Old Habits - Part VIII
Saturday, June 7, 2008

Maya. Post-BDM. Becca is annoying everyone, but there's a visitor on the horizon. NEW CHAPTER


Forty hours later, Serenity was that much closer to Persephone, and Becca had been prying into almost everyone’s affairs.

She’d spent pretty much all of the first day in the engine room, asking questions about Serenity, about the accelerator core, passing tools as needed.

“You know a bit more’n I’d’a thought about engines,” Kaylee declared, impressed.

“I’ve had to. Moving around like I do, sometimes it’s the only thing between me and the great black out there. Besides, some of the engineers I've been around have been cute, too.” She laughed. “If I hadn’t learned to talk about catalyzers and pin locks, I wouldn’t’ve had nearly as good a time.”

“Know what you mean.” Kaylee wiped her hands on a cloth at her waist, remembering her first time on board, and silently thanking Bester. Without him, she not only prob’ly be dirtside still, but she wouldn’t have Simon, Bethie and Hope. “Although I ain't an engineer. Just a mechanic.”

“I don’t think there’s anything just about you.” Becca grinned. “Anyone who can keep a Firefly in the air should have the title to go with it.”

“I don’t mind,” the young woman said, feeling the blush warming her cheeks. “And I love this boat. Have since the moment I set my eyes on her.”

“I can see why.” Becca looked around at the old metal, paint covering some parts, rust others, unable to keep a trace of condescension out of her voice.

Kaylee bridled a little. “Oh, I know she maybe ain't the newest thing around, but she’s home.”

Becca smiled. “Home to a lot of people. That big guy … Jayne, is it?”

“That’s him.”

“How come the name?”

Kaylee shrugged. “Wouldn’t know. Don’t even think about that now. He’s just Jayne.”

“I suppose it was his parents’ idea of a joke.”

“Nope. His parents … well, I met his Ma. She was a real nice lady, and I don’t think she was gonna do that to a son of hers.”

“But then why –“

“I don’t know!” Kaylee sounded a little exasperated. “Look, Becca, we’re just folks. We don’t care what happened before, ‘cause we’re here now. A family.”

“Family.” Becca paused, a far away look in her eye, occupied with memories of her own. Then she shook herself. “So, Miss Kaylee, engineer extraordinaire, what does that do?”

Kaylee laughed and bent back to her task.

It was very late that night when Hank came across Becca in the cargo bay. “You lost?” he asked, leaning on the catwalk railing.

She span on her heel and glared up at him, a mixture of shock, surprise and anger on her face. “What the hell …”

“Sorry. Didn’t mean to startle you.” He grinned. “I had a course correction to make. We’re passing mighty close to a comet, and I wasn't too sure about its reliability as to not deviating, so I thought I’d better do it myself rather than rely on the autopilot.” The grin widened and he held up a bag of protein crackers. “’Course, then I got the munchies. Heard someone making a noise down here, came to see.”

She stood staring at him, her hands on her hips. “I didn’t think I was.”

“Ah, but I've got ears like a bat.” He tapped his lobes, then went on quickly, “Not that they look like ‘em, though. I mean, ears like a bat on a man as good-looking as me … spoil the effect, don’t you think?”

“I suppose.”

“Truth is, when the ship’s quiet like this, everyone asleep, you can hear a pin drop down in the infirmary from up on the bridge.”

Becca relaxed. “Sorry,” she said, pushing her blonde hair off her shoulders and smiling at him. “I didn’t mean to disturb anyone. I was just restless.” She shrugged prettily. “I think I’m still getting used to ship’s time.”

Hank nodded in agreement. “I know what you mean. That’s why we tend to stick to our own clock, ‘less we’re gonna be docked for a while. It’s easier on the kids, too. Gives them stability, you know?” A yawn crept up on him unawares, and suddenly his jaw was open big enough to swallow a moon. “Oh, sorry about that,” he said, rubbing his chin. “Think I need my bed. Do you want anything, ‘fore I turn in again? A drink, maybe? Or if you really can’t sleep I'm sure the doc would –“

“I'm okay,” Becca interrupted. “I’ll sit here a while, then I’ll go back to my room.”

“I've got some books you can borrow, if you like.”

“I might take you up on that. But right now I'm fine.”

“If you’re sure.” Hank yawned again, then scratched his chest. “’Night.” He wandered back through the top doorway, leaving Becca alone in the cargo bay, fingering the small device she’d taken from one of the crates in her pocket.


Next morning Freya was teaching lessons. All the children were around the table, bar Caleb, attempting to concentrate as Maoli and Fiddler tried to distract them by rolling around together under their feet.

“Mama, isn’t it time to play yet?” Ethan asked, putting down his pencil. “We’ve been here hours.”

“You finish off your word list,” his mother said firmly. “Then I’ll think about it.”

Ethan gazed imploringly at Bethie, who joined in, saying, “But Daddy said we could go help him tidy up.”

“Tidy up. Really.” Freya looked at the little girl, all bright eyed. “And that’s playing, is it?”

“It is the way we do it.” Bethie grinned.

Freya had a mental image of what she meant, of the young Doctor Tam running around after the children, laughing as he tried to catch them, and she had to fight not to smile. “Well, right now you’re going to do those sums, and then I’ll check them. Maybe – and I mean maybe – I’ll let you go if they’re right.”

“But when am I ever going to need how to add up?”

“How are you ever going to fly Serenity if you can’t? You need to work out trajectories, distance, ratios …”

“But the computer does that,” Bethie pointed out. “And ‘sides, I’m gonna be an ’chanic like Momma. I don’t need to –“

“Do you think she doesn’t know how to work the math to keep our home in the air?”

Bethie opened her mouth, then saw the look on her Aunt’s face and had a strong suspicion she wasn't going to win the argument. Sighing hugely she bent back over her pad, stylus gripped tightly between her teeth as she wrestled with the problem in front of her.

Over at the other end of the table, Jesse, Hope and Ben were watching an educational programme on the portable Cortex, playing pat-a-cake with each other as the person on the screen did, counting down from ten to one. As it finished a few minutes later, Ben looked up.

“’tie Frey?” he said. “Done now.”

Every little head looked up at her, and the sound from underneath their feet stilled too, as if even the animals were holding their breath.

Freya let her eyes land on each face, each one hoping she’d say they were done for the day. She sighed. “All right. BUT we all have to work harder tomorrow.”

“Course, Auntie Frey!” Bethie said, jumping off her chair with more speed than she ever used to get into it for lessons. “Come on!” She ran out of the room, Fiddler barking at her heels. Ethan helped his sister down as Ben and Hope slid to the floor then scooped his grey kitten from under the table, and they followed their ‘cousin’.

Freya couldn’t help but smile. Sometimes it was so hard to get them to learn anything, then a couple of days later they seemed to absorb everything she put in front of them. Something to do with being on board ship, she decided. And around some very intelligent people, like River, Simon, Mal …

Standing up, she stretched, feeling little muscles in her back popping. Thinking of Mal made her turn to face the corridor to the bridge, and her face softened. He was in their bunk, she knew, doing some figure work of his own on the books, seeing if they were going to be able to get through this if Badger did manage to get out of paying. They had a little saved, but it might make things tight for a while. Kaylee wouldn’t be able to have that new pressure hose she was after, and they might be back to eating protein instead of real food. She fingered the silver Firefly at her throat. Might even have to consider selling some stuff.

She shook her head. Time to worry about that when it happened. Right now, though, it was time to do something about the tension she was feeling from knowing Becca was around. She strode out of the galley to the cargo bay, and Jayne’s weights.

It annoyed her that she was still feeling emotionally tender, even after Mal’s attempts to prove to her over the past couple of nights that she was the only one, that after a lifetime of being an idiot he had chosen her over every other woman in the ‘verse. It wasn't that she didn’t believe him – she did. It was just having one of those women on board that was the problem. Maybe a little exercise would help, she considered, setting up the weights at something she thought she could handle.

After fifteen minutes she was sweating profusely, and telling herself she was going to ache the next day.

“You don’t like me.” Becca spoke from where she was standing in the entrance to the common area.

“Am I required to?” Freya didn’t turn around, didn’t pause as she continued to bench-press.

“No. I suppose not. I don’t think I’d take too kindly to someone coming along and telling me they used to sleep with my husband.”

Freya’s grip on the bar tightened, but she kept up the steady rhythm. “I can’t … call you a liar … over that.”

“But you’d like to?”

“What … do you think?”

“You know, we could be friends.” Becca stepped down to the bay floor. “We do have something in common, after all.”

Sliding the bar back into its cradle, Freya sat up, pushing her hands through her wet hair. “I've got nothing in common with you, apart from the fact that we’re both female.”

“How do I prove to you I don’t want to come between you?” Becca held out her hands. “I wouldn’t have a chance, even if I tried.”

Freya stood, ignoring the sweat sticking her t-shirt to her body. “Whatever Mal was to you, he isn’t anymore. He’s mine.”

“You own him, do you?” There was amusement on Becca’s face, but it didn’t reach her eyes.

“He’s his own man. But he’s my man too, and that means something.”

“Sure it does.” Becca leaned against one of the cages. “You know, when they told me you and Mal had a couple of kids, I couldn’t believe it. Never did figure him being a father.”

“You really don’t know him, do you?” Freya said, picking up the towel she’d left on a nearby crate and wiping herself down a little. “He’s an amazing Dad.”

“Yeah, I saw that. He was with … is it Ethan?“ When Freya didn’t respond, Becca went on. “He was telling him a story yesterday. Just something and nothing, but the look on his face …” She shook her head. “He looked so not like the man I knew.”

“That’s the point, isn’t it?”

Becca shrugged, then said, “I would have sworn the oldest girl was yours, though.”

“Bethie? Why?”

“I caught her this morning before breakfast, staring at me. She looks at me just the way you do.”

“Oh? And how’s that?”

“As if you’d rather see me laid out on a marble slab.”

“I'm sure she doesn’t think that.”

“But you do?”

Freya dropped the towel back onto the bench. “Becca, I don’t need to. In a couple of days you’re getting off, and if I don’t see you again, I won’t be too upset.”

Becca laughed. “Oh, I think Mal’s got the one he deserves all right.” She walked up the stairs towards the top doorway, still chuckling to herself.

Freya glared after her, watching the other woman’s perfectly formed buttocks until they disappeared. “Gorram it,” she swore quietly, then shook herself. “Come on, Frey. You know better than this. She’s a pain in the pi gu but she’s only here for another day or two. You can cope with that.” She entertained herself by imagining the various ways she could devise of killing anyone who was slim and blonde, then went back to her exercising.

She started doing lifts from the handholds Jayne had strung up under the catwalk, but her palms were still sweaty, and as she reached the top her fingers slipped. She fell back to the deck, having to flex her knees sharply to absorb the impact. “Ching wah tsao duh liou mahng!”

“You shouldn’t be doing that without a spotter,” Jayne observed, leaning on the shuttle wall and looking down.

“I know.” She pushed herself upright.

“She riling you?”

“A little.”

“Only a little?” Jayne cracked a smile and nodded towards the barbell. “Ain't seen you with that amount of weight for a while. Last time was when you and Mal were arguing over him getting shot again.”

“Well, I've got over that.”

“I figured to keep out of the way much as possible, in case I get the urge to stick her in the airlock.”

“Join the queue.”

“’Sides, I had me a few bad experiences with women like that,” the big man went on.

Freya looked up at him. “Oh?”

“And they’re staying between me, River and the bedpost.”

“Spoilsport.” She shook her head, her lips twitching.

That was better, Jayne considered. “So where do you suppose she’s off to now?”

Freya picked up her towel again. “Well, since she’s poked her nose into just about everywhere but the infirmary and the bridge, and Simon’s locked the door …”

Jayne chuckled, a deep rumble that seemed to emanate from somewhere in the region of his crotch. “Well, she ain’t gonna get far up there. River’s on watch, and she ain’t no more fond of that jien hro than her Ma is.”

“I’m not her mother, Jayne.”

“You tell that to my moonbrain. She might believe you one day.”


“You forget, don’t you?”

River didn’t turn, having heard Becca walk quietly up the steps to stand in the bridge doorway. “I don’t forget anything,” she said.

“I mean space. How big it is. How unchanging.”

“I think it’s beautiful. And everything changes. It’s the nature of life.”

“I suppose.” Becca looked at the young woman sitting in the pilot’s chair, her long dark hair pulled back into a clip shaped like a dragon. At her feet was a sort of bag, with a baby asleep inside. “More kids than a crèche,” she murmured to herself.

“What do you want?” River asked, reaching out and making a minor correction on the board.

“To talk.”

“What about?”

“Anything you want.”

“Well, as I don’t want to talk at all …” River left the sentence hanging in the air.

Becca didn’t take the hint. Instead she stepped onto the bridge, eyeing the toy dinosaurs still ranged across the console. One or two of them appeared to have teeth marks, but they were clean, like they were dusted regularly. She picked one up, a yellow coloured thing with a long neck and plates standing along its back. “Dinosaurs?”

“Put it down.” River spoke quietly, but every word was filled with steel.

“It’s just a toy. Who has toys on the bridge? Or do you let the kids play up here?” She turned it over, trying to see if it had a name scratched underneath.

“Put. It. Down.” Now there was venom alongside the steel.

“They’re just toys,” Becca insisted, waving it around.

“You might wanna put that back where you found it,” Mal said quietly from the doorway.

Becca turned to look at him. “Why are they up here?” she demanded.

“That ain’t none of your affair. But you put the one you’re grasping in that hot little hand of yours back, and I’ll consider not giving in to my first inclination of shooting you.”

She started to laugh, but saw the expression in his eyes, his hand resting lightly on the butt of his gun. “You’re serious.”

“Don’t do as I ask and we’ll find out.”

They locked stares for a moment, then Becca carefully replaced the stegosaurus. “There,” she said, standing up straight. “Happy?”

“Be happier still when you’re off my boat.”

Becca glared at him, then pushed past him back down the steps.

“Thank you,” River said softly.

“No problem.” He didn’t admit he’d heard Becca go by the bunk, and had been listening to their conversation. He didn’t have to.

“I didn’t want to hurt her.”

“That’s okay, xiao nu. I think we’re pretty much all feeling that way about her.”

River let a tiny sigh escape her lips. “Kaylee gets on okay with her.”

“That girl’d try to pet a Reaver, if he was tied down.” At the look on River’s face he grinned. “Okay, well, maybe not. But she tends to see the good side of everyone.”

“Is there a good side to Rebecca?”

He chuckled. “Don’t go calling her that to her face. She might shoot you, she hates it so much. But yeah, I think there used to be a good side. ‘Fore the war. I saw the reflection of it when I met her, took it for the real thing.”

She studied his face. “You did love her.”

“For a while. But I reckon it was because I was grasping at something I’d lost, desperate to keep hold of anything from my home.”

“Then you saw what she was really like.”

Mal’s eyes narrowed. “You reading me?”

“No.” River shook her head, some of her hair coming undone from the clip. “I feel like Freya. Swimming in fog.”

“Makes you frustrated, huh?” He gently lifted the lock of hair back, reclipping it. “I know it does to Frey.”

“Not able to see. But I dream.”

“Anything worth me knowing about?”

“I don’t know. None of it makes sense.”

Mal smiled. “That’s the point about dreams, girl. They never do.”

River was about to respond when a beeping drew her attention back to the console. She turned her seat forwards. “There’s a ship approaching,” she said, her fingers flying over the controls.

“Really?” Mal crossed his arms.

“She’s slowing.” River’s forehead creased. “There’s something about her configuration that’s familiar …”

“That the case.”

She glanced up at him, surprised at his apparent lack of concern. “She’s hailing.”

“Put her on screen.”

The vid shimmered to life, and after a second cleared to show a man in his middle age, a huge grey moustache sitting on his top lip, and two gold teeth glinting in his grin. “Where’s that old curmudgeon Malcolm Reynolds?” he demanded.

River couldn’t smile much wider. “It’s the Road Runner!”

to be continued


Sunday, June 8, 2008 12:37 AM


Who's the Road Runner? Beep beep! And why oh why do none of the readers on the ship know what Becca is up to? Or is she causing the fog that stops them seeing and sensing properly? I really wish they'd fire her into the atmo and be done with it but then we'd never find out would we? Just hope none of our folks end up hurt because of that horirble girl. I kept wishing Kaylee would stop clattering on to her, telling her all about the engine and Serenity's workings just put my teeth on edge. Didn't Kaylee learn anything from Saffron duping them? Sigh. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Sunday, June 8, 2008 3:09 AM


Why is it that Becca rubs me wrong? Like Amodobell, I say just get rid of her, but then we wouldn't have story would we.?

Sunday, June 8, 2008 6:49 AM


I love River defending the plastic dino from Becca. Very cool. Becca is definitely there for something other than just a ride. Loving it...

Sunday, June 8, 2008 2:34 PM


So what was Becca fiddling with in the cargo bay? Shades of Saffron appearing here? Was Mal gullible enough to be taken in by Becca too? Too bad the readers aren't in the know.

Sunday, June 8, 2008 2:41 PM


Ditto what the others have said. But I think the general rule should be that non-crew type individuals can not go to the bridge or the engine room? All in favor?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008 11:23 PM


ha ha! love the reaction here to Becca.

some very nice exchanges between mal and river this chapter.


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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!]