Dead Man's Chest - Part VII
Saturday, January 24, 2009

Maya. Post-BDM. Freya tells Mal what she thinks of him, and River walks into the desert. NEW CHAPTER


“Hi, ai ren.” Mal smiled, then winced inwardly at her look.

“Mal.” Freya’s gaze ran across the other prisoners, at Jayne’s swollen and bruising eye, Simon’s bleeding ear …

“Where’s Riv?” Jayne asked.

“She said she didn’t need to come.” She raised an eyebrow at the big man. “Apparently because she’s married to you that makes her family-in-waiting to Jolene, so she had to stay. Something about it being traditional. She also said she’d be having words with you tomorrow.”

The emphasis on that one particular word told him all he needed to know. “Oh. Right.”

Several of the men in the other cell snickered, but they stopped as she glanced at them.

“And Jolene?” This was Matty, standing up behind Mal.

“Kaylee?” Simon added.

“We didn’t all need to be trooping down here.” She looked back at Mal, seeing his shirt darker over his shoulder, the fabric sticking to him. “And what happened? Exactly?”

“It was my fault,” Hank put in before Jayne shushed him loudly.

“You never admit to anything, don’t you know that?” He sounded almost disgusted at the pilot’s ignorance. “It’s always down to the other feller.”

“I only meant in as much as I came to a lady’s aid.”

One of the other prisoners spoke, his voice nothing more than a smear. “Wasn’t no lady. Just a whore.” He cradled his injured hand, wrapped in a blue and white bandana that was stained red.

The look Freya threw him shut him up, making him squirm uncomfortably.

She turned back to her own crew. “So you were just being a gentleman?”

“Exactly that,” Hank confirmed.

“And it meant all of you got locked up.”

“Seems to be, xin gan.” Mal leaned on the bars, his forehead resting on his arm. “It was just a misunderstanding.”

“Didn’t I tell you not to get into trouble?” she asked, a flash of what she was truly feeling colouring her face. “A quiet drink. That’s all it was supposed to be.”

“Frey –”

“Are you congenitally incapable of going out to a bar without getting into a brawl?”

“It wasn’t –”

“You say it wasn't your fault once more and you’ll be sleeping on the couch for the foreseeable future.”

Her tone had dropped, and he knew she meant every word. He took a deep breath, fully aware he was skating on thin ice. “We honestly didn’t go out to start anything. And maybe we should have just walked away, but by the time we knew something was gonna go down, it was too late.”

“One of you could have been killed.”

“But we weren’t. We’re okay, mostly. Just a few cuts and bruises. Nobody’s dying.”

“That’s not the point!”

Jefferson, lounging in the doorway, had to smile. It made a change to see another couple arguing – normally he was involved in a much more intimate way, with Deirdra throwing things at him.

“Boss.” It was Vince, one of his deputies. He leaned forward and whispered.

If anything the grin on the sheriff’s face got even wider. “Well, now,” he said, stepping forwards out of the way. “Seems like there’s another of your good ladies’s also got words to say to you.”

A tall, dark-skinned beauty passed by him with barely a glance, and whereas it would normally have irritated him being ignored like that, he was prepared to make an exception in this case, especially if there was likely to be more verbal fireworks.

“Hey, honey.” Hank stood up, smiling warily at Zoe as entered the cell block.


“I wasn't gambling.”

“I know.” She checked him over visually, finding him relatively unscathed and relaxing just a little. “You know what would happen if you did.”

“Yeah.” His grey eyes were sincere.

She looked at Mal. “Captain.”

“Zoe. Everything okay back at the ship?”

“Shiny, sir. Once she’d finished throwing up, Kaylee told me what had happened.”

“Is she all right?” Simon interjected, leaning hard into the bars.

“Feeling a little sorry for herself, truth be told. But otherwise she said she’d stay put, look after the children.”

“I wish I could do something about that damn morning sickness.” It clearly pained him that he couldn’t relieve his wife’s symptoms.

“Well, you can’t right now, but perhaps you can patch up the other injuries.” She glanced back at the deputy.

Vince stepped forward, holding out Simon’s medical bag. “I checked it through. Nothing in there could be classed as a lethal weapon, apart from a couple of tiny knives.”

“Scalpels,” Simon clarified. “And I don’t think I'm going to need them today.”

“Good, ‘cause they ain’t coming.” Jefferson glanced into the bag anyway, but handed it to Zoe. “You wanna do the honours?”


Jefferson opened up the cell and Simon immediately went to work, Zoe assisting. As Mal was still actively bleeding, he made the man remove his shirt first and used tiny butterfly sutures to close the wound again. “I won’t stitch it, not until we’re back in the infirmary, but I think you’ll live.” He wiped a steriswab across the skin, cleaning away as much of the drying blood as possible.

“Thanks, Simon. Better get Zoe to look at your ear, too.”

The young doctor smiled dryly. “Oh, I intend to.”

It didn’t take long to tend to the various injuries, although there was little Simon could do with most of the bruises, or Jayne’s black eye.

“Ain't having no leeches on me,” the big man warned, holding the chemical ice-pack to his cheek.

“Then I may have to release the fluid some other way, if the swelling doesn’t go down, unless you’re happy only seeing out of one eye.”

“This’ll do fine.”

Simon shook his head slightly, then looked across at the other cell. “Do any of you need assistance?” he asked the Golden Dragon crew. “I can easily –“

“Don’t need help from the likes of you,” one of them scowled.

“I'm more than happy to treat –“

“I said no!”

“I don’t think you’re gonna get anywhere with them,” Mal said quietly. “Don’t go wasting our supplies on ‘em.”

“If they’re hurt –“

“Then they’re hurt. We wouldn’t be in this sorry-ass state if it wasn’t for them.”

Simon glared at him, but didn’t back down. Instead he rummaged in his bag, withdrawing a couple of weaves and a disposable hypo. He handed to Jefferson, sighing heavily. “Give these to the injured man.”

“What is it?”

“Antibiotics. At least now, if he loses that hand to septicaemia or gangrene, I won’t feel guilty.”

“Thanks, doc.”

“Not a doctor,” Mal put in quickly. “Don’t reckon he has the brains for it.” He almost smiled at the look Simon flashed him. “Just a man with some natural talent.”

“Well, I’m grateful anyway.” Jefferson turned to the other cell and held out the meagre supplies. “Even if they ain’t. You’d be amazed the amount of paperwork needs filling in when someone dies in the cells.”

“I said we don’t need –“ The self-appointed spokesman got no further.

“Oh, shut it, Walt.” The injured man pushed past him, snatching the weaves and hypo before scurrying to the rear of the cell to tend to his wounds.

“A thank you would be nice,” Jefferson pointed out. “But not likely.” He turned to Zoe and Freya. “Sorry, ladies, but I've gotta ask you to leave. As much as I’ve enjoyed your visit – and believe me, I have – I can’t let you stay.”

“No, I understand.” Zoe took the medical bag back from Simon, the cell door closing again.

“When do they go up before the Judge?” Freya asked, watching Mal gingerly slide his suspenders back over his shoulders, wincing slightly. She felt an irrational tug of anger that he’d got hurt. Again.

“Be about ten. My Dad always did like a big breakfast ‘fore the hanging starts.” Jefferson grinned.


She loved this time of the day. The sun wasn’t yet over the mountains, and there was a crispness in the air that would disappear in only a few minutes, but this was hers. Closing the door behind her after checking that Freya was still wrapped in the comforter on the sofa, dreaming of Mal, River stepped off the porch into the dawn.

They’d talked long into the night, waiting for Freya to come back and let them know what had happened. She could have said, of course, but she didn’t want to scare them. They didn’t know she was psychic, and she was sure they weren't likely to handle it well. Instead, she let them continue.

“What am I gonna tell the kids?” Jolene had said, wringing her hands a little, pictures of her children as babes in arms rather than the teenagers they were flashing through her mind.

“Neither Katie nor Zach are gonna mind,” Deirdra said, trying to calm her friend down. “’Sides, they ain't here. And I for one am glad they’re having their sleepovers, ‘cause you’re not in any fit state to tell ‘em anything at the moment.”

Jolene looked outraged. “I am too!”

“No, you’re not. I told you. I’ll speak to Warren in the morning. He won’t mind if I interrupt his breakfast.” She patted her hair. “He likes me. Although if he knew what his son was doing behind my back –“

“Oh, Deirdra, shut up about that!” Jolene had snapped. “You know damn well Dan’s not doing anything. He wouldn’t dare!”

“Are you saying I –“

“If the cap fits.”

For a moment it looked as if there was going to be a fight, and River sat forward expectantly, but it seemed both women realised they were being at best insensitive, and at worst downright bitchy. Instead of hauling off and hitting her best friend, Jolene instead poured more wine, taking a huge mouthful and swallowing hard.

“Gorram men,” she muttered, and the others agreed with her.

When Freya finally arrived back it was to find Jolene, Deirdra and Carmen laughing at some silly story the latter had told, and definitely the worse the wear for drink. Eventually River put the three friends to bed, split between the two rooms upstairs, and she joined Freya back by the fire to try and make themselves as comfortable as possible.

The two psychics didn’t speak, but Freya reassured River of Jayne and Simon’s relative well-being, and River admitted she knew already. They shared a smile and settled to sleep.

And now, as she walked down the street towards the edge of town, her feet making no sound in the light dust, she sighed happily. She’d already got the rest of the ingredients together, some from their own stores and a couple of others from Jason Gilford’s, but there were three specific plants she needed to find, and according to the wave from Ellie Frye these were best gathered while still fresh from the night air, and if dew dampened, the better. Ellie was sure they’d be available on Ezra, but since most people considered they were weeds, it was unlikely to be anywhere civilised.

Not that she minded. In fact, she liked it very much. Some people were already awake, but as she reached the desert she felt their consciousness drift away, and blessed silence filled her. Now she could open up, let in all the other little lives, the insects and creatures stirring or ready to sleep.

Just in front, a small animal with huge ears stopped to look at her, twitched its nose, then hopped away. Above, something called mournfully as it headed back to its nest. And beyond, in the desert itself, were a thousand million voices doing nothing but being, existing as well they could, with no thought of anger, ambition or avarice.

Even the plants, that tiny flicker of life in the great ‘verse, seemed to soothe her, their auras blended together into one mass of flowing green and yellow.

It didn’t take her long. Ellie’s descriptions had been accurate, and her own Cortex research had supplied pictures of the ones she needed, and within an hour of sunrise she had gathered what she required, taking only enough and leaving the plant to thrive.

As she stood straight, the soft leather bag clasped lightly in her hand (Ellie had been insistent – natural fibres only) she closed her eyes, letting the sun’s warmth take the chill from her bones. It was so peaceful, so at rest, so …

Her eyes flew open, and she turned towards the upthrust of rocks on the horizon that Jayne had called Huo Yan Shan – the Mountain of Flames. Something was there, a red noise like a buzz saw on her brain, something familiar about the taste but sour, like some of Simon’s medicine. Her walls snapped back up, and she shivered. Too many, too much, all talking at the same time, pulling her in every direction … left … right … up, down, inoutcharmstrange …

She took a deep breath, her slim frame shuddering with the effort to regain control.


It was Freya, awake and in her mind, giving her all the strength she needed.

I'm all right, she thought back. Something …

Do you need me to come get you?

No. She tried a mental smile. I think something died close by, and it … I felt its death.

Come home, River.

On my way.

With only a glance towards the rocks she ran back to the town, the makings of Ellie Frye’s almost-patented anti-emetic in her hand.


Dan Jefferson had indeed managed to rustle up some breakfast, but only Jayne ate with any real gusto. The others picked over the food, eating somewhat desultorily.

Matty finally put his metal plate on the floor. “I can’t,” he said. “Not with … I just ain’t hungry.”

“Can’t waste good food.” Jayne tipped the remains onto his own plate and polishing them off in short order.

“How can you do that?” Hank asked. “You should be enormous, the amount you eat.”

Jayne glared at him but decided jail probably wasn’t a good place to start a fight. Especially considering why they were inside in the first place. “Been times there ain’t been any food around at all,” he explained, almost patiently. “One planet I was on, had to catch the vermin just so’s I didn’t starve. So when it’s there, I eat it.”

“He has a high metabolism,” Simon added, handing over his own half-finished breakfast, partly due to the mental image of Jayne eating something small and brown that squeaked.

“Gotta keep myself in the peak of condition.” Jayne stuffed a slice of bread whole into his mouth, then said, somewhat indistinctly as he chewed at the same time, “Takes a lot to keep up with your sister.”

“Oh, please.”

Mal ate slowly, but he too finished his meal. He’d had days like Jayne mentioned, all too many of them back in the Valley, and food was food. At least this was fresh, and not overrun with maggots. His eyes wandered to the cell opposite, where the crew of the Golden Dragon didn’t seem to be eating at all, but were looking increasingly nervous. Maybe they were afraid of what their boss would do to them, if they managed to escape any more time in jail. Chester Lau had a reputation, and it wasn’t good. The only reason he kept men was because he paid them well, but if they crossed him in any way …

And it wasn’t rumour, either. Mal had met a man in a bar once, bought him a drink just to be neighbourly, and talked while waiting for his contact to arrive. When the man finally left, he leaned heavily on his cane as he walked out of the door due to the fact that Chester Lau had personally shot off all his toes for having unwittingly screwed up a deal.

Maybe it wasn’t surprising that the other men were starting to worry.

Jefferson appeared in the doorway. “Well, gentlemen. It’s time.”


The court house, built by the settlers when they thought Ezra was going to be more than just a blip in the cosmic scheme of things, was only a few steps from the jail, but everyone took the opportunity to breathe in the fresh air.

Waiting by the entrance already, though, were all the female members of Serenity’s crew, and Jolene.

“Honey,” Matty said warily.

“Let’s just wait on that a while,” she said somewhat stiffly, going into the cool interior, her head pounding, although she kept telling herself that was from the strong sunlight and not the alcohol.

Bao-bei, are you okay?” Simon asked Kaylee, standing in the shade, her hands clasped protectively across her swollen belly.

“Shiny,” she said, smiling a little. “You? Zoe said you’d got hurt.”

He lifted his hand to touch the weaves on his ear. “I might have a few teeth-shaped scars for a while.”

“Hope you knee’d him right back.”

“I … don’t recall.” With the Golden Dragon crew behind them, he felt it was better to be circumspect. “But Zoe said you threw up again.”

Kaylee nodded. “And this morning.” She sighed. “Ain’t it ever gonna stop?”

River smiled enigmatically, then caught Freya’s eye.

Is that what you were doing in the kitchen?

The young psychic shrugged faintly. Needs to ferment. I’ve tried to make it taste of strawberries.

Freya’s lips twitched, but she didn’t comment.

“What’s goin’ on?” Jayne asked, having caught the look if not the thoughts.

River turned her dark eyes on him. “You promised. No fighting if I wasn’t there.”

“I know I did, moonbrain. But it weren’t exactly my choice.”

“Did you equate yourself well?”

He looked down at his skinned knuckles. “Think maybe I did.”

“Good boy.”

He grinned.

Serenity‘s captain gazed at his wife. “Frey.”


“Where are the kids?”

“Safe and sound. Bethie’s taking them through some homework.”

“You forgiven me yet?”

“Not sure.”

“We waiting on that too?”


“Come on, now,” Jefferson said, his hand on his gun. “The Judge is waiting.”

As they filed inside, the deputies following and taking up positions by all the exits, Jayne took a good look around. Jason Gilford was already sitting at the front, waiting, Jolene ramrod straight next to him, staring forwards, two other women at her side. Their eyes were on the men entering.

Matty’s erstwhile pal Terry was lounging at the back, his bright red hair shining in the morning sunlight. Next to him was the girl from the saloon, the one Hank had tried to defend. She appeared more than a little uncomfortable, but he had his arm around her, and he looked smug. No need to wonder what he’d been doing all the time they’d been sitting on their backsides in the jail. He gave a half-salute.

Also in the front row, on the other side of the main aisle, were three men, all with jet black hair, looking like three versions of the same man, except they ranged from stocky to thin. It didn’t take a genius to work out these were the Lau brothers.

Jefferson indicated they should line up in front of the low railing, and they split like at a wedding - bride’s side and groom’s. The Golden Dragon boys kept their heads down and didn’t look at their employer, while Serenity’s women joined Gilford and Jolene.

They didn’t have long to wait. The door behind the low dais opened, and a man in his seventies walked through, rubbing his hands.

“Well, let’s get on with things,” he said, sitting down and pulling a pair of half-moon spectacles from his pocket that he proceeded to clean on his vest before settling them on his nose. “Dan? These the miscreants broke up Gideon’s place?”

Jayne stirred, but a glance from Mal had him subside a little.

“These are them, Judge.” Jefferson grinned at his father. “Least, all of ‘em that didn’t run away.” For some reason he glanced at the middlemost of the Lau clan.

“And is Gideon here?”

“Yes, your honour.” The man in question stood up at the back of the court where nobody had noticed him. “They damaged tables, chairs, smashed my pool table into matchwood, let alone the grievous harm they did to my body -”

“Yes, yes. But we’ll be getting to that. First of all, which one of you is Jayne Cobb?” He peered over his spectacles then blinked hard. “Although is that a fool question?”

“I think it is, Pa,” his son agreed.

Judge Warren Jefferson stared hard at the big man standing in front of him, towering somewhat over the other accused. “Jayne Cobb. You look like your father. And Matty here.” The glare switched to the younger brother for a moment, then returned. “Can’t say I’m surprised you finally ended up in front of me, though. Considering.”

Mal closed his eyes. Things were not going well.

to be continued


Saturday, January 24, 2009 8:59 AM


Very interesting storylines all coming together - glad Ellie Frye is represented here too! Poor guys, but knowing you the real scoop will soon be revealed.

Saturday, January 24, 2009 9:46 AM


Ah, trials are always fun. I hope it goes well for Serenity's crew tho!!
&& so intrigued about the Lau Brothers!!

Saturday, January 24, 2009 10:11 AM


Oh crap, looks like the Judge knowing of the Cobbs will be a big black mark against our battered crew. I'm hoping the girl will speak up and explain just why the fight broke out in the first place, always supposing she has a spark of decency. Really enjoyed the visit of the girls to the boys in jail. I have my fingers crossed they don't end up with the Lau brothers out for our crew's blood just because they are nasty and born mean. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me

Saturday, January 24, 2009 11:19 AM


Well, a lot I would say has been said, though I love Fray's attitude in this one. Nicely written!!


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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!]