Keeping On: Part 12 - Keeping On
Thursday, April 23, 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. Keeping On: The crew begins to pick up the pieces. COMPLETE.


Keeping On: Part 12 - Keeping On

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.


Zoe had descended into her bunk and no one heard from her for a few hours. She’d agreed to meet Mal in the mess that night for a drink, but otherwise she ignored the world around her. She picked up a stray dinosaur that was on her nightstand, surveyed it for a moment, and then chucked it as hard as she could across the room. Then she curled up with an old Hawaiian shirt of Wash’s and cried.

She had thought that she didn’t have any more tears to shed because of Wash. She was wrong.


In the infirmary, Lilah had sat quietly as Simon examined her. He’d shone a vicious light into her eyes and had done a scan of her head, worried that the drop to the floor along with Zoe’s punch might have caused a concussion. The room had nearly stopped spinning, for which Lilah was eternally grateful.

“Well, Doc, am I gonna live?” Lilah asked.

“Thankfully, the damage seems to be minimal. You’ll only be in pain for a few days at best and your black eye will eventually clear up as well. I can give you a pain killer for right now and it might help to avoid harsh light.” Simon said.

“Anything else to avoid?”

“Getting hit again.” Simon answered wryly.

“Pain killer, please.” Lilah held her head, touching around her eye were the skin was soft and tender. Gonna have to try to not piss her off again. Not that I was aiming to piss her off in the first place.

“Alright, but first you have to promise me something.”

“Withholding treatment, Simon? That ain’t very doctorly of you.”

“Indulge my brief moment of questionable ethics.”

“What is it that you want?”

“One of these days you have to tell me how you ended up eating with your flight instructor and his wife while you were naked.” Simon said, smiling widely.

“Deal. I’ll tell you sooner or later. Now give me the gorram pain killer.”

Simon gave her the medicine and took one last look at her left eye, the skin around which was rapidly changing color. He really didn’t envy her. I always knew that it would be prudent to avoid upsetting Zoe.

“How is Kaylee doing? Is she going to be okay?”

“Yeah, Kaylee’s going to be fine. She’ll be moving back into our bunk tonight.” Simon said, and Lilah could detect the relief and love in his voice.

“Good. I’m glad she’s alright; she’s a sweet girl.”

“I’m lucky to have her.”

“You really are.” Lilah said sincerely.

She left, off to make sure that they were still on their heading.

As she entered the bridge and sat down and checked their screens to make sure that all was well, she reclined back, resting her head gently on the comfortable back of the chair. She contemplated the Black before her and smiled, hopeful that, recent troubles involving being tied up and interrogated aside, one day Serenity would be home.


“River, you in there?” Mal knocked on River’s door.

He heard some shuffling and then the door slid open, revealing a very haunted looking River. He managed to hold in his sigh; he’d been afraid of this.

“Mind if I come in?”

“It’s your ship.” She stood back, permitting him entrance into her little room, still mostly bare even after over a year on ship. What décor was there, was sparse. A few drawings of the crew that she had done, and her Reaver axe and sword crossed were all that was hung on her walls.

“I reckon we need to be having words about what went on earlier.” Mal said, sitting down on the foot of her bed while she sat cross-legged at the head. He picked at her duvet, not sure how to say what he was thinking.

“You’re worried I’ll have another breakdown.” River said.

“It’s crossed my mind, I won’t lie. Why’d you do it, River? Random fits of bar fights and slaying Reavers aside, you don’t like violence.”

River gave a sigh, looking much older than her nearly 19 years.

“When Simon saved me, I was still what they made me. I was a weapon. And then I became a girl again and the weapon disappeared until Miranda set it free. It was there until I took control of it when I fought the Reavers and learned to send it away.

“I’m a weapon underneath the girl skin and bones and blood. I won’t ever be able to change it. They taught me to crave the violence, to crave the kill. I can’t get rid of those feelings, not completely. I’ve tried to bury them away, but I can’t. All I can do is try my best to adjust and learn to control them.” She looked intently at Mal, who was very quiet, pondering her words and cursing for the infinite-something time the demons who’d cut on her brain. “Have to protect the family. I will protect the family.”

Mal schooled his face to remain impassive as he considered the full impact of what she was saying. He didn’t doubt her intentions for a second.

“Ain’t sayin’ I’m not grateful, River, because you know that I am. I just don’t want you thinking that you have to turn yourself into a killer on account of us. Killing ain’t good for the soul.”

“Do I still have one?” River asked. “Do I even have a soul?”

“’Course you do. What kinda fool question is that? You not havin’ a soul, honestly!” Mal tried to be light about the subject, hoping to distract her.

River simply stared at him, not amused in the slightest.

“Someone as good as you, someone as strong as you has got to have one. You ain’t a monster River, and you ain’t something to be controlled. You’re flesh and blood, just like us. You might got a few very useful skill sets that can be considered scary and creepifyin’ upon occasion, but you’re a person, actual and whole.”

“I wonder sometimes. I remember things that they made me do, what they told me to do, what they told me I am, and I forget. They took stuff away and they put stuff in.” She looked directly at him and emphasized her next words. “They changed me.”

“That may be, River. Way I see it, you got two options. You let that change be for the worse, or you let that change be for the better.”

“Captain is wise sometimes.” River said.

“Only sometimes?” Mal asked with not-so-fake indignance.

“Plans go to hell. Say stupid things. End up naked in the desert.” River said with a smile. “But you’re still the gorram Captain.”

“Damn right, I am. And you’d best not forget it, Little Missy!”

They joked around for a few moments, Mal posturing and River trying to keep a straight face as Mal tried to reassert his Captainly dignity. The entire time, though, she was pondering what he had to her earlier.

“You think my skills are useful?” River asked slowly, as if entertaining a thought.

“For the most part, yes.” Mal admitted, having a feeling of where this was going to be heading and not liking it one bit.

“I would like to help out on the next few jobs. I want to see how useful I can be.” River said.

“I’m not sure how smart an idea that is, River.” Mal said gently.

“I heard the Reavers, I can shoot, and I can sense things. I can be useful. You’ve wanted me to help on jobs before. This isn’t any different.”

“Doc don’t take too kindly to-” River interrupted him.

“When did you begin caring about what Simon wants? I’m of age and I want to help. Simon is my brother, not my father. He’s starting to accept it.”

That caught Mal’s attention.

“That he ain’t your father?” He asked confusedly.

“No, that I’m never going to be the River Tam that he used to know and play with. He knows that he can’t fix me; can’t fix or replace the hardware they added and took away. He knows what I am. And he’s starting to accept it.”

Mal sighed heavily. He didn’t like the idea of River getting hurt, even if he did like the edge that River could give them on jobs. Her abilities were useful and she had been training herself to control it. The secret that had fried her brain was now ‘Verse-wide knowledge and as far as he knew, it was one of the biggest obstacles that had been in her way. He also had to acknowledge the fact, however, that she was still going to have problems and challenges to overcome and deep down, he didn’t ever think she’d be completely there in the head. But he’d promised that he would help her find her place. He couldn’t rightly renege on that promise.

“I suppose you can come on the next few jobs, get yourself wet behind the ears a bit.” Mal said. “But you listen to me and Zoe’s orders, dong ma?”

Wu dong.” River said eagerly, before pausing, worried. “Do I have to listen to Jayne?”

“We’ll take that on a case by case basis. Man can be pretty stupid at times, but he knows his job damn well.” Mal smiled at her.

River cocked her head to the side, suddenly.

“Need to go and clear my mind, need to hide away. Don’t want to be found. Will talk with Captain later. Need to be alone.” She smiled reassuringly at him and then left him sitting there, slightly confused.

A few moments later, he met Jayne as he slid her door shut.

“Did you need something Jayne?”

“You seen Crazy?” Jayne asked.

“Her name is River, Jayne, not ‘Crazy’.” Mal said with the exasperation of someone who had to keep repeating himself.

“I know that. You seen her?”

“She and I were talking and then she darted off real sudden-like. Why?”

“No reason, just wanted to have a word with her on the upkeep of them weapons of hers.” Jayne muttered.

Mal stared at him half-suspiciously before shrugging it off and telling him that River was bound to be somewhere on the ship.


“Crazy? Little Killer Person?” Jayne was looking around the cargo bay, knowing that she was hiding somewhere. “…River?”

He walked around, scanning the area for any clue that she might have passed through or found a place to be alone. He finally found her in a deep corner that was all but concealed by crates and boxes and a lack of lighting. He gave his eyes a second to adjust, and saw that she was sitting with her knees drawn up to her chest and her hair covering most of her face.

“Girl? Why ya hidin’?”

“Jayne was looking for me and I did not want to be found.” River said quietly. “I was apparently unsuccessful in my attempts.”

“Why didn’t ya want to be found? Thought we got along alright, you and me.” Jayne said.

“Jayne and I do not get along. Jayne thinks I’m crazy and wants me to go and be crazy where he is not. So I hide and avoid him.”

“I didn’t mean it, when I snapped at ya before.” Jayne said quietly, reaching out to her and feeling as though he had been struck when she flinched away from him.

“Jayne meant it. Not for long, but Jayne meant it at the time. Jayne hacked away at the growing trust and now the bridge has to be erected again. Bridge is gone and will not be coming back, not without time. Can’t cross, impossible to cross.”

Jayne was quiet as he considered her words.

“Jayne should go and be not crazy and leave the moon-brained, feng le girl to her thoughts.”

“Dammit, I said I was sorry.”

“No, Jayne didn’t.”

“Well, I’m sayin’ it now! I’ma sorry fer snappin’ at ya.”

“Please go.” It was her voice, small and quiet, more than anything that made Jayne turn and go, leaving her alone.

Need to learn to keep my mouth shut. He thought.


“I still don’t completely trust her, Mal.” Inara was saying. She and Mal were sitting in her shuttle, talking over the events of the past day.

“I’m aware of that, Inara. Believe me, I am. But there weren’t no call for us to go and jump her like that. Can’t fault her for havin’ a life before she hired on with us.”

“She just…she bothers me, Mal. I can’t place it, but she bothers me.”

“Well, that may be. But I think that for now we need to give her a chance, we owe her that much. Bein’ on the receiving end of a sucker punch from Zoe ain’t fun and I don’t envy very much that black eye she’s gonna have.”

“How long do you think she’ll stay?”

“Can’t rightly tell. But she said she was stayin’ for now and hopefully we can convince her not to leave.”

“Nothing ever seems to go smoothly here.” Inara smiled.

“Be mighty boring if it did.” Mal chuckled.

“Do you have your next great heist planned out?” Inara asked.

“Well, we still have that cargo waitin’ to be picked up at Greenleaf. And then we gotta drop it off on Beylix.” Mal said. “We’ll be hitting Greenleaf in about five days.”

“That’s good time, considering where we are.”

“Lilah knows her craft, I’ll give her that.”

“She is very talented.” Inara admitted. “How is Zoe doing?”

Mal sighed. “She’s still shaken up a bit. Figured she and I would have a drink tonight, and talk over some things. Woman got an unhealthy dose of shock today and Zoe in shock is not the best thing ever.”

“Would you like for me to speak with her?” Inara asked graciously.

“I’m sure she’d appreciate that in the next few days.” Mal said, standing to leave. “Shuttle still doin’ okay?”

“What? Oh, yes. It’s fine. And the rent will be paid for the next two months, as always.” Inara said, standing as well. All of a sudden, the former awkwardness between them seemed to return. “Do you need it this week?”

“No, no. No rush. Just thought I’d make sure that you were still, you know, comfortable. In here.” He paused. “That you were still comfortable in here.”

“I’m good. I’m very, very good.”

“Good, good. It’s good that you’re good. I’d better go and…check on Zoe.”

“Please, do.”

Mal left, and Inara sat down, feeling relief that the awkward conversation was over.

Pull it together, Inara. You’re a Companion. You should be able to maintain control over every conversation that you engage in. It’s no wonder Sheydra and the others were teasing you relentlessly.


“Are the pillows okay? Do you need more of them? I can go and get more if you want.”

“Simon, Bao bei, quit fussin’. I’ma gonna be okay. Just need to sleep for a bit.” Kaylee said, lying in bed as she watched her husband-to-be undress.

He’d ushered her to their bunk after he had finished treating Lilah. He’d even gone down first and helped her down the ladder. He’d drawn the covers back for her and had arranged the few pillows they had just the way she liked them.

“It’s just…I’m so glad you’re all right.” Simon smiled helplessly, pushing his pants down and stepping out of them. Kaylee admired the sight of him in nothing but his boxers, thanking her lucky stars that he loved her. He pulled on his sleeping pants and bent to pick up his discarded clothing, folding it neatly and placing it in the hamper, where her clothes had just been flung in carelessly.

“Well, just lay down with me tonight, and that way if something happens, you’ll be here to take care of me.” Kaylee said, smiling suggestively at him even though she knew full-well that cuddling would be as far as they would go that night.

“I will. But only because you twisted my arm.” Simon said, heaving a very put-upon sigh that made Kaylee giggle.

“I love my doctor.” Kaylee sighed as she nestled into his embrace.

“I love my mechanic.” Simon said, with a yawn.

The couple drifted off to sleep, content in each others’ arms.


Zoe was already drinking at the table when Mal entered the mess. The jug of alcohol sat next to his mug that Zoe had lain out for him.

“You gonna be okay, Zoe?” Mal asked, sitting down and pouring himself a mug of engine brew. “Normally you wait for me before you start our little parties.”

“It’s going to take some getting used to, but I’ll be fine, I think.” She took a long drink and was quiet for long minutes. “He lied to me, Mal.”

“Yeah, he did. But he loved you Zoe. We all saw how much he loved you. He wouldn’t have lied unless he thought he had a good reason.”

“I just wish I knew what it was, Mal.”

“Maybe someday we’ll figure it out.”

Silence was their companion the rest of the night and much like they had done nearly a little over month earlier, they stored the whiskey away, bid each other good night. Heading to their bunks, Zoe finally spoke.

“We still on course for Greenleaf?” Zoe asked.

“Yeah. And after we do the pick-up, we drop it off to the Mendel boys on Beylix.”

“So we do the job and then what? What’s our next move?”

Mal smiled at Zoe, sincere and open. He reached over and took her hand in his own and squeezed it.

“We do the only thing we can do, Zoe. We keep our family together, and we keep on.”



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



Thursday, April 23, 2009 10:08 AM


All I can say is...

More... Please????

Well I can think of a few more words but I think the above says what I mean the best.


Thursday, April 23, 2009 5:35 PM


End? That should be a joke, you are now obligated to finish your story about Wash past. Oh and try not to make us wait so long for the next part.

Friday, April 24, 2009 2:27 AM


I agree - there is so much more to be said, and explanations ...

Friday, April 24, 2009 4:27 PM


Loved your ending and loved how you kept the family together. Thanks!


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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.