Old Habits - Part XII
Monday, June 16, 2008

Maya. Post-BDM. Zoe demands Mal explain things, and Freya leaves. NEW CHAPTER


The others stared at each other.

“What the hell just happened?” Jayne demanded, looking to his wife, who gazed calmly back.

“All married couples argue,” she said quietly.

“Yeah, but not like that. She’s said she’s leaving him.”

“I know.”

Simon had his arms around Kaylee, who was trying hard not to cry. “It’s okay, bao bei,” he said, stroking her back. “I'm sure she didn’t mean it. It’s okay.”

“No, it’s not. If’n I hadn’t said, if I’d just –“

“Had to tell the truth,” River interrupted. “Tell the truth and shame the devil.”

“Moonbrain,” Jayne said gently, but it wasn’t a rebuke.

“Well, I for one think Mal’s finally seeing the light,” Becca said, shaking her long blonde hair so it fell like a pale waterfall from her shoulders.

“No-one asked your opinion,” the big man warned. “And far as I can see, you’re the cause of all this. Nothing happened ‘til you set your pi gu on board.”

“Really? I’d say what we just saw was bound to happen. Mal keeps secrets. And the thing about secrets is that they’re usually pretty rancid by the time they hit the light of day.” She smiled sweetly at them all and walked out, her hands thrust into her borrowed pants pockets.

“Mal should’ve let you space her when you suggested it,” Hank muttered, turning to his wife. “And where were you, honey? When all that gou shi was hitting the fan back then?”

“With Mal. Only he wouldn’t let me go with him.” She shook her head. “I don’t think he expected to come back, and he wasn't going to let me get myself killed too.”

“You mean he –“

“You weren’t there, Hank. After Serenity Valley, then the camps, he had nothing. He wasn't even Mal any more, no matter what we …” She took a deep breath. “Right then, at that moment, I don’t think he’d’ve minded someone putting a bullet in his brain.”

“But he got over it. I mean, he did, didn’t he?”

“Got better at hiding it, maybe. For a long while. A long gorram while.”

“’Til he bought this boat?”

“Longer’n that. Sometimes I've wondered if it wasn’t Miranda that made him truly realise there was something worth fighting for.”

Hank was shocked. “You can’t be serious.”

“He was hurting. Hollowed him out. It takes a lot to fill a man back up, but at least he was trying.”

“You mean you and Kaylee, Wash, the rest of the crew?”


Hank exhaled heavily. “Then I’m thinking we need to do something to stop this.”


“Maybe?” He stared at her. “Freya’s going to leave and you say maybe?”

“It’s not our business, Hank.”

“But we gotta do something,” Kaylee said, swallowing thickly. “You know they ain’t no good without each other. I mean, they’re Mal and Freya ... they’re meant to be together.”

Zoe looked at her, then saw, from the corner of her eye, River nodding slowly. “I’ll talk to him,” she said finally.

“Good. Good.” Kaylee leaned against Simon for support.


The black was how it always was, even before it was splintered with the remains of the Road Runner. However, the closer they got to Persephone the more Mal could feel his anger settling into a throbbing ball in the pit of his stomach. He recognised it, knew it of old, welcomed it like finding a favourite old pair of slippers that had been lying forgotten at the back of the closet. He’d made use of it before, when they were fighting and he’d believed they could win, and later, when he knew they’d lost but he had to keep the few men he had left alive.

Then Miranda. He’d used it then, holding it close as he told the others, “I aim to misbehave,” and when he’d brought the Reavers out of the ion cloud above Mr Universe’s moon, and dealt vengeance on an Alliance fleet that was sent to kill him. Crossing the walkway from the Cortex link, where he’d just broadwaved to the ‘verse, back towards where he believed his family were lying dead, he wondered why he hadn’t used it to kill the Operative. Still did, in the small hours, or times like now, when he just stared out at the stars.

“Sir, what’s going on?” Zoe asked, stepping onto the bridge and closing the door.

“Why do you think there’s anything?”

“Because in all the years I’ve known you, all the crap you’ve pulled, this has to be the worst.”

He raised one eyebrow at her. “That how you talk to your Captain?”

“When he’s behaving like a diao wan luo zi, yes, pretty much.”

“Could court martial you for that.”

“I’m not your Corporal anymore.”

“No, but you’re my first mate. Don’t that mean you’re supposed to be on my side?”

She lowered herself into the co-pilot’s seat. “Possibly, but that would mean you enlightening me as to the nature of that side, sir.”

He gazed at her for a long moment, then put his head back. “Not sure I can, Zoe.”

“How about starting with you and Freya? You’ve fought before. Hell, I’ve had to clear up the debris after more than one of your shouting matches in the kitchen. And we don't have that many breakables left, by the way.”

“I’ll put it on the list to buy some more.”

She didn’t rise to his dry manner. “But I’ve never seen her threaten to leave you.”

“She’s not threatening, Zoe.”

She felt a thrill of something race up her spine. “Are you saying this was for real? That’s she’s actually going to –“

“Leave it.”

Normally that tone would mean she pulled herself up, acknowledged he was the captain, and walked away. Normally. “No, sir. Something’s going on here, and I think I need to know what it is.”

“She’s already called Dillon, did you know that?” Mal wasn’t looking at her, just staring out through the window. “Told him to send Callum to pick her and the kids up.”

“Mal. Look at me.”

He was so surprised that she used his given name that he turned without thinking. “Zoe –“

“There ain’t no way in hell she’s leaving you. No matter what little scene you two played out there, you’d have to kill her first to make her go. Tell me what’s going on.”

He gazed at her, his face calculating, and she could have sworn he was about to speak, to explain, then his eyes hooded once more. “Nothing to tell, Zoe,” he said, facing away again. “She’s leaving, and that’s all.”

“Sir, I’ve locked the door. I’m armed.” She touched the Mare’s Leg she hadn’t taken off since Becca came on board. “And added to that I'm severely pissed. What do you think your chances are of getting out of here without blood being shed?”

The anger in his belly threatened to flare up, but he damped it back down. Not that he didn’t believe her – he did. He’d seen what she could do. “You sure it’s locked?” he asked.

“Yes, sir.”

His lips twitched. “See, I like that in you, Zoe. Even while you’re threatening me, you’re still calling me sir.”

“And getting more pissed as we speak.”

“They were my friends.”

She wasn’t phased by his apparent non-sequitur. “Mine too. All of us.”

“I wasn’t lying when I said I wasn’t going to let this go.”

“I know.” She waited, knowing he was at last going to explain.

He took a breath, holding it for what seemed an eternity before blowing it out through pursed lips. “Someone’s going to pay, Zoe,” he said quietly, and she shivered as she recognised the look on his face.


As Hank dropped through the clouds towards Eavesdown Docks he wondered at all the things that had happened since they’d left. Barely a week, and yet he could hardly get his head around it all. The job on Claymore, Becca, Road Runner … it didn’t seem possible that it could all be fitted into seven days. And now there was Persephone, laid out like a display of grubby jewels beneath them, and their family was splitting up.

He’d tried to speak to Freya, tell her Mal didn’t mean what he’d said, that if she just waited it would all work itself out.

“Don’t leave,” he’d said, stopping her pouring a mug of coffee. “We need you.”

She looked at him, put her hand on his and squeezed gently, but said, “It’s in motion, Hank. Can’t stop it now.”

“That don’t make sense.” He shook his untidy head. “All you gotta do is say no. Tell him you’re staying. Hell, shoot him if you have to. Look, I’ll go get your gun. Flesh wound. Something non-fatal. I’ll even hold him down.”

She’d smiled sadly at him, but walked out of the galley.

“If she’s made up her mind there’s no changing it,” Becca said from the depths of the easy chair.

“You’re just annoyed because he left you,” Hank shot back, striding back towards the bridge, her laughter following him.

And now as he settled Serenity into her dock, he sighed heavily. No matter how many conversations he had with Zoe, how many times she’d told him, he couldn’t get it out of his head that something bad was about to happen.

“We down?” Mal asked from behind him.

“That we are. You want me to let Freya know?”

“She already does.”

“Are you … going to say goodbye?”

“Nothing to say, Hank.”

“Then do you mind if I …”

“Go ahead.” Mal sank into the co-pilot’s chair. “Just ‘cause me and Frey got problems, don’t mean you can’t stay friends.”

“Mal, can’t you –“

“You’ll miss her if you don’t go now.”

“No. I mean, yes.” He stood up and backed towards the door. “You could still –“

“Go, Hank. And close the door on your way out.”


Kaylee dropped through the hatch and climbed down the ladder. Freya was packing a small bag, stuffing pants and shirts inside without folding.

“They’ll be all creased,” the young mechanic said, her normally bright disposition submerged under a heavy cloud.

“They’ll be fine.” Freya gave her a brief smile. “Where’s Ethan?”

“In with Bethie. They’re … saying goodbye.” She wiped her nose on the back of her hand, the resemblance to her daughter quite striking. “Frey –“

“Could you bring Jesse for me?” Freya asked, zipping up the holdall. “I don’t have a free hand.”

“Uh, sure.” Kaylee turned to the little girl sitting on the floor, playing with one of her dolls. “C’mon, sweetpea.”

Jesse smiled and held out her arms. “’Ntie Kaylee.”

“That’s right.” She lifted her up onto her hip. “Hey, you’re getting heavy.”

Jesse laughed, snuggling into her shoulder as they manoeuvred up the ladder.

“Where’s Mal?” Freya asked, adjusting the bag on her shoulder as they headed for the galley.

“On the bridge.” She glanced back to the closed door. “You sure you don’t want to –“

“No.” She crossed the kitchen, passing Becca who was standing pouring a coffee.

“So you’re off?” the blonde asked, not terribly surprised when Freya ignored her. “’Bye, then. And don’t worry. I’ll take care of Mal for you,” she called.

“That chou ti zi,” Kaylee muttered. “She should be the one leaving, not you.”

“It’s okay,” Freya said quietly. “Let’s just get Ethan.”


Hank was standing by Zoe as she pressed the button to open up the bay doors, his hand on her waist. As the light of Persephone filtered in, he could feel her muscles tightening, as if ready to do battle. “Zo …”

“It’s okay,” she murmured, watching the outer ramp lower.

There was a hovercar waiting, a tall man with a polished bald head by the open door. He bowed slightly. “Ma’am.”


“Is Miss Freya ready?”

“Just coming,” the woman herself said, walking out of the common area doorway, Jesse on her hip and Ethan dragging his feet next to her. Kaylee and Simon were only a few steps behind.

Callum darted into the cargo bay, taking the bag from Freya’s hand. “Let me.”

“Thank you,” she said. “If you’d put Ethan into the hover …”

“Of course, Ma’am.”

She let the corner of her mouth lift. “How long have I known you?” she asked. “And are you ever going to call me Freya?”

“I’ll consider it, Ma’am.”

Freya shook her head, then looked down at her son, holding tight to her leg. “Go with Callum, sweetie.”

“Do I have to?”

“Please, Ethan. Remember, we talked about this.”

“Okay, Mama,” he said in a resigned tone, letting Callum take his hand and lead him out into Persephone’s heat, looking lovingly over his shoulder all the time at his home.

“I’ll send for the rest of our stuff, Zoe.” Freya watched as Ethan climbed into the vehicle.

“If you think that’s best.”

“Zoe, right now I don’t know what’s rutting best, but …” She stopped, setting her lips into a tight line. “Try and keep him alive.”

“You don’t have to do this.”

“I think I do.”

“He’ll come round eventually.”

“That will probably be too late.” There was pain in her voice, and Jesse tightened her grip around her neck.

Zoe looked at them both, Freya determined, and the little girl’s wide brown eyes confused. “Stay in touch,” she ordered quietly, squeezing her friend’s arm.

“I will.”

“Frey …” Hank surprised her by pulling her into his arms and hugging her, not trusting his voice, and she let him. Then she pushed him back, gathering herself.

“We have to go,” she said softly.

“What about River? Don’t she want to say goodbye?” he asked.

“We already did.”

He nodded. “I guess.”

She smiled for him and added, “Be good.”

“Hell, Frey, when was I ever that?”

It made her laugh as she left Serenity.

“This ain’t right,” Kaylee said, pushing past her husband and running up towards her own domain, her sanctuary.

“Kaylee …” he called after her, hurrying to catch her up.

Mal watched from the top catwalk as his wife and daughter walked out to the waiting hover, feeling like part of him was being ripped away. A Reaver couldn’t have done it better. As he heard the vehicle drive off, he descended the stairs.

“Tell me they’re coming back soon,” Hank whispered to Zoe, his mouth barely moving as he heard Mal’s footsteps ring through the superstructure.

“Wish I could,” she said just as quietly, then turned to her captain, her face expressionless.

“We ready to go?” Mal asked, feeling her accusing him silently.

“Yes, sir.”

“Good. Want to be back ‘fore dark.”

Jayne stepped out of the shuttle, his footsteps surprisingly light on the metal of the catwalk. “Best be heading out, then,” he said, joining them on the bay floor.

“You planning on starting a war?” Mal asked, surveying all the weapons massed about his ex-mercenary.


“Good. And it’s time.” He strode out into the light, Jayne following.

“Lock her up behind us,” Zoe said to Hank, settling her own gun a little more comfortably.

“You expecting trouble?”

“Always pays to be prepared.” She leaned a little closer. “And I’m not convinced it was Road Runner that was the target. What if it was us, and they try again?”

Hank swallowed. “I’ll get a rifle, tell River to be prepared.”

“That’s the idea.” Zoe nodded and hurried after her captain.

“Are they always this … intense?” Becca asked from where she was seated on one of the crates. She was gazing out into the docks, her lips twisted slightly.

“They’re working.” Hank thumped his hand down on the button to close the ramp. “I'm surprised you didn’t want to go with them,” he added as the view of Eavesdown was cut off.

She raised an eyebrow at him. “Now why would you think that?”

“In fact, I'm surprised Mal ain't thrown you off already.”

She smiled. “Maybe he likes my company.”

“Nope. Pretty sure it ain't that.”

“Then maybe I’m just curious. Maybe I want to see how this ends before I leave you.”

“You know what curiosity did to the cat.”

“It may have escaped your attention, but I'm not a cat.” She turned on her heel and sashayed away, her long blonde hair flowing behind her.

“Nope, I think I was right the first time,” Hank muttered, heading for the armoury.

Becca paused outside the infirmary, where Bethie stood at the bottom of the stairs, staring at her. “Do you have something you want to say to me?”

“I don’t like you,” Bethie said, her face pink.

“Not sure I care,” Becca admitted.

“You made them leave.” The little girl had her fists pressed into her hips, her entire body almost vibrating with anger. “You made them go.”

Becca leaned down until their eyes were on a level. “I didn’t make anyone do anything, sweetie. Not a gorram thing.” She tousled Bethie’s hair before straightening up and walking towards the guest quarters, laughing to herself.

to be continued


Monday, June 16, 2008 9:02 AM


That Becca needs a whipping, to be sure. Why is it that despite all the terrible things she's done, the thing that made me angriest was when she tousled Bethie's hair? I must be psychotic! LOL

Monday, June 16, 2008 10:26 AM


Becca is such an evil thing, isn't she?! A wonderfully evil piece of work here. Hoping everything returns to the right.

Monday, June 16, 2008 11:04 AM


The black was how it always was, even before it was splintered with the remains of the Road Runner.

liked that line a lot:) also, how many mood swings did you pull off in this chapter?!

Monday, June 16, 2008 12:47 PM


I had to go back and read the preceding chapter again because something felt off. In the last chapter Mal told Frey that he's not going to walk away, not let someone get away with murder and Frey tells him he wouldn't be the man she married if he did. Now, because he's doing just that she is leaving him and taking the children with her. The funny thing is that on reading the previous chapter again I got the odd notion that Mal wanted to push her that little bit too far with the slap to the face to make sure she left. I'm thinking he has a reason for leaving Becca on Serenity and that he has a jolly good idea what really happened and wants his family out of the way when he gets to the truth. May be way out but I think we're gonna see a side of Mal we haven't seen before. Ali D
You can't take the sky from me

Monday, June 16, 2008 3:21 PM


My comment was eaten. And not by Becca although I wouldn't be surprised if she had.

In shorthand. Mal wants Freya and kids far, far away from Becca and Mal is an awful (in all senses of the word) when he's on the warpath.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008 3:40 PM


As usual, there's more than meets the eye here and you're going to make us squirm first. Very well put together little game - hope it ends up being a sting on Becca.


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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!]