know.”

“Then you won’t.” She managed a smile. “Go on. Better get home. Your wife’ll be wondering where you are.”

“Hannah –”

“Go.” She pushed him gently.

“Thanks,” he said, backing away towards the door. “I mean it.”

“I know.” She smiled wider. “Go on. Git. I got work to do.”

He grinned at her, his hair flopping over his blue eyes, and was gone.

She stared at the door then slid to her knees, tears welling from her eyes as the sound of the hovermule got more distant.

“Momma?” Jonah called, opening the door to the bedroom a little, Rachel next to him.

She held out her arms to them, and they ran to her, hugging her tightly as the silence surged back in.


She was waiting. Standing at the bottom of the ramp, the breeze blowing through her hair, her eyes alive, yearning. She knew Kaylee, Hank and Sam were standing behind her, but she never glanced back, even once. She heard the hover before she ever saw it, and watched as it came into view.

See, said River in her mind, I told you.

Freya smiled as the vehicle came to a stop a few yards away, her eyes not leaving the man in the front seat. She’d felt it, at the very moment he’d said her name, that flash of his existence, burning into her mind, recreating the link between them, giving her her life back. She’d astonished Kaylee and Sam by sitting up on the medbed and laughing. And now he was home.

He leaped from the mule and strode across to her, taking hold of her. “Are you crazy?” he asked angrily, holding her at arm’s length. “Simon told me what you did … what you tried to do!” He shook her roughly.

She didn’t care. He was here. He was in front of her, touching her, his hand on her shoulders, alive. “Mal …” she whispered, smiling through her tears.

“How could you do that?” His anger was so bright it was almost outshining the sun. His grip tightened and he knew he was leaving bruises.

She welcomed it, the pain, knowing it was him, his fingers, his rage breathing sensation back into her. “I thought you were dead. I couldn’t feel you. I thought you were gone.”

“Frey, I come back. I always come back to you.” He glared at her. “Don’t you know this by now? Hasn’t that got into your tiny little mind, you sha gua chun zi?”

He was insulting her and she didn’t mind. She laughed, and it melted the fury in him. “Mal, I love you,” she said, reaching out to him.

“God, Frey,” he moaned, pulling her into him, feeling their bodies blending, their souls wrapped around each other. “Please don’t. Whatever happens, please don’t. I couldn’t bear it.”

She was crying, laughing, hardly able to breathe because he was holding her so tightly, one hand in her hair, the other pulling her even closer, and she didn’t care. He was here.

Behind them, Kaylee and Hank were hugging, jumping up and down in their excitement, Sam grinning wide enough to split his face.

“See,” said Bethany, holding Ethan’s hand. “I told you he was home.”

Mal and Freya turned, seeing the little girl, but mostly seeing their son standing next to her. She let go and he ran out, down the ramp towards his parents.

“Daddy!” he shouted.

Mal went down onto his heels, scooping him up. “Ethan!”

Freya was hiccupping now, her happiness bubbling over, holding them both.

Ethan stroked his father’s face, his little hand brushing over the beard on his cheeks. “Daddy,” he whispered. “You’re home.”

Mal grinned. “That’s right. I’m home.”


Hank checked the autopilot one last time, then leaned back, closing his eyes.

“Tired?” Zoe asked, coming up behind him on the bridge.

“Pretty much.”

“Here.” She put her hands on his shoulders and began to massage his neck.

“Oh, that is good.” He sighed in pleasure. “If you could bottle this I’d sell it on the Cortex and make my fortune.”

“I thought you were going to do that with those books you‘re writing?” Zoe reminded him.

“Them too. Once I finish them.”

“How many have you got on the go at the moment?” she asked, letting her hands wander down his chest a little.

“Oh, only about … about three.” His breath caught as she lightly scratched his nipple. “I threw the others out. They were crap.”

“And these ones aren’t?”

“No. These are good. It’s kind of a series, about this warrior woman who takes pity on a poor slob of a pilot and lets him take her to bed.”

“So lots of sex.”

“Oh, yeah, lots of that.”

Her lips twitched. “And you were thinking of doing more research?”

“Depends. Is Ben down for the night?”

“He is.”

“Come here.” He took hold of her wrists and pulled her around until she was sitting in his lap. “We’ve been through a lot these past few weeks, ain't we?”

“A hell of a way to start the year,” she agreed, running her fingers through his untidy brown hair.

“Think it’s gonna get better?”

“I’d hate to think it’s going to get worse.”

“You know, from what Jayne said, I’m surprised we left anyone alive back there on Three Hills.”

“There certainly does seem to be a high body count.” They’d dropped the corpses of Kendall and the other men they’d killed into the river, not wanting Hannah to have to explain anything. Besides, it seemed fitting somehow.

“Think that Hannah’s gonna be all right?”

Zoe looked into his grey eyes, seeing the honest concern for another human being in them. “She’ll be okay. She’s got her children.”

“But Frey –“

She kissed him softly, successfully derailing that train of thought. “Hank, I locked the door.”

“What?” She watched as realisation dawned and his eyes widened. “Oh.”

“Mmn,” she confirmed.

“Why didn’t you say?” He grinned and pulled her down to him.


Down in the cargo bay Sam and Jayne were sharing a cigar, preparatory to turning in for the night.

“Used to do this with the Shepherd,” the big mercenary admitted. “We’d work out, then have a cigar.”

“You know they’re not really good for you, don’t you?” Sam said.

“Don’t see you saying no.”

“That’s true.” Sam took a deep breath. “Besides, these are pretty fine.”

“Last of my stash. Been saving ‘em for a special occasion, and figure this is it. Hafta get some more, though.”

“Then you’d better let me pay for them.”

“Nah. They gotta be enjoyed by someone. Might as well be you.”

“Why … thank you, Jayne.”

“S’okay.” They sat in companionable silence for a moment. “So Frey gonna be okay now?”

Sam nodded slowly. “We’re going to talk. She’s asked me if I’ll … of course I said yes. But I think now Mal’s home she’s going to be okay.”

“But not right away?”

If Sam was surprised by the mercenary’s insight, he didn’t show it. “There will be bad days. Guilt feelings. Possibly nightmares of what might have been. But she’ll get over it.”

“She’s strong.”

“That she is.” Sam blew a perfect blue smoke ring. “You really like her, don’t you?”

“We got a lot in common, doc. I mean, not that I plan on sleeping with the Cap, you understand, but … we know each other. Maybe once I might’ve thought of taking her to bed, but … it was always Mal.”

“For her.”

“Oh, yeah.” Jayne growled a laugh. “’Sides, not sure what River’d say if I came out and said I’d turned sly and had feelings for the Cap.”

“You know that sort of thing is perfectly natural, don’t you?” Sam said, winding him up a little. “Even for a hot-blooded individual like yourself.”

“Not in a million years, doc, and I’d be careful who you go suggesting that to. If’n I weren't feeling full of the milk of human kindness right now – and some of Kaylee’s finest brew – I might show you just how natural that kind of thing is.”

“Why, Mr Cobb, are you propositioning me?”

Jayne glared at him, saw the little laughter lines around his eyes. “You know, the sooner we get you back to Inara and that regular sexing I'm sure you do, the better.”

“And you to River.”

“Even better,” the big man agreed. Blowing out one last cloud of smoke, he stood up, grinding out the glowing end of his cigar on the cradle of his weights. “And talking of which, I'm to my bunk. That little vixen of mine sent me a personal wave a few hours ago, and I think I’m gonna go watch it in private.”

Sam smiled. “I think I’ll stay here for a while.”

“Sure.” Jayne ambled across the bay floor to the stairs. “You feel like doing a set, you go ahead.”

“I think I’ll pass on that.”

“Suit yourself.” His boots rang on the metal treads as he climbed to the shuttle. “’Night.”

“Goodnight.” Sam watched the door close, and sat back. This certainly was an interesting crew.


“Do you practice that?” Freya asked, tucking the blanket a little closer around Ethan’s shoulders but not looking round.


“Standing just so in the doorway. And smiling like that.”

“You don’t know I'm smiling.” He paused. “Okay, maybe you know, but … how am I smiling anyway?”

“That slow smile. The one that begins with your eyes and ends up somewhere a lot further south. At least as far as I'm concerned.”

“You saying it affects you somewhat?”


“Care to elaborate?” He stepped up behind her, looking over her shoulder at their sleeping children.

“It’s a lazy smile like you’ve just taken the last of the cream and you’re licking it from your whiskers.”

“I mean how it affects you. And are you comparing me to a cat?”

“Maybe.” She leaned back a little into him. “You do currently have the whiskers.”

“I ain't a cat person. Never did see the point to them, truth be told. Just sitting all day in the sun …”


“Big time.”

“Good.” She turned and smiled at him, then walked back into the other room.

He followed, sliding the door to after him. He reached for her, but she moved away. He raised his eyebrows. “Frey?”

“You were attracted to Hannah.”

“Yes, I was. She was a nice lady.”

She busied herself tidying things for a moment. “Maybe she’s the kind of woman you need. Someone strong.” She moved her incense holder a fraction of an inch. “I gave in.”

Suddenly he was behind her, taking hold of her hand and making her turn to face him. “Freya, stop. Stop this right now. And damn well look at me.”

She slowly lifted her face, afraid of what she might see. But it was only love, a pure, earth-shattering love in his blue eyes. “I thought you might –“

“No. You didn’t think.”

“I saw her in your mind … I'm sorry. I thought you wanted someone who had never killed –“

He stopped her mouth with a kiss, long and tender, and when he needed to breathe again he moved away enough so he could speak. “I never did this with her, Frey. Never even kissed her. Because I knew it wasn't right. I knew I was yours, even if I couldn’t remember your name.” He felt the emotion in his chest almost overwhelm him. “I’d’ve come home to you somehow, my love. If it took a thousand years of wandering.”

She touched his Adam’s apple as he spoke, feeling it move under her fingertips. “Mal …”

“What’re you doing?” he asked gently.

“Making sure you’re real.”

“Real enough, xin gan.”

She shivered. “Mal …”

“You thought I’d never say it again, didn’t you? Call you that. My wife.”

“No. I didn’t. I never thought I’d hear your voice or touch you or taste you –“

He kissed her again. “Touch me, Frey. Taste me.”

She did as she was told then reached up to pat his beard lightly, just like their son had. “I don’t remember being kissed by a man with one of these before.”

He stroked the hair on his chin. “Don’t you like it? I think it makes me look distinguished.”

“It makes you look older.”

“That’s what I am, Frey. I'm a mean old man.” He grinned.

“No, you’re not. You’re my young, handsome, inexhaustible husband, and I’ll shoot anyone who says otherwise.”


“On a good day.” She sighed.

“You really don’t like the beard?”

“I suppose I could get used to it.”

“Then I guess I could shave.”

“Would you?”

He wrapped his arms around her even tighter. “Only for you, ai ren.”

“That’s nice. Or I could shave you.”

“Your hands stopped shaking yet?”

She laughed. “Not … maybe tomorrow?”

“I’ll put it in my diary.” He sighed and closed his eyes, resting his chin on her head. “You have to promise me something, Frey.”

She knew what he was going to say. “I wasn't thinking, Mal. I couldn’t. And the darkness got too close.”

“I know. But … there might come a time when I don’t come back. Not ‘cause I don’t want to, but …when that miracle doesn’t happen. You’ve got to promise you won’t do this again.”

She didn’t speak for a long time, and he thought she’d taken offence somehow, until her voice came softly from the depths of his chest.

“I was broken.”

“I thought that was River’s areas of expertise?”

“She doesn’t have the monopoly on being crazy, Mal.”

“Is that what you were?”

She looked up at him. “I was.”

“And now?”

“Not so much. Although I think I still need mending.” She pressed against him.

He raised one eyebrow. “If what I think you’ve got in mind is what you’ve actually got in mind, I’d like to point out I’m still recovering from a bullet wound.”

“How about if I say I’ll be gentle?”

Mischievousness twinkled in his blue eyes. “How about you say you won’t?”

She laughed then disengaged carefully from his arms. “First things first.” She walked to the shelf, reaching up for something. “Here.”

He stared at the wedding ring lying on the palm of her hand. “You found it?”

“Jayne did. Along with your gun.”

He shook his head slightly then looked up at her. “Gonna put it on me?”

“You want me to?”

“More’n anything, Frey.” He watched as she slid it onto his finger. “I think I'm still up on the number of times I’ve put my rings on you, though,” he said softly.

“Don’t take it off again,” she warned, then let herself be engulfed by him once more.


In the engine room Kaylee smiled as she put the broken catalyser back in its home.

“Momma?” Bethany stood in the doorway.

“Honey, you’re supposed to be asleep.”

The little girl grinned. “Too happy to sleep.”

Her mother sighed with joy. “Know what you mean.” She sat down on the edge of the engine and held out her arms, her daughter running to her and jumping into her lap. “Oof, you’re getting heavy,” she commented, cuddling her.

“Growing up.”

“Not too fast.”

“Fast enough. Just right. Uncle Mal said so.” She snuggled closer. “Are we going to pick up Auntie River now?”

“That we are. And I think Uncle Jayne’s pleased about that.”

“He’s thinking about her,” Bethie admitted. “Icky things.” She grimaced.

Kaylee laughed. “See, that’s what comes of peeking.”

“I know. But it’s family.”

“That it is.” Kaylee smiled. “Well, I'm too wired to sleep, so how about you give me a hand? There’s a few things need doing.”

“For Serenity?” Bethie’s face was shining.

“For Serenity.” She put her daughter onto the floor. “Better go get changed, though,” she added. “Gonna get greasy.”

“Yes, Momma!” She ran out of the engine room, almost colliding with her father on the way.

“Are you making her work for her living now?” Simon asked, leaning in the doorway.

“Can’t sleep,” Kaylee admitted. “Neither of us.”

“Me neither.” He grinned at her, his face more relaxed than it had been in weeks, and she felt a rush of love for him. “So how about I go get changed too, and we both help out?”

Kaylee giggled. “Could be fun.”

“Or maybe I’ll just persuade Bethie to try to get to sleep again.”

“Heard that!” came a little voice up the stairs. “Icky!”

A.N.: In case there is anyone out there wondering about the title, it is from a John Masefield poem, which I quote: ‘I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky, and all I ask is a tall ship, and a star to steer her by.’ It just seemed … appropriate. Jane


Sunday, December 16, 2007 4:11 AM


A nice fluffy ending. I was worried that Hannah might have further repercussions from the bad guys that were left. It would have been interesting for Hannah and Freya to meet, but that might have just been too hard on both.

Sunday, December 16, 2007 4:20 AM


Excellent conclusion, though I somehow imagined Mal's reaction to the news about Freya's attempted suicide to be more severe. Somehow I think we might be reading more about that in future arcs though, so I'll eagerly await your next tale! This one was terrific!

Sunday, December 16, 2007 4:29 AM


I very much enjoyed this tale, and I loved your Tall Ships reference. I liked how you portrayed Jayne in town, life at Hannah's, and Mal grasping at straws. Like others, I enjoyed the moment when he called Jonah "Ethan". I do have to say that I don't think I could easily forgive Freya.
(I apologize for not commenting earlier, I've been keeping a low profile around here.)

Sunday, December 16, 2007 4:31 AM


Yes, it would be very hard for both Freya and Hannah to meet but I agree it would be interesting.

I loved this story and the fluffy ending.You have such a sense of character that the stories seem to flow effortless (yet, I know from experience that sometimes they don't

Sunday, December 16, 2007 11:23 AM


I think you rounded this off perfectly and am actually glad Hannah and Freya never met, it would have made a tangle out of something that should now go smooth. Loved all the crew reactions though I would have loved to have seen Mal hug Kaylee and thank Jayne. Maybe once he loses the beard. Another great story, *xie xie ni*, Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Sunday, December 16, 2007 1:20 PM


Great story, one I really enjoyed. Lot's of angstyness, ( is that a word? )
and a good, strong, completely believeable ending. Well done, well done! Thanks for the effort!

Monday, December 17, 2007 6:48 AM


Thanks for bringing us another wonderful story.


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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!]