Keeping On: Part 8 - Mail Call
Friday, March 13, 2009

A year after the Miranda broadcast, Mal and Zoe struggle to keep their family together and keep flying as situations begin to build on Serenity. Mail Call: The crew arrives at the Sky Bazaar and Jayne receives a letter from home that makes him more than a little anxious.


Keeping On: Part 8 - Mail Call

Disclaimer: Firefly, Serenity, and all related characters are copyright 2002-2005 Mutant Enemy, Inc., Universal Pictures, and 20th Century Fox. This is a work of fanfiction. No copyright infringement is intended.


The crew – now eight – had their first meal together and things were strained at best. Inara barely spoke a word to anyone and Kaylee did her best to keep the conversation going. Jayne seemed interested only in eating and Simon kept his attention on Kaylee and his sister. Mal and Zoe weren’t really talking and Lilah was struck by how awkward the situation was. She couldn't help but say as much.

“I used to think that no dinner could possibly be more awkward than the time I ended up eating with my old flight instructor while in the buff. Apparently I was wrong, because this tops it on a few different levels.”

The conversation stopped abruptly as the crew took in her words. River snorted and laughed and Jayne’s eyes took on a leering glint. The rest simply looked scandalized.

“You had dinner with your flight instructor? While you were naked?” Mal asked incredulously.

“I lost a bet.” Lilah said shortly, staring very intently at her food as she picked at it with her chopsticks.

“A big one, I’m guessing.” Zoe remarked.

“Oh, you’re not wrong.” She agreed and finally cracked a smile. “But other than the lack of clothing, it wasn’t so bad. I just couldn’t look him in the eyes after that. Or his wife’s eyes. She was there, too. But that’s a story for a different time – one better suited to a setting not at the dinner table.”

Jayne began to laugh, a deep rumble that sounded surprisingly pleasant, given his general attitude. “Guess it’s good to know that you’re a heathen like the rest of us.” He said. “Except maybe Inara.”

“Oh, I’m a heathen now?” Simon quipped. “I feel so very proud.”

The crew laughed and it was as though the ice had been thawed at least a little bit.


Retreating into the room that was designated hers (and it was a passenger room, since all the crew bunks were taken – even with River still in the passenger dorm and Inara in her shuttle), Lilah heaved a sigh and started to unpack her few things.

She was nearly done when a knock on her door interrupted her.

“Lilah? It’s Simon. May I come in?”

Lilah admitted him into her room, curious.

Simon smiled reassuringly at her.

“I wanted to schedule an examination sometime soon, a physical, if you will. I’m sure that you’re perfectly able to take care of yourself, but having a medical history summary and a physical on record will make things much smoother in the event that you’re on my table.” Simon said, so confidently and smoothly that it never occurred to her to object.

“Will sometime tomorrow afternoon be convenient?” He asked.


“Good night, then. For what it’s worth, welcome aboard.” He smiled at her sincerely and left.

At least I might have one friend onboard.

She finished putting her things away and fell asleep on her new bed, still completely clothed.


Reaching the Sky Bazaar was simple enough, and Lilah checked at various times during the week it took to get there to make sure that they were still on course. She spent a hefty majority on the bridge, embracing her new job the best way she knew how. Getting to know Serenity was like getting to know someone who you instantly knew would become a life-long friend. If she was honest with herself, she enjoyed the solitude of the bridge – away from the crew, who somewhat overwhelmed her. The crew seemed larger than life at times, and Lilah didn’t know if she’d ever be able to really take a place among them.

The result of her self-induced seclusion was that the various members of the crew who stopped by now and then (the notable exceptions were Jayne and Inara, who hadn’t visited at all) to visit with her and get to know her mostly found her a bit distant and closed off, except for Simon. For a day or two, Mal and Zoe had serious doubts about bringing her on and they wondered if they’d been too hasty in their search. They still knew nearly nothing about her, save that she was a widow from Paquin, she flew in the War, and had apparently lost a bet that ended up with her dining naked with her old flight instructor.

Inara had voiced her concern to Mal.

“I’m not sure about her, Mal.” She said. “She’s so closed off and…”

“And what, Inara?” Mal asked.

“She…” She sighed. “She bothers me.”

Mal frowned. “What’s she done?”

“I don’t know, Mal. All I know is that she bothers me, and I’ve learned to listen to my instincts.”

Mal wondered if there was something deeper going on, but decided to let it drop. Things between him and Inara were getting so much better, even if they were still a bit strained and tense.

He recalled Lilah’s comment about the dinosaurs. He and Zoe had talked at length about that comment, but could find nothing wrong in it. It couldn’t have been Wash, because Wash hadn’t fought in the War. He’d said as much himself – multiple times. Hell, Zoe had relented, there could plenty of wacky pilots in the ‘Verse who kept toys on their bridges.

Meanwhile, Simon had given Lilah a physical and taken down her medical history, noticing that she paused when discussing her time while married.

“What you say in here stays between us, Lilah. I’m your medic, and you need to be able to trust me. Believe me in this, no one on this crew is going to extract any dark medical secrets about you out of me.”

“My health was fine.” But she paused, and then taking a deep breath, barreled on to tell him her medical history from just before her marriage up until her first step onboard the ship. He quietly took notes and then released her with a clean bill of health, insisting that she come to him should she have any health problems and concerns.

“Thank you, Simon. I will.”

“I finally have a patient who will cooperate.” He said, with a wry smile.

“Are the others that bad?” Lilah asked.

“I’m not really at liberty to say.” Simon said, still smiling.


River turned out to be quite nice. She visited Lilah up on the bridge often, mostly just sitting in companionable silence.

But one day Lilah looked at her sitting over at the co-pilot’s station and she couldn’t help but smile and ask her the questions that had been popping up in her mind.



“Why did you start flying Serenity?”

“She was sad. Lost her Book and lost her pilot. Wash could make her soar and she missed him. I wanted to take the ache away and I tried so hard. And I wanted to prove…”

“Prove what?” Lilah asked gently.

“I wanted to prove that I was useful; that I had a place. If I have a place, I fit in with the family and I belong. If I don’t have a place, I don’t fit in and I’m lost. But I don’t like being lost and I don’t want to lose Serenity. She’s my home and she cares for us and keeps us safe.”

“It’s nice when you have that feeling of belonging and feeling safe.” Lilah agreed.

“There’s another question you wish to ask.” River said, looking at her.

“If you don’t mind?” Lilah prompted.


“If you were unhappy, why didn’t you say something?” That was what Lilah had wondered.

River smiled sadly.

“Because it was needed. Serenity needs a pilot who loves her and I do love her. And I didn’t want to let him down.”


“Yes. He took me in and he cares for me. He looks out for me and keeps me safe, even when he knows it’s not always the smart thing to do. He’s moral and honorable.”

“And criminal.” Lilah couldn’t help but throw that in.

“Yes, he’s criminal.” River agreed with a wide smile. “He’s a good man. He doesn’t believe it most of the time, but he is.”

Lilah smiled.

“So, River, any secret tips for flying Serenity that I should know about?” Lilah asked, hoping to make River feel useful. “After all, you know her better than I do.”

River smiled mysteriously. “Talk to the guardians…they’ll tell you what you need to know. Also…”


“You have to love her. It will keep her in the air and keep her flying. If you don’t love her, then she won’t talk to you and won’t pull you through. We all love her. You need to learn to love her as well.” River said, recalling that rainy day when she’d first flown Serenity and Mal had divulged the secret that Wash had known as well.

She looked at Lilah as they neared the Sky Bazaar and smiled.

Serenity doesn’t trust you yet, but she’s learning to.” She got up and left, leaving Lilah to ponder on her words.


Docking at the Bazaar was easy enough and Mal and Zoe smiled at each other. It was their first successful trip with a new pilot. They had done the same thing when Wash had made his first successful trip.

Mal gave them what Lilah would later come to know as the usual spiel. Entering the bazaar, the first thing Lilah noticed was a barker insisting that alien life existed. Simon and Kaylee pulled her aside and told her it was a mutated cow fetus.

They stopped and collected their post. A few packages were waiting for them; spare parts that were needed for Serenity, a care package to Kaylee from her folks and a letter to Jayne from his mother.

Lilah quickly wrote a letter to her parents, letting them know that this was where they could reach her by post if need be, and left it with Amnon the postal man after opening up a post box.

Jayne was reading his letter quietly, which was strange. He usually read them aloud.

“Jayne, good letter?” Kaylee asked.

“Yeah, just stuff about home.” He answered, still reading.

“Your family okay?” She persisted.

“Yeah, they’re shiny.”

Simon, Inara, and River returned from a few shops, carrying various bags.

“Inara, are you sure that I purchased suitable clothing?” River was asking.

“I’m positive. You’re almost 19, River. You should have fun playing with clothes.”

“You’ve got to grow out of those dresses sooner or later, River.” Simon said.

“I like the dresses. They make me feel like a girl.” River said.

“I promise, River, spend some time with me in my shuttle, and I’ll help you dress so that you feel like a young woman.” Inara said kindly.

Lilah wondered what it would be like to get to know Inara. She seemed very friendly and kind to everyone (even Jayne) except to her. As far as she knew, she hadn’t done anything to offend Inara. She wondered if Inara just wasn’t very quick in warming up to strangers.

“So, Amnon, is this all?” Mal asked.

“Yes it is Mal. You really should stop by more often. It’s so good to see a friendly face.” The kindly man had said.

Mal promised that he would try and the crew dispersed.

They spent a few hours more at the bazaar, relaxing. Mal, Zoe, Jayne, and Inara went to have a drink at one of the bars and Simon, Kaylee, and River went to grab a snack at one of the various vendors that lined the bazaar. Lilah settled for wandering around, having never been to the bazaar before. A certain store drew her eye and she went inside, finding what she was looking for before paying for it and meeting back with Mal and the others in the bar.

“What do you think of this place?” Mal asked.

“It’s busy.” Lilah answered, taking a drink of her double-whiskey on the rocks. “Reminds me of the Tai Yang Chun Tian markets on Beaumonde. The place never shuts down.”

“Spent some time on Beaumonde, have you?” Zoe asked.

“Yeah. It’d be a fantastic place if it weren’t for the strong Alliance presence that’s overtaken it since the War ended. Place was well-enough without the purple-bellies worming their way in.”

“A lot of worlds spinning where that’s the case.” Mal said. “It’s why we keep to the sky.”

“Can’t argue with that policy. Paquin has much less of an Alliance influence. Alliance don’t like being there; something to do with the various parts of the planet that didn’t take to the terraforming too well.”

“What do you mean?” Inara questioned. It was one of the very few times that Inara had spoken to her.

“Terraforming took well enough a few hundred years ago, but certain areas had to undergo the process longer because of complications. The result was that those areas are now prone to extreme weather patterns. It varies from year to year. Some years there are harsh winter storms and others there are cyclones and thunderstorms that’ll turn your hair white. It’s too difficult to predict most of the time. It’s like a big surprise every year.” Lilah said. No one missed the sarcasm in her voice on that last part.

“Did you live in one of those areas?” Mal asked.

“My husband and I lived close enough to one.”

“Must have made life a bit more interesting.”


“So, Inara,” Mal turned his attention to the lovely lady at his side. “How was the shopping trip with Simon and River?”

“Oh, it was mostly just River and I. Simon darted off for about an hour to take care of an errand. But it went well. River’s starting to grow up some and this could be a healthy start for her.”

“She does seem to be doing loads better.”

“Give her time Mal, and she’ll be a young woman before you know it.”

“Oh?” Mal smiled.

“Yes, and I imagine you’ll enjoy playing the blustering male parental figure who shines his guns and reminds her young man to have her home before dark.”

Jayne and Zoe both snorted.

“Think I might need to add a small disclaimer policy what says I’m in no way responsible should River decided to inflict bodily harm on the lucky fella.” Mal said.

“It might save you some trouble.” Inara agreed.

Mal, Zoe, Jayne, and Inara all laughed and Lilah had the feeling that she was missing out on some little joke between the crew.

“Like the Moon-Brain’s ever gonna catch a guy.” Jayne finally said, rolling his eyes.

“She’s doing much better, Jayne. And River can be very charming when she wants to be.” Inara said sternly.

“Guy’d have to be as crazy as she is.” Jayne muttered.

“She ain’t crazy.” Mal said, his voice brooking no room for argument.

“Whatever, Mal. I’m gonna head back to the ship. Got things to do.” Jayne abruptly stood and left, and after another hour or so, the others followed, gathering Simon, Kaylee, and River along the way.


Jayne had retreated down into his bunk, where he re-read his letter again.

To My Boy Jayne,

Things are doing very well here on Kerry. We just sold three mares and we’re certain that a few of our cows will be birthing again soon. I’ve hired help to help your Uncle and me, and the new ranch hands are fitting in nicely.

Your brother Jules is doing well and sends you his regards, as do your sisters and their families.

We have exciting news that we need to share. Your brother Mattie just got himself engaged to one of the Liselman girls – Cheyenne. The last time you saw her she was probably in pig-tails and ribbons. They’ve set a date for next year and would like for you to come for the wedding, if you can. I can’t remember the last time I saw your brother so happy. He’s really grown up and is taking well to his job as a teacher at the local school.

I hope that things are going well for you on your travels and that your hat is keeping you warm. Please write soon.


Your Mother

He was rather shocked at hearing that Mattie was engaged. He had just been a kid when Jayne left Kerry eighteen years ago, and all sickly too. And now he was grown up and a teacher and getting married, just like his older sisters.

That left Jayne as the only one of his siblings who wasn’t settling down with a family. His brother Jules didn’t count; he was a Shepherd.

Jayne suddenly felt a rather alarming sense of anxiety and restlessness. He liked how he was well enough. But people in his line of work didn’t last long and he’d lasted longer than most. Getting married, having a family, settling down – those were things he’d long since given up on. He had a good job and a good crew and usually enough money to take care of his self while sending some back home.

There wasn’t really anymore he could ask for, was there? He supposed that he was just going to have to be happy for baby brother and be glad that his family was happy.

For the next few days, Jayne kept to his self. He didn’t feel like talking to anyone and outside of meal times, he didn’t. Weight lifting wasn’t doing it for him and he’d cleaned and polished every weapon he owned.

He was relieved when Mal announced that they had another job lined up; apparently he’d met a contact at the Sky Bazaar and it had taken them a few days to hammer out the details. It was a simple cargo haul, but it was also to a planet that had a reputation for backwater thieves snatching the goods as soon as they arrived. Jayne was hoping that he’d get some gunplay in.

He worried a bit about the crew. He knew that the dynamic was going to start changing with a new member – just like it had when Shepherd Book and the Tams had joined – and just like it had when Book and Wash had died. Jayne didn’t trust new crew, not until they proved themselves. He figured that the next few jobs would be the deciding factor as to whether or not he trusted her.

They had former fugies on board and Jayne didn’t want her to take a notion in her head to turn them in anyways. He and the Doc had developed a rapport of sorts and the Doc’s sis was okay enough. He’d actually be sort of sad if they went away.

Jayne wasn’t a big fan of change and he knew that he had to resign himself to the fact that it was going to come, whether he wanted it or not.


I hope you enjoy! Questions, comments, and constructive criticism are greatly appreciated!



Friday, March 13, 2009 2:45 PM


I agree with your post-Serenity Jayne: I think that one scene in the movie, after they've been to Miranda and Jayne slides Simon some of the alcohol he's drinking that he could let go of the issues he had with the Doctor and River.

Friday, March 13, 2009 4:28 PM


Interesting take on Jayne. I never really thought of him not liking change. After all, he changed crews quickly enough when given a better chance. You're setting up some interesting dynamics between people - looking forward to more.

Saturday, March 14, 2009 1:23 AM


Good to see another chapter up and it is nice to see you developing Lilah's relationship with various members of the crew at this pace. Just signing on and being instant friends rarely happens in life so this take is very believable. I like how Jayne has matured and yet still is Jayne. And Mal and Inara getting on better? That's always good news even if I hold my breath to see how long it will last. I get the feeling there is great sadness in our new pilot's past and hope this will be the crew to heal her. Ali D :~)
You can't take the sky from me


You must log in to post comments.



Innocence Lost
He thinks he can see a connection. Part two of <i>If's & Maybe's</i>, a series of unrelated pieces dedicated to exploring the characters of Mal and Inara and the relationship between them.

Promises: Bent, Not Broken
Next in the Keeping On 'Verse. Lilah has an emotional breakdown, and gets some insight from the one person she never thought would give it: Mal.

Still Flying - Part VII
Next in the Keeping On 'Verse.
Mal, Zoe, and company continue to adjust and keep flying, even as trouble appears to be brewing on the horizon. <i>Part VII</i>: Mal and Zoe discuss their previous job, Zoe and Lilah come to an understanding, and a handsome man of dubious character receives his birthday gift. Now Complete.

Still Flying - Part VI
Next in the Keeping On 'Verse.
Mal, Zoe, and company continue to adjust and keep flying, even as trouble appears to be brewing on the horizon. <i>Part VI</i>: Mal and Zoe complete the job, with interesting results, while a bored River finds a way to occupy herself.

Still Flying - Part V
Next in the Keeping On 'Verse.
Mal, Zoe, and company continue to adjust and keep flying, even as trouble appears to be brewing on the horizon. <i>Part V</i>: Things are reserved on <i>Serenity</i>, and Mal finds out that his flush new deal is a great deal more trouble than he originally thought.

Still Flying - Part IV
Next in the Keeping On 'Verse.
Mal, Zoe, and company continue to adjust and keep flying, even as trouble appears to be brewing on the horizon. <i>Part IV</i>: Mal, Zoe, Jayne, Lilah, and Monty pay a quiet little visit to an Alliance-friendly bar on Unification Day.

Still Flying - Part III
Next in the Keeping On 'Verse.
Mal, Zoe, and company continue to adjust and keep flying, even as trouble appears to be brewing on the horizon. <i>Part III</i>: The deal with Badger is made, but with a catch. Meanwhile, a spat breaks out between Simon and Kaylee. Reviews would be lovely.

Still Flying - Part II
Next in the Keeping On 'Verse.
Mal, Zoe, and company continue to adjust and keep flying, even as trouble appears to be brewing on the horizon. <i>Part II</i>: The crew makes the drop, a bar fight is had, and things get a little too intense while flying to Persephone.

Still Flying - Part I
Next in the Keeping On 'Verse.
Mal, Zoe, and company continue to adjust and keep flying, even as trouble appears to be brewing on the horizon. <i>Part I</i>: Mal, Zoe, and River meet with their new contact and Lilah learns how Wash died. Reviews would be lovely.

The Serenity Book Club
Simon and Lilah discuss a book they've both recently read. This is just a silly little piece set after <i>Keeping On</i> but before its sequel.