Slender Thread - Part XI
Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Maya. Post-BDM. At least Serenity's still in one piece, but there's no option now but to go to the last resort. NEW CHAPTER


“Cap, I gotta say, there’s no guarantee it’ll work.” Kaylee held back on her anger at Mal hitting her husband, for whatever reason, or however warranted it may have been.

“Don’t have a choice. And Wash was convinced it would.”

“I been looking at it, checking out what he did.” She shrugged. “Maybe it will. But it’ll mean turning everything off. Literally. We ain't got main life support now, and there’s no guarantee anything’ll come back on. And I’m gonna have to use the power from auxiliary life support to push through Wash’s system, make it boot up, and –”

Mal put his hands on her shoulders, made her look into his eyes. “Kaylee. If the auxiliary goes down anyway we’ve got maybe, what, two hours air left? Then we’re gone. Doesn’t matter if the ship blows up, or the airlocks open. We won’t be around to feel it. And Zoe and the kids’ll be stranded. If you can come up with another option, fine, I’ll be mighty glad to hear it. But right now, this is it. And we don’t have time to be putting this to a vote.”

She stared into his face, seeing the determination there, and it seemed to transfer from his skin to hers. “Hao de,” she said quietly.

“Good girl.”

She pushed past him and started flicking switches on the panels above her workstation, muttering to herself under her breath. “Need to invert the polarisation in case it tries to … then block the …”

“Anything I need to be doing?” Mal interrupted.

She didn’t even look round. “Get to the bridge. If this works, you’ll be able to power up, stop us. I’ll have to stay here, get her running again by hand.”

“You want Simon?”

“Better,” Kaylee conceded. “There’s more’n I can do alone.”

“Doc,” Mal ordered.

“In all honesty I think I’d rather stay with my wife anyway,” Simon said, rubbing his jaw, the bruise beginning to show already. “I wouldn’t want to get punched again.”

“That?” Mal smiled. “Just a love tap, doc.” He put his hand on the younger man’s shoulder and squeezed gently before striding for the bridge.

Simon watched him go, the torchlight bobbing along the corridor. “Does he really believe this is going to work? Do you?” he asked.

“Don’t know. I honestly don’t.” She glanced at him. “’Though I'm thinkin’ he kinda has to. Being Captain ‘n’all.”

“I suppose so.” He took a deep breath. “So what do I do?”


Mal sat at the controls, his fingers rubbing gently around the yoke. “Now, you don’t wanna kill me, do you?” he said softly, only speaking to Serenity. “’Cause there are ways and means to do that, and if you’ve decided to, then I’d rather you let the others go first. Me, I’ll stay on board and you can do what you will with me. And I conjure it ain't gonna be pretty. But you let the others get off first, dong mah?”

Are you talking to yourself again, Mal? he heard in his brain, and he smiled.

Hell, no-one else is listening.

I am.

I think I’ve always known that. He felt her grin, although he’d be hard pressed to say how. You and Hank somewhere warm?

Now it was laughter. I don’t think I can honestly say that. We’re at the back of the bay, and Hank’s counting his fingers to make sure he didn’t lose any jumping inside just as you went to burn, but I can’t in all truth say we’re warm. I’ve even been looking at Jayne’s weights, thinking I could get a set or two in, just to get the old blood pumping, but I decided not to.

Good idea. Can’t have you being muscle-bound.

So you wouldn’t love me if I looked like a female Jayne?

As much as he tried to suppress the mental image, and the shiver that it set up, he wasn’t quick enough, so instead he covered it with bluster. I think I’d love you no matter what you looked like. Loved you when you were barefoot and pregnant, didn’t I?

According to Ethan, I looked like a whale, she pointed out.

Only if whales are beautiful.


He looked up, seeing Simon standing at his shoulder. He felt a blush burn up his chest, as if their conversation had been heard by everyone. “Doctor. Everything ready?” he asked, sitting up straighter.

The young man’s mouth twitched, having seen the smile on Mal’s face as he approached the pilot’s chair. He filed it away for later reference. And possible blackmail. “According to Kaylee.”

“So what do we do?”

“Nothing. She’s hotwired Wash’s alterations into the main panel.” He pointed to the red button attached to the side of the console. “Hit that, and it runs.”

Mal licked his lips, remembering the last time he tried to use it. “That?”

“It doesn’t call us back, but maybe it does save us this time,” Simon said, nodding gently.

Mal took a deep breath, expelling it slowly. “Okay. And how long after that?”

“Kaylee says five minutes. To be on the safe side.”

“Okay.” He stared at the button. “Okay.”

Simon began to fidget. “Do you want me to –“

“No, no. I’ll do it. Just wishing I didn’t feel as if I weren't signing my death warrant.”

“Believe me, Mal, it’s not as bad as it sounds. Not when you have family with you.”

Mal looked up in surprise, seeing the friendship on the other man’s face. “Guess not.” Without another thought, he plunged his hand against the button, and every single light still shining on the boards in front of them died.


Freya felt the ship grow silent. Not that there had been any overt vibration, not once the burn had been halted, but somehow it was obvious to her. She could tell there was no power running through the ship at all, and it was clear in the tension level amongst those still on board.

She glanced at Hank. He was sitting back against the bulkhead, his wrists on his knees, as comfortable as possible in the suits they still wore – which wasn’t much – and she could detect his thoughts were with Zoe and Ben, and the other children to a lesser extent. He’d figured out what had happened, that the shuttle had been left in the Firefly’s wake, but he wouldn’t believe that they weren't going back for them. He knew they would, with a strength that almost glowed in the darkness.

Simon had rejoined Kaylee, and they sat together on the lip of the engine, hand in hand. He was listening to his heart beating, feeling the pulse in her fingers synchronising with his, even as he was unconsciously going through the effects of oxygen deprivation in something like too-graphic detail.

Freya winced as he detailed the anatomical changes, one by one, then took a sharp breath as she realised that, with his free hand, he was fingering a hypo in his pocket, and was ready to use it if the situation became desperate. He wouldn’t allow his wife to suffer, no matter what. Only one dose, though. Freya could feel that, if he had to use it, he was determined to endure every last stroke of agony for doing so.

In contrast, Kaylee was praying. Not to any God, unless it was the God of makers of Fireflies, but just to whatever was out there, praying that she was a good enough mechanic to have understood what Wash had intended, and that she hadn’t just killed them all.

Both of them were thinking, on a much deeper, more emotional level, about Bethany and Hope, of seeing them growing up, maybe with children of their own. Of wanting to be there to witness life going on.

And Mal?

He was alone on the bridge, enduring the longest five minutes of his life. What if he was wrong? What if he’d made a mistake, and Wash hadn’t been the genius he thought he was? What if when Kaylee went to start the engine again, nothing happened? What if the systems came back on, but the virus hadn’t gone? What if –


Ai ren?


My responsibility, Frey.

You’re Captain.

How come nobody remembers that except when we’re facing certain death?

That’s the thing about death. It’s pretty certain, one way or the other.

I thought you were gonna live forever?

Only if you’re with me.

Only you ain't with me. Not right now.

I'm here.

Wish you were.

No. I'm here.

He felt a hand on his shoulder, fingers running up his neck to cup his face. Closing his eyes he turned his cheek so he could place a kiss in her invisible palm. I love you, Frey.

I love you too, my darling.

Then, above the sound of nothingness, he heard a voice whispering in the dark.

“It’s time,” Kaylee said.

He stood up and went to the doorway, sitting on the steps down into the corridor. He couldn’t see much, just picking up the flare of the torch occasionally, but he had to be there.

Hold on, Freya urged.


Kaylee reconnected various leads, making sure the port pin lock was well-seated, then nodded at Simon, who pushed the main lever into the open position.

Nothing happened.

Xiong can wang ba dan de biao zi,” she swore, flicking switches on the console, then climbing up onto the housing to flick some more. “You ain’t gonna do this to me!”

“Kaylee –“ Simon went to hold her waist, but she had jumped back to the deck.

Mal felt his shoulders tense like granite, and he was holding his breath.

“I don’t see why …” Kaylee kicked the regulator cover. “It should …”

“Kaylee, if it isn’t going to –“

“No, wait!” Kaylee dropped to the floor, scooting under the engine housing. “I'm dai ruo mu ji!” She unscrewed two cables, then reconnected them in opposite order.

There was a groan, followed by the sound of something dying far away in the Firefly’s depths, then Simon grabbed her, pulling her roughly out as the central section of the engine began to turn. She leapt to her feet, ignoring the fact that she’d almost been crushed. “Come on,” she whispered. “You can do it. I know you can.”

The engine stuttered, once, twice, then the recognisable hum began to increase in volume, and the glow behind them lit her face.

“Kaylee …” Simon said, a grin spreading across his features.

“Yes!” she yelled, her voice cannoning off the walls, bouncing around the engine room and rushing up to her husband to hug him tightly. “Yes!”

Captain Malcolm Reynolds, master of the Firefly Serenity, closed his eyes and offered up a prayer himself, just as the lights came back on and he scrambled to his feet, hurrying to turn his ship around.


“You can’t go to burn, least not yet,” Kaylee said, joining him on the bridge a little later. “I need to check her over ‘fore that, just to make sure she ain't bust any seals or anything.”

“So we limp on back to the shuttle.”

“We know where it is?”

Mal tapped the screen. “Just spoke to Zoe and we’re picking up the beacon as we speak. It should be a couple of hours at our current speed.”

“Just don’t push her.”

“Don’t intend to, Kaylee.” He paused, then went on, “When can we open up the bay? Get them out?”

“The seal integrity is good on the hatch,” Kaylee said, pushing her hair away from her forehead with the back of her hand, leaving yet another smear of grease on her skin. “But I’d like to leave it a while longer ‘til the pumps’ve had a chance to get some air inside. Otherwise it’ll make it a mite hard for us to breathe too.”

“How long?”

“An hour. But it’ll be warming up in there too, so they can just get comfy.”

“I don’t think that’s exactly on Hank’s mind at the moment,” Mal pointed out. “He’s more worried about us getting back to Zoe and the kids.”

“Hey, me too!” she scolded. “But you asked.”

He smiled. “That I did.”

“Better be getting back. I’d like to take her down when we hit Persephone, if that’s okay with you. Give her a major overhaul.”

“Kaylee, right now I’d give you that extra five percent and call you an engineer.”

Her eyes widened. “Really?”

“Really. Can’t say the feeling’ll last, but right now …”

She hit him on the pad of his upper arm, not all that gently, and walked off the bridge.


She paused. “Yeah, Cap’n?”

“It did work, didn’t it?”

She grinned, jumping down the steps. “Surely did. Wash pulled us outta the fire again.”

“Leaf on the wind …” Mal murmured, too quiet for her to hear.

A minute later and the Cortex buzzed.

“Mal?” It was Jayne’s face, looking more anxious than he had done in a long time. “You okay?”

“We’re shiny,” Mal said, smiling. “Just a bit delayed.”

“Only River’s been in a state fit to be tied, and we had to call in one of Dillon’s doctors to calm her down.”

“How much did she hurt him?”

“Flesh wound.”

Mal laughed. “Well, tell her we’re all fine, and we’ll be picking you up in a couple of days.” A thought stuck him. “Dillon still around?”

“He’s about.”

“Tell him I’d like to talk to him when we get back. Something he might be interested in hearing.”

“Can do, Mal.” Jayne leaned in closer, glancing around as if he was afraid someone might overhear. “River said something about something someone might’ve given you for me?”

“You wait and see, Jayne. You wait and see.”

Epilogue to follow - okay, more like Part XII!


Tuesday, February 5, 2008 3:22 AM


Great job! Glad to see Wash's solution was the one to save the day. This was a wonderful arc and would have been perfect as an episode on TV. You really caught the spirit of tension and crisis perfectly. And loved the introspection of each character.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008 6:07 AM


What an excellent story. The dialog the tech talk, Wash saving the day, all of it fit so well.
I think this is my favorite story you have written. At least until the next one. Great job.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008 7:40 AM


the fix for most most computer glitches is to cut power and then power back up. How many times have I done that trick?

But I didn't do it with so much tension, angst and fantastic story telling.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008 11:29 AM


Excellent. I caught myself literally holding my breath when Kaylee did her thing and the ship didn't start right up! Loved it!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008 12:40 AM


Loved, loved, LOVED this! Brilliant, so full of tension and anxiety and praying and such... Every word had me hanging on the edge and I just love how Mal and Freya can mind link like that. Can't wait to see the family all back together again, this has been super shiny! Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Wednesday, February 6, 2008 3:12 AM


really enjoyed this - you move in and out of characters' hearts like a dancer. i'm envious.


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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.]

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!]

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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.

[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!]